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* Political Science & International Relations: Legislative Process

Legislative Process Video

How a bill becomes law

A bill goes through a number of steps in its journey to the President's desk.  This guide will briefly and generally describe the steps that the bill will go through before and after it becomes a law and point out where to find information about the bill at each step of the way. Please note that I have simplified the process to try and easily identify the important documents along the way.

Step #1:  The Bill is introduced to Congress and assigned to a committee.  This can be found in the Congressional Record.  

Step #2:  The Committee will refer the bill to a subcommittee who will often bring in people outside of congress to help debate the merits and pitfalls of the bill.  Most of the meetings in these subcommittees are called Congressional Hearings.  

Step #3:  The Bill is sent back to the full committee.  The committee will often rewrite the bill and send it to their respective branch of congress, or they may kill the bill. The document created in this process is usually a Congressional Report

Step #4:  The Bill returns to the Senate or the House of Representatives, and it will be debated, amended, and voted on.  This information can be found in theCongressional Record.

Step #5:  If the Senate and the House each pass a separate version of the bill, a committee will be created to work out the differences between the two before it is sent back to Congress for another vote.  The committee that is created in this process produces a Conference Report.  Conference Reports can be found in theCongressional Record.

Step #6:  The Bill goes to the President who can sign it into a Law.  If the President vetoes the law, it will go back to Congress.  If each chamber passes with at least 2/3 of the vote, the veto will be overridden.  The information from the veto to the revote can be found in the Congressional Record.

After the Bill becomes a law, it will be compiled in the United States Statutes at Large at the end of each session of Congress. 

The "general and permanent" laws in the U.S. Statutes will then be included in theU.S. Code.  Temporarly laws such as the economic bailouts and local laws are not included in the Code.  

As you can see, there are a number of different resources to use along the way, and a number of different places these will be located.  I simplified the process somewhat to make understanding where to go to find these as easy as possible.  If you have any questions, or can't seem to find what you're looking for, please consult a librarian.