The United States Congress is a bicameral legislature made up of the House of Representatives (lower) and the Senate (upper house). The federal government governs 13 states, each state has 2 senators in the upper house. The number of representatives is not fixed because it is dependent on the state’s population. The main function of congress is to make rules that govern the country, a drafted idea passes through nine steps before becoming a law. This paper explains the pathway of the bill in congress.
Steps of a Bill
First, an idea is presented for consideration into law, it is then drafted as a bill and assigned a number by the House of Representatives clerk or the Senate clerk. In the second step, a bill from a senator is presented in the Senate. A representative idea is however announced in the House of Representatives (Schwab 44). After the introduction of a bill, it is placed on the congress website.
In the third step, the speaker of the house or the senate presiding officer refers the bill to the appropriate committee. In this stage, the implications of the bill may be ascertained through hearings. Members of the committee are then regrouped into a subcommittee in the fourth stage. In this section, changes are made on the bill, and voting is done. The outcome is then reverted to the full committee.
In the fifth step, the full committee meets to mark up the bill by changing some parts. Ordering of the bill also takes place (Sinclair 66), the document is then presented to the floor only if members are not against it (Schwab 44). However, In the House of Representatives, the bill must pass through the rules committee, which sets up procedures governing the process of consideration.
The sixth step is the floor action, the bill is taken to the congress and voting takes place. The speaker of the house decides when and whether the bill will reach the floor. On the other hand, the majority leader of the senate schedules a date for the bill to reach the floor. In the seventh stage, a bill is referred to the other chamber, where it passes through the committees to the floor. This chamber may approve, change, or reject it. If the senate and the house approve the bill it is taken to the president for vetting in the eighth stage. However, a bill favored by one of the houses is taken to the conference committee (Ross 66). The president vetoes a bill, which should be overruled by the House of Representatives for it to become a rule.
The two congress chambers make laws. However, bills are handled in the branch where they were presented in the first step. For instance, in the House of Representatives, an idea is passed through the House of Representatives clerk to the House of Representatives. Next, the speaker of the house refers the article to the house committee from where it is transferred to the subcommittee. Thereafter, the bill is discussed in the Representative House before it passes to the rules committee and senate. Lastly, the president vetoes it and the full Congress chamber votes to make a law. Conversely, ideas presented to the senate pass through the senate clerk, senate presiding officer, committee, subcommittee, senate, representative house, and president respectively.
Barbara Sinclair was born on November 21, 1940 and died on March 12 2016. She was a political scientist, and most of her work featured the U.S. Congress. Sinclair explained and explored the inner activities of congress party leaders. She also documented the evolution of the Senate and the capacity of Congress to laws. In the Unorthodox lawmaking book, she has explained the procedures and processes that enable congress to work.
Ross, Karen M. Essential Legal English in Context: Understanding the Vocabulary of US Law and Government. NYU Press, 2019, p 61.
Schwab, Juliana. “Government Mini Lesson-The Legislative Branch.” (2020), pp.32-56.
Sinclair, Barbara. Unorthodox lawmaking: New legislative processes in the US Congress. CQ Press, 2016, p.66.