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Chapter Six: Congress Section Four: How a Bill Becomes a Law Guide to Reading • Main Idea Key Terms – Several complex – joint resolution steps are involved in taking an idea and – special-interest turning it into a law. group • Read to Learn – rider – How are bills introduced and how – filibuster do they work their – cloture way through Congress? – voice vote – What actions can a – roll-call vote president take once – veto a bill has been passed by Congress? – pocket veto Did You Know? • The House and Senate chambers are housed in the United States Capitol. This stately building sits on Capitol Hill near the center of Washington, D.C. The Capitol’s 540 rooms contain art depicting important events and people in United States history. As a citizen, you can visit the Capitol and enjoy its beauty. With a pass from your senator or representative, you can even attend a session of Congress and watch your lawmakers in action. Types of Bills •Of the more than 10,000 bills introduced each congressional term, only several hundred become law. Types of Bills • Bills fall into two categories. –Private bills concern individual people or places. –Public bills apply to the entire nation and involve general matters like taxation, civil rights, or Types of Bills • Congress also considers different kinds of resolutions, or formal statements expressing lawmakers’ opinions or decisions. – Many resolutions do not have the force of law. – Joint resolutions are passed by both houses of Congress and do become law if signed by the Discussion Question • Why might public bills take months to debate? • Describe some ways in which Congress might use joint resolutions. From Bill to Law • Ideas for bills come from members of Congress, citizens, and the White House. –Other bills are suggested by special-interest groups, or organizations of people with some common interest who try to influence government decisions. From Bill to Law • Only senators and representatives may introduce bills in Congress. –Every bill is given a title and number, and is then sent to an appropriate standing committee. From Bill to Law • The committee chairperson decides which bills get ignored and which get studied. –Those that merit attention are often researched by a subcommittee. –Experts and citizens may voice opinions about a bill in From Bill to Law • Standing committees can: – Pass the bill without change. – Mark changes and suggest that the bill be passed. – Replace the bill with an alternative. – Pigeonhole the bill (ignore it and let it die) – Kill the bill by majority vote. • When a committee is against a bill, it almost never becomes a law. From Bill to Law • Bills approved in committee are put on the schedule to be considered by the full House or Senate. – The Senate usually takes up bills in the order listed. – In the House, the Rules Committee can give priority to some bills and not let others get to the floor. From Bill to Law • When bills reach the floor, members debate the pros and cons. –The House accepts only relevant amendments. –The Senate allows riders— completely unrelated amendments—to be tacked onto the bill. From Bill to Law • The House Rules Committee puts time limits on the discussion. • Senators may speak as long as they like and need not even address the topic at hand. – Sometimes they filibuster, or talk a bill to death. • A three-fifths vote for cloture can end a filibuster. From Bill to Law • In a simple voice vote, those in favor say “Yea” and those against say “No.” • In a standing vote, those in favor stand to be counted, and then those From Bill to Law • The House uses a computerized voting system that records each representative’s vote. –Senators voice their votes in turn as an official records them in a From Bill to Law • A simple majority of members present passes a bill. –After passing one house, the bill then goes to the other. –If either house rejects the bill, it dies. From Bill to Law • Both houses must pass an identical bill. –If either changes the bill it receives from the other house, a conference committee is formed to work out the differences. • The House and Senate must then either accept the revised bill as is or completely reject it. From Bill to Law • After a bill passes both houses, it goes to the president. – The president may sign it into law, veto (or refuse to sign) it, or do nothing for 10 days. • Then if Congress is in session, the bill becomes law without the president’s signature. • If Congress had adjourned, the bill dies. – Killing a bill this way is called a pocket veto. – Congress can override a veto with a two-thirds vote of each house. Discussion Question • What happens when a bill is pigeonholed? • How does a filibuster work? Section 4 Assessment 1. What is the difference between public and private bills? What are resolutions? 2. Describe what can happen to a bill once it passes Congress and reaches the president’s desk. 3. Why do you think members of the House of Representatives consider assignment to the Rules Committee an important appointment? Graphic Organizer Write all the points in the lawmaking process at which a bill can be stopped or killed. Journal Assignment •Do you think democracy would be helpful or hindered if passing laws were an easier process? Remember… there will be a quiz at the beginning of our next class!
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