The process by which a bill or resolution becomes a law is very extensive so that every bill can be thoroughly examined by every level of government. A law can begin with an idea from a Congressman, the President or a citizen trying to make America a better place. The long process of a bill or a resolution to become a law begins with a committee of members of the House of Representatives who become experts on the issues that their committees represent.
A bill is first referred and introduced to a committee that handles issues that are contained in the bill. The bill’s contents are further debated by a sub-committee, which handles issues most specifically related to the bill, to discuss the positive and negative effects the law would have on the American people. In the sub-committee the piece of legislation goes through the “markup” stage, where Congressmen from both sides of the political spectrum decide whether or not to favorably recommend the legislation to the entirety of the committee. In most cases, a majority vote is required to send a bill from the committee stage to the House floor to be debated and voted on.
The House of Representatives debates the legislation that is presented to it and eventually votes on the bill. A majority vote in the House is required to send a bill to the Senate, where the process begins all over again in the upper branch of Congress. The legislation is debated and scrutinized in Senate committees and then sent to the Senate Chamber to be discussed and voted on. If the bill does not receive enough votes, it is sent back to the House where it can undergo changes that would make it more favorable to the Senators.
If the bill garners enough Senatorial votes, it is given to the President who can pass the bill or veto it. If the president veto’s the bill it can be sent back to the House where a two thirds vote in favor of the bill can override a Presidential veto. If the President agrees with the bill, he signs it and then the piece of legislation becomes law.
Read more about the legislative process from the Office of the Clerk.