Passing Laws

A "bill" is introduced when a member of Congress decides to create a new law. Any member of Congress can introduce a bill. Only members of the House may introduce bills that deal with taxes or spending. Before a bill can become a law, both houses of Congress must pass identical versions of the bill.

Once a bill is introduced in either house, it goes through almost the same process. Each bill is first assigned to a committee for review. The bill is tabled, or set aside, if the committee decides the bill is not worthy. The bill is sent to the entire house for debate if the committee decides the bill is worthy of further action.

If the bill passes, it is sent to the other house. A joint committee works out any differences the two houses of Congress have concerning a bill. When both houses agree on a bill, the Speaker of the House and the vice president sign it. The bill must be signed before being sent to the president.

In each two-year session, thousands of bills come before Congress. Almost twelve thousand bills were introduced in Congress in one recent session. Less than five hundred were enacted into law.