Simple Civics 101- a weekly review of basic American civics
Today we are reviewing the process of how a bill becomes a law. Boring, you say? Maybe. But you and I have to follow the laws that Congress passes. Let’s get some reassurance that there is a process, including review, revision, and debate. That is how a Constitutional Representative Republic operates.
However, if you just want the short course, search “How a Bill Becomes a Law” and look for the song, “I’m Just a Bill.” Sing it a few times and voila. You got it!
I have six books and various resources spread out on my desk as I look for a “Simple Civics 101” way to explain how a bill becomes a law. No matter your learning style, there’s a chart somewhere that can help. Let’s give it a “go.”
How a bill becomes a law is much the same in the House or in the Senate. However, if it’s a bill about money, it must always originate in the House of Representatives.
Draft the Bill
The proposed bill must be written, sponsored by a legislator, and introduced. You may be surprised to know that many bills are “killed” before getting out of a subcommittee or a committee. It’s not easy for a bill to become a law. Each bill is assigned a number. That number starts with “H.R.” if proposed in the House, or an “S” in the Senate.
Once the bill has a number, it is assigned to a committee or a subcommittee for study, hearings, and revisions. The committee assignment is by topic (e.g., agriculture, appropriations). If the bill makes it out of the subcommittee to the full committee, it goes to the Rules Committee in the House, where they decide the rules for debate on this bill. However, in the Senate, majority and minority leaders schedule a date on the calendar to debate the bill.
The full House or Senate debate the proposed bill, which by this time, has been studied, marked up, debated in previous committee(s).
The bill must be the same exact version in both houses. If not, a vote is taken, and the bill is sent to a conference committee.
In this committee, members of both houses work out differences and compromise. When the bill returns to the House and Senate, it must be on the exact same version that they vote.
The bill is now placed on the President’s desk for his/her signature. He/she can ignore the bill, veto the bill, or sign the bill. If the President takes no action, the bill becomes law. A vetoed bill can be returned to Congress for consideration again. If the President signs the bill, it becomes a law.
A pocket veto can occur if Congress adjourns during the 10 days after the law is placed on the President’s desk. If the bill is not signed within that period of 10 days, it is considered vetoed.
Did you learn something new or re-learn something you were taught long ago? I remember learning how a bill becomes law, but I always discover a part in the process that I hadn’t considered. Knowing the process helps us to understand the news we hear about a debate on a bill. It is a process not to be taken lightly. Remember, we have to follow the laws that Congress passes. Let your voice be heard!
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.??
*Next on Simple Civics 101, we’ll review basics about the American political party system.