Exploros_logo

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Making and enforcing laws are Congress’ greatest responsibility. But how does an idea become a law? Every law begins as a bill which must be approved by the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President. It is a long process, but an important one.

How does an idea become a law

A Bill Begins

All laws begin as an idea. The ideas for a bill can come from anyone; even YOU! The constitution gives citizens the right to propose ideas. When a citizen has an idea for a bill she needs to contact her representative. Most ideas come from members of Congress. While bills can begin in either the Senate or the House of Representatives, if it involves money it must begin in the House.

Introduction of the Bill

Any member of the House of Representatives can introduce a bill any time the House is in session. The member who proposes the bill is known as the sponsor. A bill is introduced when it is placed in the hopper, a wood box at the side of the clerk’s desk. The bill is then entered into the House journal and printed in the congressional journal. The bill is then assigned to committee.

Representatives introduce bills by placing them in the hopper that is attached to the side of the Clerk’s desk.
Representatives introduce bills by placing them in the hopper
that is attached to the side of the Clerk’s desk.

Bill Goes to Committee

Committees are made up of Representatives that are experts on a topic. Committee members hold hearings to dicuss the bill. While a bill is in committee, the members have the opportunity to review it and seek expert advice and make changes. When the committee is satisfied with a bill, it goes back to the House for debate. It is also possible for a bill to die in committee if the members decide the law is not necessary.

Committee rooms like the one pictured here are designed to allow the public and the media an opportunity to attend.
Committee rooms like the one pictured here are designed to allow
the public and the media an opportunity to attend.

Considertation and Debate

All bills must be given consideration by the entire House. Members may propose amendments. When the debate is over and changes have been made, it is time to vote on the bill. The votes are counted. If there are enough votes, the bill passes and goes to the Senate.

Bill Goes to The Senate

When the bill goes to the Senate, it follows the same process as the House. Members meet in committee and then recommend it to be voted on by the entire Senate. If the bill is approved by the Senate, it is sent to the President.

Bill Goes to the President

When the President receives a bill from the Senate, he has three options:

  1. Pass: He can sign and approve the bill.
  2. Veto: If the President doesn’t approve the bill, he can vote “no,” and it goes back to the House. If the House and Senate still believe the bill should be a law, they can vote again. If the bill passes with 2/3 of the vote, the President’s veto is overridden and the bill becomes a law.
  3. Do Nothing (known as a Pocket Veto): If the President doesn’t approve or vote “no” within 10 days, the bill becomes law as long as Congress is in session. If Congress isn’t in session, the bill dies.

There are many steps a bill must follow before it can become a law. The process is an important part of Congress maintaining the laws of our country.


Source: How a Bill Becomes a Law
Adapted by Exploros from kidsclerk.house.gov, Public Domain

Back to top