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. A Bill Is Drafted

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

2. Introduced in the House

A 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

The Rules Committee decides the rules for debate, and when the bill will come up for debate.

6. Floor Action

The 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

The bill goes through the same procedure here as in the House (see step 4). If the committee majority votes for the bill, it goes to the whole Senate.

9. Bill Called Up

The Majority 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. The committee 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.