The Legislative Process

CLICK HERE For an Interactive Illustration of the Legislative Process

The United States Congress is the chief legislative or law-making body in the land. Through the laws it passes, it defines crimes and punishments, establishes levels of taxation and spending and creates the programs and policies that shape American government and politics.

The legislative process can be long, tedious, complex and frustrating. Indeed, it is much more difficult to pass a bill than it is to kill one. There are numerous times and places during the legislative process at which a bill can die. Only a very few survive to become law.

Historical Documents

Line Item Veto

Reasearch and Study Helps

What is a "caucus"?
What is a filibuster?

Think About It

What is the role of citizens in the legislative process?
What could you do, as an individual citizen, to influence the legislative processes?

Applying What You've Learned

Go to the Library of Congress' Legislative Information site THOMAS and find a bill sponsored by one of your members of Congress and then complete the following:

  1. Find out if the bill has any cosponsors. Are they mostly Republicans or Democrats or does the bill have bipartisan support?
  2. What is the bill's status in the legislative process? Has is been scheduled for a committee hearing? Has there already been a hearing? What is next?
  3. Is there a similar bill in the other house (the House or the Senate)? If so, who is the sponsor in the other house? What is the status of the other bill?
  4. Check the web sites of the members who are sponsoring the bills to see if there have been press releases or other statements issued about the bill

What do you think the bill's prospects are? Do you think it is likely to make it out of committee? if is does, do you think it will pass? Why or why not?

Legislative Resources on the Web

THOMAS: Legislative Information Online by the Libarary of Congress
"The Legislative Process--Tying it All Together" House of Representatives
Roll Call
The Hill
CongressionalQuarterly.com