How a bill becomes a law
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How a bill becomes a law


Alright how a bill becomes a law. What I wanted to do is give you a little bit of an overly simplified way of how a bill becomes a law. And of course, I hope that you will have watched that I’m Just a Bill from Schoolhouse Rock that I’ve added into the Congress section as well. So, certainly have a look at this and then have a look at this video afterwards and hopefully this will make some pretty good sense to you. If you remember from How a Bill Becomes a Law, how does it work? Well, the gist of it is, the gist of it is is that it is going to start off as an idea.It’s going to start off as an idea. Of course you’re going to have the House over here on one side. Of course over here on this other side you’re gonna have the Senate. So you’ve got the House, you’ve got the Senate. a pretty straight forward kind of a thing. The idea. Where can this come from? This idea could conceivably come from a constituent, meaning somebody in your district has raised a complaint. This idea could conceivably come from your political party indeed, a number of your memberships there. This could come from other elected
officials. The bottom line on this when you really sit down and you think about it is that this idea for the bill could come from any place, even, believe it or not, interest groups
and they do a fair amount of this. So you get this idea and this idea is basically going to go to the House. This idea
is basically going to go to the Senate. and depending on how you look at this, this is gonna be either an HB or it’s gonna be HR. If you’re at the state level, HB is going to be what is known as House Bill and I’m just going to pick a random number here. We’ll pick random number 10. SB on the state level is gonna to be Senate Bill
number 10. and basically the bill is going to be introduced with the exact same number on both sides so that any time you talk about bill 10, everybody is going to know exactly what you’re talking about, whether you’re talking to House folks or whether you’re talking to Senators. If it’s at the national level, instead of it being referred to as bill it’s gonna be referred to as resolution. So HR is gonna be House Resolution and SR is going to be Senate Resolution. Okay. You get this idea. It has been drafted into a bill with the help of the staff and this is going to be the legislative staff in Washington, maybe your office staff. At the state level, again, there is going to be staff that deal with this putting this into its proper form. What happens? Well, the first thing when it goes over to the House is basically this is gonna be considered by leadership. By leadership, we’re talking about the Speaker of the House. The same thing over here. It’s gonna go to leadership first and leadership is effectively
going to be the President Pro Tempe of the Senate. So when you look at this it’s going to go to leadership first. Do they do anything other than basically read it over? That’s really effectively all that they’re gonna do and then it’s gonna go into the
system so that it can be assigned to committee. On the state level, on the state level, the state of North Carolina or the state of Maryland or whichever state you want to use for that matter. Typically the leadership are going to have a significant role in what committee the bill goes into and understand when you put the bill in the right committee odds are it’s going to pass. You put the bill in the wrong committee and odds are it’s going to fail and that’s just the way that it works. But once it leaves the leadership it’s going on down
here to the committees. Woodrow Wilson was somebody a number of years ago who had said, Congress on the floor is Congress on display, but Congress in
committee is Congress at work. Let me repeat that. Congress on the floor is congress on display but Congress in committee is Congress at
work. What does that mean? If you ever turn on C-span and you’re watching these guys get up there and they’re giving these speeches, they’re talking to an empty gallery. They’re talking to a camera because there’s nobody there that is really listening. They are on display. What you’ll see when you get into committee is committee is where the
