*Heritage Social Studies 9-12: American Government*

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1: American Government Sample Lesson

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Heritage Social Studies

How does the United States interact with international powers? What is the purpose of the government during times of crisis? Explore your government up close in this homeschooling course. American Government teaches the roles and responsibilities of the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch, and how they interact. Homeschoolers explore how outside factors such as special interest groups and the media affect the government.

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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 laws?

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.


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 dies 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.


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 President's veto.

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 Representatives and 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.


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 bill.

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 House.

11. Bill passes House by two-thirds vote over President's veto and is sent to Senate.

12. Citizens protest to Senate against passage of bill. 

13. Senate amends bill in response to protest and sends it back to House.

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.














A bill becoming a law is a real example of the term, "Bilateral." That is, laws are created bilaterally when two or more persons or law-makers decide which laws should or should (not be) accepted as the norm for the land. And, when you consider this lesson, you can easily see how the democratic process can be a long and tedious process as law-makers debate over which laws to pass or to veto.


However, God's commandments were not created bilaterally, as man could not bargain, debate, or filibuster with God as to which law or laws he would accept.


We should always remember that God, as your King and Creator, has divinely given us righteous laws, not only for our good, but for the benefit of a nation as well.


Consider the following passages as you study and meditate on today's lesson.

Deut. 6:24-25

The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.

Romans 7:12

So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

Romans 2:13
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.







All bills are given a number (ex. 286).  Bills that are introduced in the House have H.R. preceding the number (ex. H.R. 286).  Bills that are introduced in the Senate have S. preceding the number (ex. S. 286).   








This website describes How Laws are Made, including animations of each step. Click on "begin" and then go through each step of the process.

This site describes the Lawmaking Process in an easy to understand step-by-step process.  Review this site and then print and complete this worksheet.  Keep this worksheet, as it will be a great review for your test!

This presentation describe how a bill becomes a law. Click here to view the presentation.


Watch and listen to actual House and Senate floor proceedings.  Be sure to click on "Clip of the Day" to hear current events taking place in our government!


Make a visual representation of How Laws are Made.  You can create a poster, a placemat, a magazine cut-out collage --- use your creativity. It will be a great resource as we study this unit.




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