Capitol Hill 101 1 - Page 3

CAPITOL HILL 101 HOW DOES A BILL BECOME A LAW A “bill” is a proposed law, and thousands are written and introduced every year. Congressional bills fall into several categories: A proposed law will be titled S. or H.R., meaning simply ‘Senate’ or ‘House of Representatives.’ An official statement of the House or Senate which does not have the force of law is called a Resolution, and is often referred to as H. Res. Or S. Res. Resolutions have no legal force and are used to send a message that the Congress of the United States is concerned about an issue or applauds good works. Treaties, nominations, etc. will not have a numeric designation. The text of bills can be written by Congressmen, their staff, committee staff, special interests groups, the White House, and even by civic activists like yourself. It then is reviewed by lawyers and policy experts, and regardless of who wrote it, a Congressman or Senator will then submit it in his name as the sponsor. Often a bill is submitted with the names of additional supporters, known as ‘cosponsors,’ and the more cosponsors a bill has (at the start or who sign on later), the more regard the bill is given – particularly is a majority of members have signed onto the bill. Once reviewed and ready for submission, a bill is simply put in “the hopper” (just a box) and then it is given a sequential number such as H.R. 1234. After a bill has been introduced, it will be sent to a subcommittee which specializes in the subject of the bill. The most effective actions at the time are: gaining support in the subcommittee, to get the bill scheduled for a subcommittee vote, and to gather additional cosponsors. Or alerting Members that a bad bill should not receive hearing, gain cosponsors or be voted upon. Asking members not on the committee to simply vote for/against it is premature, as no vote will take place or even be scheduled until it has survived subcommittee and committee votes, so the better request would be to ask him or her to cosponsor the bill and get their colleagues to cosponsor it as well. Once the subcommittee has voted, the bill may advance to the committee. Then support much be built for a full committee vote.