work gets done and there are a number of things that could conceivably happen in committee to a particular bill. Number one, when you look on this, number one the committee could simply vote NO and the bill DIES! Number two the committee could basically sit on it or do nothing and the bill DIES! Number three, the committee could conceivably amend the bill and the bill could DIE or they could conceivably amend it and it will continue along its journey and the fourth thing, believe it or not, that a committee could conceivably do its actually all yes. DIE, DIE, DIE, NO, sit on it, amend, but there could be the possibility be of a yes. Over on the Senate side, the exact same thing. The committee could conceivably vote no and the bill DIES! They could conceivably sit on it or do nothing and the bill DIES! And then, conceivably, they could amend it and the bill, if they amend it unfavorably, DIES or if you get a yes vote it’s going to continue on its journey and indeed you could conceivably get a yes Now understand on this, in these committees what they typically do with the committees is on the house side
these committees will probably have close to about 50 people. On the Senate side they’re probably going to be
closer to about 20 or 25 and the idea is, is that if you are on an agriculture
committee you’re gonna have a certain level expertise about agriculture maybe worked on it for years. Maybe it’s a circumstance where you haven’t worked on it for years but you come from an agricultural state. Bottom line is, you’re put there because you’re supposed to be the most knowledgeable. And if you put together 50 people on the House side or 25 people on the Senate side that are very knowledgeable the sense is, is that they are going to be able to take a look at bills and decide if it’s to be killed, decide if they should sit on it or indeed come up with the proper amendments to make sure that a difficult, a bill is not made a negative type of a bill. It doesn’t cause problems, frankly more problems than it was designed to fix. So you go from leadership. You go to committee. Most bills are gonna die in committee and based on this chart, maybe that shouldn’t surprise you. But some of them do go forward. So where do you go? Well, once you leave the committee and thinking back to Schoolhouse Rock you’re going to go to the floor! Now understand on this, there are a hundred members in the
Senate and about a quarter of them have had their say on this bill. There are 435 members
of the House and maybe about 10 percent of them have had a say on this bill. You go to the floor. What can happen? On the floor you can vote NO and the bill DIES! You can sit on it or do nothing and the bill DIES! You could conceivably amend that bill and if you amend it, the bill, unfavorably could DIE or of course it could get a yes and continue on its journey and again the fourth thing conceivably that could happen on the floor is that you’re gonna get a yes The same thing over here in the Senate. NO, DIES sit on it, DIES amend it, DIES or you get that yes and indeed it will continue on its journey. Now a couple things on this, number one, number one, there is not an order for the bill so it
doesn’t have to go to the House first and it doesn’t have to go to the Senate second. It doesn’t have to go to the Senate first and it doesn’t have to go to the House second. The idea is that basically what you’re gonna see on here is that it goes down this particular chart. It’s going to go at its own pace on the House side and it’s going to go at its own pace on the Senate side. That’s the first thing on this. Second thing is, think about something else, what are the odds, what are the odds that by the time a bill on the House side has gone through committee and gone through the floor and then what are the odds that the same bill that started in the Senate has gone through a different committee
and a different floor is now going to come out the same? It’s the proverbial ice
cube’s chance in hell. So the question that comes out is whose
version of the bill now wins? Is it the House’s version or is it the Senate’s version? And the answer is neither. It’s going to continue on its journey and as it continues on its journey you’re going to go to go to what is now known as a Joint or a Conference committee. And when you go to the Joint or Conference committee they are going to take members from the Senate they are going to take members from the House and their attempt, basically, is gonna be to reconcile this bill What could conceivably happen in the Joint committee? Believe it or not they could NO or never agree and the bill DIES! Now in fairness, this doesn’t happen very often.
