ARE LAWS MADE?:::
How does a law come into being? You know that the Constitution gives Congress
certain lawmaking powers. A little thought tells you the
magnitude of this responsibility in relation to the lives and welfare of everyone in the United States. While a wise law can
be of far-reaching
benefit, a poor law can do much harm. How did the writers of the Constitution provide safeguards to prevent the passage of
foolish or unfair
If your school organizes a club, and a member has an idea for improving the work of the club, he presents the plan at a
meeting. Then he or some
other person makes a motion for adoption of the plan. If a majority votes for the motion, the plan goes into effect.
The action taken by your club in adopting a new plan resembles the making of a law by Congress. But the resemblance is only
slight, for the
Constitution has established a system of checks and balances that delays the passing of a law. Your club probably meets in a
single group. The
vote of that group is final.
HOW CONGRESS MAKES LAWS
If a member of Congress observes that his local or regional constituency or
the nation is in need, he writes a proposed law designed to meet the need. Such a
proposed law is called a bill. He presents the bill to the house of which he is a member. If a majority votes for it,
however, the bill does not
become a law at once. It must go to the other house of Congress. The other house may vote against it. In that case, the bill
or the second
house may change the wording of the bill. In that case, it is returned to the house of origin for reconsideration. If the
second house should pass the
original bill, even then it does not become a law at once.
IT GOES TO THE PRESIDENT
If the President thinks it is a bad bill, he sends it back to the house where
it originated with a message explaining
why he is against it. This is called a veto, from a Latin word meaning "I forbid." After reading the veto message, the house
may vote on the bill
again. If a bare majority or less favors it, the bill dies. But if two-thirds of the members vote for the bill, it is sent
again to the second house. There,
if two-thirds of the members vote for it, the bill becomes a law without the signature of the President. This is called
passing a law over the
The Constitution provides this system so as to hinder the passage of bills harmful to the nation as a whole. If the House
and Senate both make a
mistake, the President is given an opportunity to veto the bill and forbid its passage unless an overwhelming number of
Senators vote for it. Committees study bills, and thus many bills come before Congress at every session that no
Representative or Senator has time to
give them all full consideration. The groundwork, therefore, is done by committees. The Constitution does not mention
committees, but it does
say, "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings. . ." Bills are studied by committees before they are considered
by the whole
house, except in an emergency.
Some bills are presented to Congress and become laws within a few weeks or even a few days. Some bills take years
before they become laws. Some bills are voted against by a majority and fail to be passed. Some bills are kept in a
committee and never brought
to a vote.
STEPS REQUIRED TO PASS A LAW
There are seventeen distinct steps
that are taken from the time the bill is proposed until a law is passed. Here are the steps:
1. Bill is introduced in the House.
2. Bill is referred to committee.
3. Committee hears witnesses for and against bill.
4. Many other flood bills are combined with the bill to make a single
5. A rider is added.
6. The majority of the committee recommends the passage of the bill. A
minority recommends against its passage.
7. Bill passes House and is sent to Senate.
8. Senate refers bill to a committee that recommends its passage.
9. Senate passes bill and then sends it to the President of the United
States for his signature.
10. President vetoes bill and returns it to
11. Bill passes House by two-thirds vote over President's veto and is sent
12. Citizens protest to Senate against passage of bill.
13. Senate amends bill in response to protest and sends it back to
14. House and Senate cannot agree on bill and each appoints a conference
committee. The two conference committees meet and draw
up a compromise.
15. House passes compromise bill.
16. Senate passes compromise bill.
17. President signs compromise bill, and it becomes a law.
Please note that this
process is presented differently by different groups of people.
When reviewing the websites below, you will see that some people
consolidate some of these steps. You should know the general
process, regardless of the number of steps it's divided into.