Every single bill that is presented to the House or Senate is referred to a committee, which then refers the bill to an appropriate subcommittee. The subcommittees hold hearings and conduct research and investigations into the bill and its details. Once the committee agrees upon the details, it is then referred back to the House for debate and passage. On the floor of the House, members who oppose the bill may try to stop the bill from being passed in a number of ways, including filibuster, which would discourage continued pursuit of the bill, or by adding completely unrelated and completely undesirable amendments that may force the President to veto the bill.
Once this is done, it has to be passed along to the Senate for the same procedure. The Senate may have been working on a similar bill, so they may try to pass their on bill instead of the one presented by the House. In a case such as this, the House and the Senate would have to a meeting to discuss the differences and come to a compromise. As current news show us daily, this is easier said than done. Once the House and the Senate come to agreement, the bill is passed along to the President (Cummings and Wise 400).
The President has 10 days to take action on a bill, as long as Congress is still in session. If he does not take action within 10 days, the bill automatically becomes law without his signature. If he vetoes the bill, Congress can overturn the veto, but only with a 2/3 majority vote, which is extremely difficult to achieve. The President used to have the ability to invoke a line item veto, which meant he would have the ability to veto certain portions of a bill (such as the undesirable or unrelated amendments to a bill) instead of the entire bill. The President does not have this ability any longer, so if there is any portion of the bill that the President does not agree with, he has to decide which is the lesser of two evils: pass a bill with the additional amendments so that the purpose of the original bill can be fulfilled, or veto the bill altogether and send it back to Congress.
The process to pass legislation is long and arduous. Adding the differing opinions of the hundreds of members of Congress would be enough to make the law making process difficult. It is in time such as these that we have to trust that our Senators and Representatives are acting in our best interests.
A vital part of the legislative process, both in the US Congress and in the state legislatures, is the committee system. When a bill is introduced in a legislature, it is referred to a committee of that house, where the members of that committee and of sub-committees working under it will consider the bill and what action to take on it. The names of the committees indicate the sort of legislation that each committee deals with; Agriculture, Judiciary, Armed Services, and Appropriations are examples. Each committee will hold public hearings on a bill that has been referred to it, will consider amendments to the bill, and ultimately will decide whether to recommend to the House (or Senate) that members vote Yes or No on the bill or, the committee may be able to stall action on the bill and “pigeonhole” it. The House and Senate will follow the recommendations of their committees in a very large percentage of the votes on bills. No one member of Congress can be thoroughly acquainted with all the details of every bill that he/she votes upon, and he/she will rely upon recommendations made by the committees most of the time. He/she will spend a high proportion of his/her working hours on committee business. Each house of Congress must have a majority of members present to conduct official business; this is called a quorum. Seldom will a majority of members actually be on the floor of the House or Senate, but when a vote is to be taken or an important debate occurs, then a majority will be on the floor of the House or Senate, but when a vote is to be taken or an important debate occurs, then a majority will be on the floor. When a bill is being voted upon in either house of Congress, a majority of Yes votes out of all the votes being cast is required to pass the bill. The bill must be passed in identical form by a majority in each house, and then it is sent to the President. If he signs the bill, it will become a law. If he exercises his right to veto the bill, he will refuse to sign it, give his reasons, and send it back to the house in which it was first introduced. Congress has the power to override a Presidential veto if they can muster a 2/3 vote in each house, but this is extremely hard to do. If the President neither signs nor vetoes the bill within 10 days after he receives it, one of two things will happen, depending upon whether Congress is still in session at the end of the 10 days after the President received the bill. If Congress is still in session, the bill will become a law without the President’s signature. If Congress had adjourned during the 10 days, the bill will not become a law. This latter situation is nicknamed the “pocket veto”, because the President figuratively speaking puts the bill in his pocket and ignores it. The theory behind the pocket veto possibility is that the President should always have 10 days to decide whether to sign a bill or not, and if Congress has adjourned before the 10 days are up, it means the President is unable to send the bill back to Congress with a formal veto.