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How a Bill Moves Through Congress

A bill is introduced by either a representative or senator

It may be the lawmaker’s own bill, an administration bill, or the idea may have originated with some business or labor group back home.

Bills are referred to committees

The committee generally refers the bill to a subcommittee which studies the issue carefully, holds hearings and reports the bill with recommendations back to the full committee. The full committee may discuss the bill further, make additional changes or scrap the bill. If the full committee votes to report out the bill, the bill is ready to go to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote.

The committee reports the bill

A committee report is generally presented with the bill to explain the bill’s provisions and the committee’s decision. After this, the bill is ready to be scheduled for debate by the full House or Senate.

The bill goes to the floor of the House or Senate for debate

After a bill is debated, possibly amended and passed by one house of Congress, it is sent to the other house where it goes through the same procedure. If the bill passes the other house without any changes, it is sent to the president for his signature and it either becomes a law or is vetoed.

If the Senate and the House pass different versions of a bill, both bills are sent to a conference committee

The House and Senate each appoint members from the committee that reported the bill to serve on the conference committee and resolve the differences between the two bills. If they fail to reach a compromise, the bill will die in the conference committee.

When the conference committee reconciles the differences and agrees on one bill, the bill goes back to the Senate and to the House for a vote on final passage

No amendments to a conference report are permitted. The bill must either be voted up or down. If it is approved in both houses, the bill goes to the president.

If the president signs the bill, it becomes a law

If the president vetoes it, it is sent back to the House and Senate, and it takes a two-thirds vote of both houses to pass a bill over the president’s veto.