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How Laws Are Made and How to Research Them

Đang chơi bàiLearn how laws, regulations, and executive orders are made and how to look them up.

Infographic: How a Bill Becomes a Law

Learn how a bill becomes a law with this easy to read infographic. Use this lesson plan with your class.

How a Bill Becomes a Law infographic summary.
  • 1. Every Law Starts With an Idea

    That idea can come from anyone, even you! Contact your elected officials to share your idea. If they want to try to make a law, they write a bill.

    2. The Bill is Introduced

    When Congress is in session, the Primary Sponsor introduces the bill by placing it in a wooden box called "the hopper.”

    Here, the bill is assigned a legislative number before the Speaker of the House sends it to a committee.

    3. The Bill Goes to Committee

    Đang chơi bàiA small group meets to talk about what they like and don’t like, suggests changes to the bill, and votes to accept or reject the changes, before sending the bill to:

    Đang chơi bàiThe House floor for debate or a subcommittee for further research.

    4. Congress Debates and Votes

    Đang chơi bàiMembers of the House and Senate can now debate the bill and propose amendments before voting.

    Did you know?

    Đang chơi bàiThe House uses an electronic voting system while the Senate typically votes by voice, saying “yay” or “nay.”

    5. Presidential Action

    When the bill reaches the President, he or she can: APPROVE and PASSĐang chơi bài. The President signs and approves the bill. The bill is law.

    The President can also:

    • Veto: The President rejects the bill and returns it to Congress with the reasons for the veto. Congress can override the veto with 2/3 vote of those present in both the House and the Senate and the bill will become law.
    • Choose No Action: The President can decide to do nothing. If Congress is in session, after 10 days of no answer from the President, the bill then automatically becomes law.
    • Pocket Veto: If Congress adjourns (goes out of session) within the 10 day period after giving the President the bill, the President can choose not to sign it and the bill will not become law.

Đang chơi bài and the . Anyone elected to either body can propose a new law. is a proposal for a new law.

Steps in Making a Law

  1. Đang chơi bàiA bill can be introduced in either chamber of Congress by a senator or representative who sponsors it.

  2. Đang chơi bàiOnce a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee whose members will research, discuss, and make changes to the bill.

  3. Đang chơi bàiThe bill is then put before that chamber to be voted on.

  4. Đang chơi bàiIf the bill passes one body of Congress, it goes to the other body to go through a similar process of research, discussion, changes, and voting.

  5. Once both bodies vote to accept a bill, they must work out any differences between the two versions. Then both chambers vote on the same exact bill and, if it passes, they present it to the president.

  6. Đang chơi bàiThe president then considers the bill. The president can approve the bill and sign it into law or a bill.

  7. Đang chơi bàiIf the , in most cases Congress can vote to override that veto and the bill becomes a law. But, if the president  a bill after Congress has adjourned, the veto cannot be overridden.

Differences Between the House and Senate Procedures

Đang chơi bàiThe Senate and the House have some procedural differences between them. Learn more about each body’s process:

may review the laws to see if they agree with the Constitution. If a court finds a law is unconstitutional, it can strike it down.

Find Federal Laws

Đang chơi bàiThe contains general and permanent federal laws. It does not include regulations, decisions, or laws issued by:

  • Federal agencies

  • Đang chơi bàiFederal courts

  • Treaties

  • Đang chơi bàiState and local governments

Đang chơi bàiNew  appear in each edition of the United States .  There is a new edition for each session of Congress.

  • Find  by the current and earlier sessions of Congress. This includes new laws that have not yet been assigned a public law number.

  • Đang chơi bàiFind that have been assigned public law numbers.

  • Visit the Law Library of Congress to .

  • Đang chơi bàiTo find older laws, visit a law library or a .

Federal Regulations

Đang chơi bàiRegulations are issued by federal agencies, boards, and commissions. They explain how agencies plan to carry out laws. Regulations are published yearly in .

The Rulemaking Process

Federal regulations are created through a process known as . If an agency wants to make, change, or delete a rule, it will:

  1. Publish the proposal in the 

  2. Consider the public's comments and change the rule if necessary. The agency then publishes the final version in the Federal Register along with:

    • A description of the comments received

    • The agency’s response to those comments

    • Đang chơi bàiThe date the rule goes into effect

Federal Court Decisions

Federal courts do not write or pass laws. But they may establish individual “rights” under federal law. This happens through courts' interpretations of federal and state laws and the Constitution.

An example is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in . The court decided that state laws which segregated public school students by race violated the 14th Amendment. It said that "separate but equal" schools cause minority children to feel inferior. And that hurts their educational opportunities.

State Laws and Regulations

State legislatures make the laws in each state. State courts can review these laws. If a court decides a law doesn't agree with the state's constitution, it can declare it invalid.

Find state laws and regulations with the Law Library of Congress’s .

Đang chơi bài . 

The Federal Register's online records include  from the current and recent former presidents. The National Archives' online records include . 

Executive Orders

An  has the power of federal law. Presidents can use executive orders to create committees and organizations. For example, President John F. Kennedy used one to create the Peace Corps. More often, presidents use executive orders to manage federal operations.

Congress may try to overturn an executive order by passing a bill that blocks it. But the president can . Congress would then need to override that veto to pass the bill. Also, the Supreme Court can declare an executive order unconstitutional.

Presidential Memoranda

Presidential memoranda are like executive orders. The president can use memos to direct government operations. But presidential memos are not numbered when they are published in the Federal Register, as executive orders are.

Presidential Proclamations

Presidential proclamations are statements that address the public on policy matters. They are mainly symbolic and are usually not enforced as laws.

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Last Updated: September 17, 2020