Congress makes Laws. We all know that. But do you know how a bill becomes a law?
Let’s review the legislative process using my simplified version for my Jr. High class. We also use the well-loved Schoolhouse Rock video “I’m Just a Bill” (song by Dave Frishberg). The parents tell me that even their young children “get into it.”
As you read, notice the legislative process is structured for much discussion because we are Americans and have opinions. (Imagine that!) We debate the issues to try to find a consensus.
Additionally, you will notice that there has to be agreement from both Houses of Congress on the final version and wording of the bill that passes. A simple comma or preposition makes all the difference if the bill is to be passed legally into law. There is controversy over the 16th Amendment for this very reason. My class is always amazed at how a final version must pass in both chambers of Congress in the exact same form.
The Process Simplified
The bill starts as an idea.
Members of either the House or the Senate introduce the bill.
The bill goes to committee.
Congress discusses and debates the bill in committee hearings.
The bill either dies in committee or goes back to the House or Senate.
The House votes on the bill.
The Senate votes on the bill.
The bill goes to the conference committee (comprised of members of both the House and the Senate).
If both houses agree on a final version of the bill, it goes to the President to sign.
The President can sign, veto, or do nothing with the bill.
If the President signs the bill, it becomes law.
If the President vetoes the bill, it either dies or goes back to Congress, and the process starts all over again.
If the President does nothing with the bill, it can become law within ten working days.
The Importance of the Process
Every bill must go through this constitutional process before becoming a law. Why is this important? Because you and I must follow the laws that Congress passes. https://civicsandcitizenship.org/how-a-bill-becomes-a-law/
Why does the process take so long? Because we are a representative republic, not a pure democracy. In a constitutional representative republic, there is debate, discussion, and more debate. This hinders quick, emotionally-charged bills from passing. In a pure democracy, there is an immediate vote without deliberation.
So there you have the legislative process simplified. No matter how you feel about Congressional members, the process is amazing and thorough if done correctly. Our job is to put people in Congress who understand the process and are willing to follow it as our Framers intended.
Next, my students and I will look at pretend bill (a few sentences, not 1000 pages!) passed by the House and one by the Senate. We will look for compromises to develop a final version of the bill.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.🇺🇸
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