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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Project Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

The Legislative Process: How a Bill Becomes a Law

2008 August 19 - Key Votes

This is a post that we have published on the Voter's Speakeasy a couple of times over the last year or so, and we are posting it again here. Many folks are not particularly familiar with the paths bills normally take to become law, and as usership of our site and blog increase, we want to make this post easily accessible to those of you who may need a refresher on this topic.

Most people learn how a bill becomes a law around junior high or even elementary school (Click here for a YouTube presentation of the Schoolhouse Rock video of a bill trying to become a law). But for many of us, that's a long time ago, and most teachers didn't get that in depth. You may remember that a bill passes the House and Senate and is signed by the president and then becomes a law. You may remember that if the President vetoes the bill, Congress can override the veto. If you remember these things, you've got the bare bones knowledge that you need to begin to understand the legislative process. We'll go a little more in depth here. Remember, sometimes legislation does not take a well-worn route to become a law, and there is always politics to be played. Sometimes agreements are reached between the parties that dictate strict debate times or prohibit amendments, etc. Almost every step described below is a generalization and may occasionally be altered or bypassed in specific instances.

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