In the House, bills then are referred by the Speaker, on the advice of the nonpartisan parliamentarian, to all committees that have jurisdiction over the provisions in the bill, as determined by the chamber’s standing rules and past referral decisions…
Most bills fall under the jurisdiction of one committee. If multiple committees are involved and receive the bill, each committee may work only on the portion of the bill under its jurisdiction. One of those committees will be designated the primary committee of jurisdiction and will likely take the lead on any action that may occur.
In the Senate, bills are typically referred to committee in a similar process, though in almost all cases, the bill is referred to only the committee with jurisdiction over the issue that predominates in the bill. In a limited number of cases, a bill might not be referred to committee, but instead be placed directly on the Senate Calendar of Business through a series of procedural steps on the floor.
Most bills are considered under the suspension of the rules procedure, which limits debate to 40 minutes and does not allow amendments to be offered by members on the floor. However, for the House to pass a bill under suspension of the rules requires two-thirds of members voting to agree, so this method is not designed for bills that do not have supermajority support in the House… member makes a motion to "suspend the rules" and take some action, debate is limited to 40 minutes, no amendments can be offered to the motion or the underlying matter, and a 2/3 majority of Members present and voting is required to agree to the motion. Bills not considered on the House floor under suspension of the rules are typically considered instead under terms tailored for each particular bill. The House establishes these parameters on a case-by-case basis through the adoption of a simple House resolution called a special rule. Special rules are reported by the House Rules Committee. This committee, which is often referred to as the traffic cop of the House, is heavily dominated by the majority party, and works closely with House majority party leadership on the main elements of each special rule. Common provisions found in a special rule include selection of the text to be considered, limitations on debate, and limits on the amendments that can be offered on the floor. For instance, sometimes the committee reports a rule that places few restrictions at all on amending, which can result in dozens of amendments being offered on the floor during consideration. In other cases, the special rule will allow only specific pre-determined amendments to be offered, or even preclude floor amendments all together. Note that House procedures place certain other limitations on the content of amendments, unless the special rule waives these restrictions. For instance, amendments must typically meet certain germaneness standards, meaning that they must be on the precise subject of the legislation being considered. After the Rules Committee reports a rule for consideration of a bill, the House first considers that special rule itself on the House floor, for approximately one hour. After debate, the House votes on adopting the special rule. Only after its adoption will the House proceed to consider the bill itself, under the terms specified by the special rule. In this situation, the House typically will consider the bill in a procedural setting called the Committee of the Whole, which allows members an efficient way to consider and vote on amendments. After any amendments are offered and debated, members vote on approval, and each amendment requires a simple majority to be agreed to.
After the amendment process is complete, the Committee of the Whole rises and reports to the full House any recommended amendments, which are then usually approved by the House by voice vote. Just prior to voting on final passage, members typically will briefly debate and then vote on a motion to recommit, which allows the minority party to effectively propose its own amendment.
In the House, some votes are taken by voice, but many votes are taken by electronic device, a method that records the individual position of each member who voted.
To consider a bill on the floor, the Senate first must agree to bring it up – typically by agreeing to a unanimous consent request or by voting to adopt a motion to proceed to the bill, as discussed earlier. Only once the Senate has agreed to consider a bill may Senators propose amendments to it.
Sadly, filibusters don’t always have a noble purpose. They were used by Southern politicians in the 1960’s to attempt to stop passage of the various civil rights and voting rights bills.
Members from each house form a conference committee and meet to work out the differences. The committee is usually made up of senior members who are appointed by the presiding officers of the committee that originally dealt with the bill. The representatives from each house work to maintain their version of the bill.
Once both chambers of Congress have each agreed to the bill, it is enrolled – that is, prepared in its final official form and then presented to the President. Beginning at midnight on the closing of the day of presentment, the President has ten days, excluding Sundays, to sign or veto the bill. If the bill is signed in that ten-day period, it becomes law. If the president declines to either sign or veto it – that is, he does not act on it in any way – then it becomes law without his signature (except when Congress has adjourned under certain circumstances).
If the President vetoes the bill, it is returned to the congressional chamber in which it originated; that chamber may attempt to override the president’s veto, though a successful override vote requires the support of two-thirds of those voting. If the vote is successful, the other chamber then decides whether or not to attempt its own override vote; here, as well, a successful override vote requires two-thirds of voting members to agree. Only if both chambers vote to override does the bill becomes law notwithstanding the President’s veto. A successful override of a presidential veto is rare.
Bills that are ultimately enacted are delivered to the Office of the Federal Register at the National Archives, assigned a public law number, and included in the next edition of the United State Statutes at Large.
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