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From Bill to Law: The Legislative Process Explained

It’s a complicated back-and-forth process, but that’s by design.

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The legislative branch, as one of the three branches of the federal government, is the group responsible for creating the laws under which Americans in all 50 states must live. This branch is made up of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Senators and representatives are tasked with proposing and passing laws in accordance with the U.S. Constitution. But each piece of legislation must go through a lengthy process that involves rigorous debates in both chambers before it becomes law.

Introducing a Bill

Let’s say a movement to create a law that would make ice cream free rises up in the United States. Those pushing for this type of measure might persuade some representatives to propose it in the House for debate and consideration.

The Ice Cream Bill would first be proposed in a House committee where representatives from both the Republican and Democratic parties would discuss and debate the matter. They would talk about the pros and cons of creating such a law. Some might even suggest making only certain flavors free while others insist all flavors should be covered.

Eventually, the committee would hold a vote to decide whether or not the measure should go to the House floor so that all representatives can debate the proposal. After it passes in the committee, every single representative would then argue in favor of the bill or against it. For the bill to pass the House, a simple majority of votes is needed meaning, meaning 50% plus one. Right now, that’s a minimum of 218 votes.

The Senate would go through a similar process as the House to determine whether or not the bill should become law. For the bill to pass the Senate, at least 60 senators would have to vote for it. After passing in both chambers of Congress, the bill would go to the president. The president might sign the bill into law. Instead, he might veto the bill, meaning that he rejects the bill and sends it back to Congress.

Off to the President

Uh oh! It appears the president isn’t exactly a fan of the Ice Cream Bill and thinks members of the House and Senate have lost their minds. In this case, he would decide to veto the bill. No free ice cream for America!

All is not lost. There is still another way to guarantee ice creamy goodness for the population. If both chambers of Congress manage to get two-thirds of lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill, they can override the president’s veto and the bill will become law anyway.

The Founding Fathers set up the legislative process to be lengthy and complicated to lessen the chances that government would implement faulty laws that might hurt its citizens. The fact that a bill must go through this process makes it less likely that this could happen.

Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent at and A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff’s insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.

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