How a Bill Becomes a Law

Congress has a number of duties; its main job is to make laws. It does this by debating and passing bills. A bill is the first document that outlines the details of a proposed law. It starts as a simple idea for a new law or for an amendment of the existing law to meet some problems. The idea may come from a senator or representative in Congress, from the president of the United States, or from any of the Executive Departments of Government. From private organizations, such as a farm group, a manufacturer’s association, a labor union, to single citizens. That bill should go through a process of approval before it can become a law.

Bill can be introduced in their representative houses only by senators or representatives. Bills introduced in the House bear the name of the representative sponsoring the bill. The bill is then giving a first reading in that chamber and is referred to a committee of that chamber for consideration. The committee evaluates the bill and gets input on it by holding public hearings.  The committee then reports its recommendation on the bill to the full chamber. The bill is then given a second reading. After all attempts to amend the bill at second reading are completed, the bill moves to the third reading, at which time each member of the chamber votes aye or nay on the full bill.

If a bill receives a majority of the chamber’s vote at third reading, it passes that chamber and it is reported to the other chamber, where the whole process of readings, committee consideration, and amendment is repeated. If the second chamber passes the bill unamended, it moves on to the chief executive’s desk for consideration. The first chamber might vote to accept the second chamber’s amendments, or if not, the second chamber might vote to take back its own amendments. If the conference committee is able to report a compromise bill, each chamber votes on it, with no amendments allowed.

Thus, if both chambers pass the conference committee’s bill, or if the bill passes both chambers in identical form without a conference committee, it will be sent to the chief executive for his or her consideration. The chief executive has the option of approving the bill by signing it or of killing the bill vetoing it. If he or she signs the bill, it becomes the law on the effective date specified in the bill or by the other rule of the legislature.

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