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Legislative Process



The chief function of Congress is the making of laws.  The legislative process comprises a number of steps and, on this page, you can find links to resources and information concerning legislation introduced and considered in Congress. An in-depth description of the legislative process within the House of Representatives is presented in How Our Laws are Made and Enactment of a Law on the Clerk of the House's website.  Abridged versions of how laws are made are also available for young learnersgrade schoolersmiddle schoolers, and high school students. A video explanation of the legislative process can be found HERE.

The legislative process in a nutshell:

  • First, a Member of Congress sponsors a bill. 
  • The bill is then assigned to a committee for study. 
  • If released by the committee, the bill is put on a calendar to be voted on, debated, or amended. 
  • If the bill passes by a simple majority (218 of 435), the bill moves to the Senate. 
  • In the Senate, the bill is assigned to another committee and, if released, debated and voted on. 
  • If the Senate makes changes, the bill must return to the House for concurrence.  
  • The resulting bill returns to the House and Senate for final approval. 
  • The President then has 10 days to veto the final bill or sign it into law.


Committee Reports

The House of Representatives divides its work among over twenty permanent and standing committees.  Normally, before a piece of legislation is considered by the House it has been reviewed by at least one of the committees, and a report is issued by that committee describing the legislation and indicating (on a section-by-section basis) how the proposed statute changes existing statutes.  Congress divides its work among over two hundred committees and subcommittees, each of which issues regular reports on its activities.


Committee Hearings

After a bill is introduced on the House or Senate floor, it is referred to the committee of jurisdiction (i.e., the committee charged with reviewing measures in the area of law or policy with which the bill is concerned).  The committee of referral most often sends the measure to its specialized subcommittee(s) for study, hearings, revisions, and approval.

For most bills, the committee or subcommittee fails to take further action on the referred bill, effectively "killing" the measure at this point.  (Occasionally, a committee will report a measure "unfavorably," with explicit recommendations against its passage, or it will report a bill "without recommendation," which has the same effect as an unfavorable report.)

If the bill passes the subcommittee with a favorable vote, it is sent back to the full committee for further consideration, hearings, amendment, and vote.


Federal Laws

The U.S. Code is the official compilation of the current Federal statutes of a general and permanent nature. The Code is arranged according to subject matter under 50 subject headings ('titles').  The Code sets out the current status of the laws, incorporating all amendments into the text. Prior to being added to the U.S. Code, individual laws are published in pamphlet form as "slip laws" which are later collected together in chronological order (not in subject order) as the Statutes at Large.


Proceedings of the House

The Congressional Record is the official transcript of the proceedings and debates of the U.S. Congress.  A searchable version of the full text of the Congressional Record is published the day after each meeting of the House or Senate. Learn more about the Congressional Record.  A summary of what is currently happening on the Floor of the House is available as the debate occurs.  You can also view the current House Schedule.


Roll Call Votes

roll call vote records how each Member of the House voted, but only a minority of bills receive a roll call vote.  Learn more about compiling a Member voting record and how to read the roll call information.


Rules and Precedents of the House

The House Rules and Precedents are the official documents that spell out the process by which legislation is considered by the House and its committees; as well as specifying the authority of the officers and committees of the House.  Several collections of material explaining the rules and precedents are available through the House Rules Committee in their "Rules & Manuals" section.


Schedules of the House

Various schedules of upcoming House activities are available. House Floor Proceedings are prepared by the Clerk of the House and there is a House of Representatives Schedule listed on The Minority Leader's office also compiles a Daily Schedule and Weekly Schedule for the House floor, as well as regularly updated PDF versions of the annual House Calendar.


Sponsored and Co-sponsored Legislation

Before a proposed piece of legislation can be considered by the House of Representatives, it must first be sponsored by a Member of Congress (either a Member of the House or a Member of the Senate).  Members of Congress who are not the primary sponsor of a piece of legislation may express their strong support for the legislation by becoming a co-sponsor of that legislation.  Learn more about the legislation that I sponsored or co-sponsored.