The legislative branch, as one of the three branches of the federal government, is the group responsible for creating the laws for the nation. 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 it isn’t quite as simple as making a suggestion, having a vote, and calling it a 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 law might persuade some representatives to propose it in the House for debate and consideration.
The Ice Cream Bill would first be introduced and sent to a House committee where representatives from both the Republican and Democratic parties would discuss and debate the matter. Some might suggest making only certain flavors free while others insist all flavors should be covered. In this way, laws can change from the time they’re introduced.
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 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. That’s a two-thirds majority. 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. In this case, he would decide to veto the bill. No free ice cream for America!
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 long and complicated to lessen the chances that government would pass bad laws that might hurt its citizens. The fact that a bill must go through this process makes it less likely that this could happen.