A Bill Becomes a Law
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Unit 14

The Legislative Processes

Unit 14


1. The use of the plural "processes" is intentional. The legislative process is complex and intentionally redundant with multiple players having to make decisions in parallel fashion. It is inherently a set of political processes in which individuals seek to gain support for policy preferences whose value generally cannot be proven, only asserted. Persistence and hard work by committed politicians are required to steer legislation through the formal stages in the process when possible, and when not, to use alternative routes when available. It is no wonder that it is easier to block legislation than pass it.

[Visual: Initial bill becomes a law process, duplicated for the Senate and alternative routes included.]

2. Not all legislation results in the expected consequences. Unintended consequences often take the form of a new problem, which serves as the basis for a new legislative initiative.

[Visual: (to side)]

The Legislative Process


There is a temptation to see congressional action as something done at a far distant place. Democracy, though, requires active citizens who help select representatives through elections, who make suggestions about possible policy problems, and who monitor their legislators' actions. Knowing more about how a bill becomes a law will empower you in these tasks.



Unit Introduction

Home Unit 1: Introduction Unit 2: From Problems to Solutions Unit 3: Origin of Bills Unit 4: Bill Drafting and Floor Introduction Unit 5: Referral to Committee Unit 6: Subcommittee Review Unit 7: Mark-up and Subcommittee Voting Unit 8: Committee Action Unit 9: Scheduling Floor Consideration Unit 10: Floor Debate Unit 11: Floor Votes Unit 12: Ironing Out Differences Unit 13: Presidential Action and Congressional Reaction Unit 14: The Legislative Processes