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US Government Documents: The Lawmaking Process

This guide contains information for users of NYU's US Government Documents collection and other US government information.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW (simplified version).

1.  Introduction:  Bill is introduced in either house (First Reading) submitted to the Clerk or Secretary, and is given a title and number

2.  Assigned: to a Committee(s).

3.  Hearings: are held - Committee may ask interested citizens to testify for or against.

4.  Amendments: a Committee may amend a Bill, to the point of writing a new version is substituted for the original (a "Clean Bill").

5.  Committee Vote: on whether to "report" the Bill to the full House or Senate.  A Bill is usually reported favourably.  If a Committee is against the enactment of a particular Bill into Law, it will simply table the Bill (allows the Bill to die in Committee). 

6.  Scheduled:  Leaders of the chambers schedule the Bill for debate and vote.

7.  Congressional Debate: Bill is reported back to either the House or Senate where it is debated.

8.  Second Reading:  At the conclusion of the debates the Bill is read in sections, at which time amendments can be offered.

9.  Third Reading:  Bill is read by title and voted on by the entire Senate.

10. Senate Debate:  Bill goes through the same steps in the opposite House.

11. If the Bill is passed in substantially the same form by both Houses, it is sent to the President for signing.

12. Conference Committe:  If different versions of athe Bill is passed in each chamber, a conference committee composed of members of both chambers work out the differences and the revised bill is returned to each chamber for vote.

13. Revision:  Revised Bill from Conference Committee is voted on again in each house.

14. President:  President signs or vetoes the Bill.  If signed, the Bill becomes a Law; if vetoed, each chamber must approve the Bill by two-thirds majority for it to become law.

15. Overide:  If the President vetoes the Bill the Congress can over-ride the veto with a 2/3 vote.