The Legislative Process Explained

which statement about the lawmaking process is accurate

Which statement about the lawmaking process is accurate?

A bill can only originate in the Senate.
A bill can have a second chance after a veto.
A bill can only originate in the House of Representatives.
A bill is never passed without some difficulty.

Answer: A bill can have a second chance after a veto.

The primary job of Congress is to make laws. There are many processes in the legislative process, and this page offers information on legislation proposed and discussed in Congress.

The Library of Congress’s How Our Laws Are Made and Enactment of a Law has a far more in-depth examination and presentation of the broader legislative process.

In a nutshell, this is the legislative process:

  • First, a bill is sponsored by a Representative.
  • After then, the bill is assigned to a committee for review.
  • If the bill is released by the committee, it is placed on a calendar to be voted on, discussed, or changed.
  • If the bill is approved by a simple majority (218 of 435), it will be sent to the Senate.
  • The bill is allocated to another committee in the Senate and, if released, discussed and voted on.
  • If the Senate makes amendments, the bill must be reintroduced to the House for approval.
  • The resultant bill is sent back to the House and Senate for final approval.
  • After that, the President has 10 days to either veto or sign the final bill into law.


Any member of the House of Representatives may introduce a bill at any moment during the session by simply putting it in the “hopper” at the side of the Clerk’s desk in the House Chamber. The measure must have the sponsor’s signature, and it may have an infinite number of cosponsors. The Clerk assigns the bill a legislative number and refers it to the committee of jurisdiction, which is the body entrusted with reviewing the bill.


The work of the House of Representatives is divided among approximately twenty permanent committees. Following the introduction of a bill and referral to the committee of jurisdiction, the committee will often refer the proposal to its specialist subcommittee(s) for examination, hearings, changes, and approval.

Typically, the first phase in this process is a public hearing in which members of the committee or subcommittee hear witnesses from diverse points of view on the legislation. Following the conclusion of the hearings, the bill is evaluated in a session known colloquially as the “mark-up” session. At this stage, modifications to the bill may be proposed, and members of the committee or subcommittee vote on whether to accept or reject these changes. Following consideration, a vote of committee or subcommittee members is held to decide what action should be done on the bill. It may be reported, with or without alteration, or tabled, implying that no further action will be taken on it. The legislation is essentially “killed” by tabling. If the committee approves several modifications, it may elect to submit a new bill that incorporates all of the amendments. This is referred to as a “clean bill,” and it will have a new number.

After a committee has reported a proposal, it is ready for consideration by the whole House.


A bill’s consideration by the whole House might be a simple or highly complicated exercise. A “rule” may regulate thought at times. A rule is a short resolution that must be voted by the House and specifies the exact rules of discussion for a certain bill (i.e. how much time will be allowed for debate, whether amendments can be offered, and other matters).

Normally, debate time for legislation is split between supporters and opponents. Members on both sides of the aisle are given time to speak on the issue. When amendments are proposed, they are discussed and voted on as well. After all discussions and amendments have been voted upon, the House votes on the final passage.

A vote to “recommit” the bill to committee is sought in several instances. This is frequently an attempt by opponents to modify or table a component of the proposal. If the recommitment effort fails, a vote on the final passage is called.

The electronic voting system, which records each individual Member’s answer, may be used to take votes. These are known as recorded votes, and they may be seen in the roll-call voting record. Votes in the House may also be cast by voice, in which case no record of individual replies is kept.


When a bill passes the House, it is sent to the Senate for consideration. This involves discussion by a Senate committee or subcommittee, which is identical to how a bill moves through the House. Before a bill may be offered to the President for signing into law, it must pass both houses in the same form.


If the Senate modifies the bill’s text, it must be sent back to the House for approval or further revisions. This back-and-forth may take place on the House floor, with the House approving or rejecting Senate changes or the whole Senate text.

A conference committee comprising members from both the House and the Senate is often formed. This committee will settle the issues and submit the same proposal back to both houses for a vote. Conference committees also provide reports describing the bill’s final form.


A bill is deemed “enrolled” if it has been approved in identical form by both the House and Senate. The enrolled bill is forwarded to the President, who may sign it into law, veto it and return it to Congress, allow it to become law without signature, or pocket-veto it at the conclusion of a session.

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