There are so many fascinating aspects to how the United States government functions. From how our votes are counted, to the entire election process, the ways which our government functions are incredibly intriguing. Of the many facets of how our government works that is most intriguing is how a bill become a law. This has fascinated me since I first heard the lyrics “I'm just a bill. Yes I am only a bill. And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill.” From School House Rock (Bohn, 2013). A bill becoming law is most intriguing because of the process which it goes through and the fact it is something which one individual can truly do to have a large effect on our country.
Any person can write a bill, giving the people in our country immense power. Although anyone can write a bill, there are still important steps a bill must go through in order to become a law. These balances helps only pertinent and important laws to be passed.
Once a bill is written, a Representative must take interest in it and sponsor it before it can do anything else. While this step keeps some bills from ever getting anywhere, it is still important so that the House of Representatives is not inundated with bills. Once a Representative sponsors the bill they have further steps they must take in order to get the bill voted on. They must place it in the hopper in order to give it to the Clerk of the House. The clerk then assigns a number to the bill. The bill is then printed and made available digitally by the Government Publishing Office.
The bill is assigned to a committee to study it. During this time, experts and other interested parties can speak for or against the bill. What is wonderful about publishing the bills is that once again the people get to have a say in the laws that will be made. While the people do not generally vote on these laws, they have considerable power to encourage or discourage members of the House about voting on a particular bill. By writing and calling representatives, we can affect the very laws that are passed in this country.
After studying the bill and hearing from the people, the committee can take one of three actions in regards to the bill. They can release the bill with a recommendation to pass the bill, they can revise the bill and then release it, or they can table it and the bill never gets voted on. Should the bill be released, it then goes on the House calendar. At this point the bill may be debated on, or it may go straight to vote. It must get at least two-thirds of the votes in order to move on to the next step.
Should a bill survive this long, it goes to the floor of the House and is read in its entirety. This ensures all members of the house have heard the bill, and can make an educated decision about the bill. All of these safety measures are so important! If 218 of the 435 representatives vote for the bill, it goes to the Senate.
Once again, the bill goes into committee and is moved on or tabled. Once released by committee, the bill goes for a vote. It takes 51 out of 100 senators to pass a bill. Both version of the bill then go to a committee where differences between the House and Senate are worked out. The bill is then signed by the Speaker of the House and Vice President. The President has the opportunity to veto the bill in ten days after this. If the President signs the bill, it is now law. If he vetoes it, and two-thirds of both the House and the Senate pass the law it still becomes law. If not it does not.
All of these checks and balances at first seem so overdone, but are so intriguing. Since a new law is something that should not be taken lightly, it is important that there be a lot of vetting of a bill before it becomes a law. By passing it through different aspects of our government, having smaller committees take the time to vet the bill, have both the house and senate have to approve the bill, and the President as well, we ensure that laws which are passed have been given the proper attention before becoming law.
Bensguide.gpo.gov,. (2015). How Laws are Made. Retrieved 3 July 2015, from http://bensguide.gpo.gov/how-laws-are-made
Bohn, K. (2013). 'I'm just a bill:' Schoolhouse Rock, 40 years later, still teaches generations - CNNPolitics.com. CNN. Retrieved 3 July 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/14/politics/schoolhouse-rock-40/