How a Bill Becomes a Law

What is the process of creating public policy?

Step 1, The Creation of a Bill: Members of the House or Senate draft, sponsor and introduce bills for consideration by Congress, either by the House of Representatives or the Senate.

Step 2, Committee Action: A committee is assigned to study the bill according to its subject matter or to refer the bill to one of its subcommittees. The subcommittee may request reports from government agencies, hold hearings so experts and interested parties have an opportunity to offer testimony regarding the issue, revise the bill, or report the legislation to the full committee for its consideration. The full committee may make a recommendation to pass the bill, to revise and release the bill, or to lay the bill aside (also known as tabling the bill).

Step 3, Floor Action: The bill is returned to the full House or Senate for further debate and approval. At this point members may propose amendments to the bill, add additional text, or otherwise change the bill.

Step 4, Vote: House and Senate members vote on the versions of the proposed bill.

Step 5, Conference Committees: A bill must be approved by both Chambers of Congress. When the Senate amends and agrees to a bill or a version of a bill that the House has already passed or when the House amends and passes a Senate bill or a version of a Senate bill, the two Chambers may begin to resolve any legislative differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill by way of a conference committee. After negotiations, the final version, called a Conference Report, must be agreed to by both chambers before it is cleared for presidential consideration.

Step 6, Presidential Action: The bill is sent to the President for signing, and then it becomes a Public Law. When a President refuses to sign a bill, it is known as a veto. A vetoed bill may return to Congress for reconsideration. If the President does not act within 10 days, the bill automatically becomes law. If Congress adjourns during the 10 days after the bill is sent to the President who does not sign it, the bill is automatically vetoed. This process is also known as a pocket veto.

Step 7, Creation of a Law: The Office of Federal Register assigns the Public Law a number. Eventually it is codified into subject order so that all laws on the same topic fall together.

Source: How a Bill Becomes a Law
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