How Laws Are Made

The process begins when a member of Congress introduces a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate. (Bills may begin in either body or simultaneously in both; however, each body must ultimately pass an identical bill before it reaches the president.) After it is introduced, the bill is sent to the relevant committee or subcommittee, where the work begins ...


[CHART SHOWING THE MOVEMENT OF BILLS THROUGH BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS -- sorry, only available in graphic form, 48K]


Glossary

Amendment
A provision that modifies, adds to, or deletes part of the original text of a bill.

Committee
One of several divisions of the Senate or House in which a bill is considered, amended, and either sent to the floor (upon majority vote) or left to die. (The vast majority of bills never make it out of committee.)

Conference Committee
Makeshift group consisting of the leadership of both the House and Senate who reconcile the differences between versions of similar bills passed in each body.

Hearing
Session in the committee or subcommittee in which experts and lobbyists present facts and opinions about the bill under consideration.

House of Representatives
Body of Congress comprised of 435 members elected to two-year terms by voters in their local districts.

Mark-up
Session (usually following a hearing) in which committee or subcommittee members make changes to the text of the bill.

Rules Committee
Committee in the House that sets the terms of the floor debate, including time limits and amendment procedures.

Senate
Body of Congress comprised of 100 members elected to six-year terms by voters in their states.

Subcommittee
One of several specialized divisions of a committee comprised of members of Congress.

Veto
The president's action of sending a bill back to Congress with objection, whereupon the bill will die unless each body overrides the veto with a two-thirds majority vote.


For more information about the legislative process, call your U.S. representative's office (House Switchboard: 202-225-3121) and ask for a free copy of How Our Laws Are Made.
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