How does a bill become a law? Who can create a bill? What is the process for getting Congress to review a bill? How does a bill get voted on? I talk to people on a daily basis that have absolutely no idea how law is created. Most understand that Congress and the President of the United States are responsible for creating laws, but the exact process seems to elude them.
To some, this may seem silly and oversimplified, but when I was growing up I always looked forward to Saturday morning cartoons. In between the cartoons and commercials, Schoolhouse Rock would use video shorts, such as the one below, to attempt to educate children in a ‘fun’ manner.
If you have not seen this video below, please take approximately 3 minutes of your time to educate yourself.
- Any person or group can introduce an idea to their respective Congressional representatives.
- If the Congressional representative agrees the idea should be law, a bill is written.
- The bill is introduced in committee in the House of Representatives or the Senate.
- The bill either dies in committee or goes to the House/Senate floor for a vote.
- If the bill is voted favorably on, it is re-introduced into the Senate or House via committee.
- The bill either dies in committee or goes to the Senate/House floor for a vote.
- If the bill is voted favorably on, it is sent to the President of the United States.
- If the bill is voted favorably on by the President, it becomes law.
- If the bill is vetoed by the President, it must go back through the House AND Senate and be re-approved to become law.
Some issues that are not touched upon by this video are :
- Congressional committees are headed by Congresspersons to whom the respective majority leader assigns to head the committee. These are “the Speaker of the House” and “The President Pro-Tem”.
- Members of Congressional committees are assigned by the head of the respective committee.
- Members of Congressional committees are supposed to read through bills and decide whether they are Constitutional and if it conflicts existing law. They are supposed to argue points in which, if the bill is passed into law, it can be used, abused, be helpful, or harmful, the intended and unintended consequences it may bring, or whether a ‘law’ is even necessary. No law ‘should’ be passed without debate and deliberation from all parties involved in it’s enactment.
- No bill can leave committee and make the Senate or House floor for a vote, unless the MAJORITY SPEAKER of the House and/or Senate call the bill out of committee for a vote.
- We have a check and balance system form of government in the United States that makes it very difficult to make, pass, fund, and enforce laws without majority support… and for a very good reason… to protect our collective individual freedoms from a tyrannical government and to keep the people from falling into civil anarchy.
Understanding the answers to questions such as; who can create a bill, how a bill is submitted to Congress, what happens in committees, who heads these committees, how does a bill get voted on, what happens when a bill passes the House or Senate, and how does a bill become a law, make it clear that the Speakers of the House and Senate are more powerful than the President of the United States when it comes to passing laws. Even bills that vetoed by the President, can be overridden by Congressional majority.
Why would the forefathers make this process so difficult? The two simplest explanation I’ve heard are, “your idea of heaven is hell to me” and “freedom is something you can only have AFTER you have it to everyone else first.” An excessive amount of laws compromise individual freedom. An excessive amount of federal laws compromise state (or group) freedom. Which is why most bills never leave committee, and rightfully so.
When the Constitution was written, copies were sent to each state for review. Each state, in turn, was allowed to submit amendments. Out of the 189 amendments received, only 10 were agreed upon by Congress as legitimate enough to pass by a majority of all parties involved. These are the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States. This took major deliberations, arguments, admission of incorrect viewpoints, and compromise on the part of Congress to achieve.
So, how does a bill become a law?
Maybe the better question is, “should a bill become a law”? Should Congress be acting responsibly with the power bestowed upon them with due diligence? Or is this type of Congress our future holds?