Why? because if you put no effort into this
thing to get into the Joint committee they’re gonna want to get this thing done
but nonetheless it could die. You could, not only, have this thing die. You could conceivably sit on it! Meaning they just never get it done and the bill DIES! There’s going to be some really angry Congress, or pardon me, House and Senate members
if you get a no out of this or you sit on it and you never get an agreement. Of course the other thing that could conceivably happen, and there are two here, you could conceivably get a yes. You could conceivably amend the bill and if you get your yes the bill is going to continue on its journey. If you get a positive amendment this is also going to result in a yes. Of course, you could also get a negative amendment and indeed the bill DIES! So understand on this, you can
amend it so that you get your yes and once you get this no, it doesn’t go to the President it’s now got to go back to the floor. It’s got to go back to the floor because remember, in the committee we agreed on something but they were to different committees. On the floors they agreed on something but you needed the whole floor to agree on the entire bill in the Joint or the Conference committee you’ve
got members of the House and members of the Senate to agree but you didn’t get them all to agree. So now it’s got to go back and guess what
happens now? Believe it or not, NO, DIES! And of course, the floor of the Senate, NO, DIES and there’s going to be some really angry folks at this point. You could conceivably sit on it. DIES! Same thing on the other side. Sit on it. DIES! Now, note up here you should see something
that comes up over and over again and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist on this. DIES, DIES, DIES, DIES, DIES, DIES, DIES DIES, DIES, DIES, DIES, DIES DIES, DIES, DIES, DIES, DIES, DIES! It is far easier to kill a bill than it is to pass it. I would venture to say that roughly about 5 percent of bills, that are introduced, actually get passed and the founding fathers said years ago we would rather have no bill than to have a bill that wrecks the Republic, that causes more problems than it solves and that’s why you basically have
checks at every single step the bill could be entirely passed by the House. It could go through the Joint conference committee and indeed it goes back to the floor and they pass it, but if it’s killed by the floor on the Senate, it doesn’t matter. The bill is dead. Of course, in fairness, you can get your yes and you can get your yes over here, and once you do, now you get the opportunity to go to the President. So you get your yes. You continue on your journey it has been passed and let me stress one thing to you. There’s one thing that must be passed in
order for a bill to become a law. It must be passed in identical form by
both the House and the Senate. The President at this point, to a
certain extent, is irrelevant in some ways and I’m going to get into this
right now but you’ve got the identical bill passed by a majority of the House, majority of the Senate, it goes to the
President. What can the President do? The President can sign the bill and if the President signs it it is LAW! Bingo. Got the first one. The President could say NO and another word for that is VETO and if the President vetoes it the bill could conceivably DIE! Understand though, with a two-thirds vote the
Senate and the House override a President’s veto, so conceivably what could also happen from this veto is that if you get your two-thirds vote and if you get your two-thirds vote it now becomes LAW, even without the President’s signature. So on the one hand the President could say no, veto. The President could sign it and both of these instances, believe it or not, it could become law. One last thing up here. The President, believe it or not, could sit on it and sitting on it is effectively what is known as a pocket veto and this is how a pocket veto works. If there are 10 business days, more than 10 business
days in Congress, if the President does nothing, it becomes law. So, let me put this up here. Okay, if there are more than 10 days. I’m sorry, let me re… Let me rephrase that. If there are more than 10 days the bill will DIE! If there are less…oh, I did it again. Let me rephrase it one more time. If there are 10 days, less than 10 days,
left in the congressional session and basically the President’s… been perfect up to now. If there are less than 10 days left in the congressional session, and the President does nothing, and Congress adjourns, the bill dies with a pocket veto. The idea behind a pocket veto is the President is basically going to stick that bill in his pocket and when he sticks it in his pocket it
doesn’t have to see the light of day as long as there are less than 10 days
left in a in a congressional session, and Congress adjourns. Let’s say that today is February 20. Let’s go with a different date. Let’s say that today is February 17. Let’s say that Congress adjourns on February 24. Have 10 business days passed? No? Less than 10 days left in the session? The bill dies. If today is February 12th, on the other hand, and Congress
adjourns on February 28, that is more than 10
business days this bill that the President has pocket vetoed will become law. So, not on this, the President
sitting on it could conceivably end in law and President sitting on it could indeed end in a bill dying. One last thing to consider and let me
give you this quote from Mark Twain. This is from a number of years ago. Mark Twain there said that there’s two things that you never want to see being made one of them is sausage and the other one is legislation. If you knew what went into sausage, and maybe some of you do being in North Carolina, you would never want to eat it. It has been argued. And some people would say if you knew what it took to get a law passed, you would never want to
be involved with this as well. This is a real cluster and it’s really convoluted
and there are a lot of places to kill a bill but the fact of it is, is that they’ve got it set up so that it’s going to be difficult to pass a bill that’s going to cause a problem. There are plenty of checks along the way and even at the end the President is going to have some say in this. But remember, the one thing required for a bill to become a law is it’s got to be passed in identical form by both the House and the Senate and at that point if they really want it they’re going
to be able to get it. The trick is reconciling what the House does and what the Senate does to take a bill that was introduced in the same form and to ultimately make it in the same form at the end.

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