Congressional Process Otherwise Known as How a Bill Becomes a Law
Here is One Version • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEJL2Uuv-oQ
In The Beginning… • Somebody has an idea • President • Member of Congress • A Bureaucrat • Interest Group • A Regular Joe • “Percolates” • sometimes quickly - Stimulus Package • sometimes for decades – Civil Rights • Anything Percolating Now???
Moving From Idea to BillThe House Version • Type it, Format It, “Legal-eese” It – 11,000 per year • Drop It in the Hopper or handed to House clerk • Is the goal of all bills to be passed? • Sometimes it is an “incubation” period • Sometimes a bill is proposed so that the idea can be defeated • Sometimes so that I can say “I tried” • Bill will have: • Sponsor (maybe with co-sponsors) • A number – HR–1, HR-2, etc… • Begin at 1 every odd numbered year (New Congress) • It is then printed by the Government Printing Office
From the Hopper… • The Role of the Speaker of the House (and the other leaders in the House) • No, this is not political commentary by Meyer, just an observation that was shared with him. • Refers bill to Committee or kills it by not • How can it be revived if not referred? • What if bill should go to more than one committee? • Sequential or Separate into parts (w/ or w/out time limits) • Explain the Power here
The Committee (or Subcommittees) • Standing Committees (See table 12.4) • Hearings • Mark Up • Role of Staff • Floor Managers • Role of the Committee Chair • How chosen? Seniority v Loyalty to Leaders/Party • Powers? • Role of the Minority Party • Committee Assignments
Committees/Subcommittees • After sub-comms mark up bill, it returns to full comm. • Full comm can mark up and hold hearings, but usually… • How can a chair effectively kill a bill? • What if a bill is killed in sub-comm? • What if a bill is killed in full-comm? • Seems like “Discharge Petition” is a common answer so far? How effective are they? 24/800 • See : http://www.votesmart.org/resource_govt101_02.phpfor details - A GREAT AND SIMPLE VOCAB RESOURCE!
Floor Action • The Calendar(s) • Who decides what reaches the floor? • What if they kill it? (All @ Once…) • Debate • Role of the Rules Committee • Rules Options • Time, Amendments • Closed, Open, Restrictive • Can rules be suspended? • 2/3 • Committee of the Whole vs the House • Quorum of 100 vs 218 • Purpose • How is time divided? • What does debate look like? Is it really debate?
Now what? • Did it pass the floor vote? • If so -> Senate • If not->How is it revived? • Can the process start in the Senate or occur simultaneously? Of course it can unless it is what type of bill?
And now the Senate side of Life • Key Differences • How is the bill introduced to the Senate? • Members gain recognition from the presiding officer (Who is that?)to announce introduction during the morning hour – unless a member objects, it has now been introduced. What if there is an objection? • Bills may be jointly sponsored with the House member or be bills on their own – S1, S2, etc • Presiding officer refers bills to committees. A bill that has passed the House can go straight to the floor for a vote. • Committee Process is more or less similar – but easier for an individual to stop the process and no “discharge petition” although 1 member can asked for a discharge vote. Also have a calendar system that does give the majority leader some control of setting the agenda. However…
And a bit more… • Floor debate is UNLIMITED unless a cloture vote occurs to stop the debate – 16 must ask for the vote, 60/100 pass cloture (thus the discussion in the fall of the need for 60 for a party to hold control. • Members can speak as long as they want -> thus, the opportunity to filibuster a bill to death - or at least to compromise. • Old days (like when I was in college) – filibusters could last for hours or days (100 hours!). Today, there is a chance to offer to table or double track the bill. This allows other work to move forward, but if the bill is brought up for debate, the one who was doing the filibuster is allowed to begin again. Can use rules to stall also – continuous roll calls. • Amendments need not be germane – they can actually be entire bills in and of themselves. (Thus, how do you revive a bill that dies in committee?)
Let’s finish the process! • After both chambers have passed a bill -> • CONFERENCE COMMITTEE • Usually made up of bill sponsors and senior members appointed by presiding officer of the committees that worked on the bill. • Both work to protect “their” version of the bill, but compromise must occur to gain a law. • Produces a conference report which is then voted on by each chamber with no chance for amendments and usually less debate other than posturing.
And on to the President • President signs it – the bill is a law! • Ceremony – location and the coveted photo op and pen. • Or President doesn’t sign it, but Congress is in session for 10 days and he offers no veto -> also a Law! Why do this? • If Congress adjourns within 10 days and he hasn’t signed it -> No Law (by Pocket Veto) • Or the fun begins with a veto- usually with a note including his reasons. • Both chambers can attempt to override the veto with a 2/3 vote. If so -> Law. If not, no Law.
Is it the end? • Not even close! • Implemented by Bureaucracy under the theoretical oversight of the President. • Legislative oversight by Congress with potential changes to the law or to funding. • Challenges through the legal system – suits filed in US District courts, appealed to Courts of Appeal, and maybe to Supreme Court. • What about signing notes? Can the President really change the meaning of a law by signing it and including signing notes? Sounds like a homework assignment to find out more. • Wouldn’t all of that make a much better cartoon?