Thank you for returning to Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. This week we take up some important civics lessons and issues that I hope you will find helpful as you listen to and make sense of the news. I know that I benefit from reflection on simple civics when issues on the national scene seem blurred and confusing. Lets begin with:
How a Bill Becomes a Law
A few days ago, I heard a clip of a Congressman lamenting that “such and such a ‘law’ was passed.” He said, “I never remember passing that as a law.”
Congress makes Laws. We all know that. But, do you know how a bill becomes a law?
Let’s review the legislative process using the simplified version. You will notice that the 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. You will notice that there has to be agreement from both Houses of Congress on the final version of the bill that passes. A simple comma or preposition makes all the difference if the bill is to be passed legally into law.
Let’s do a quick civics refresher of how a bill becomes a law.
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 (made up 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.
If the President does nothing with the bill, it can become law within ten working days.
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.
Why does the process take so long? Because we are a representative republic, not a pure democracy.
How do I know what bills are coming up for committee debate or a vote? Congressional proceedings are broadcast when the House and Senate are in session. You can learn more, including who your congressional representatives are and how to contact them at:
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. 🇺🇸