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How a Bill Becomes a Law

About 25,000 bills are introduced in each term of Congress, but only 10 percent become law. These are the steps in the law-making process. A bill may begin in either the House or the Senate except for money bills, which must be introduced in the House.

1. Bill is Drafted: Members of Congress, the Executive Branch, and even outside groups can draft (write or draw up) bills.

2. Introduced in House: Representative introduces the bill in the House. Only members can introduce bills.

3. Sent to Committee: The Speaker of the House sends the bill to a committee.

4. Committee Action: Most bills die here. The committee may pigeonhole, table, amend, or vote on the bill. If bill passes, it goes to Rules Committee.

5, Rules Committee: It decides the rules for debate, and when the bill will come up for debate.

6. Floor Action: House debates the bill, and may add amendments. If a majority votes in favor of the bill, it goes to the Senate.

7. Introduced in Senate: A Senator introduces the bill, which is sent to a committee.

8. Committee Action: Same procedure as in the House. If the committee majority votes for the bill, it goes to the whole Senate.

9. Bill Called Up: Majority floor leader decides when the whole Senate will consider the bill.

10. Floor Action: The Bill is debated, and amendments may be added. If a majority votes in favor of the bill, it is returned to the House.

11. Conference Committee: If the House rejects any of the changes, the bill goes to a conference committee of members from both houses. It works out a compromise.

12. Vote on Compromise: Both houses must approve changes made by the conference committee. If approved, the bill goes to the president.

13. Presidential Action: The president may sign (approve) the bill or veto (reject) it. If approved, it becomes law.

14. Vote to Override: If the president vetoes the bill, it can still become law if two thirds of both houses vote to override the veto.

Adapted from Junior Scholastic.

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    Help students gain firsthand knowledge of how our government works with this easy-to-implement, weeklong simulation. After brainstorming real school issues, students form committees, write, present, and revise bills, then vote on them-following the actual steps Congress takes to enact a bill into law. Includes step-by-step directions, plus reproducible student worksheets, primary sources, and rubrics.

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