How a bill becomes a law in the senate
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How a bill becomes a law in the senate. Introducing a Bill. Bills are introduced by senators A measure is given a number and short title, read twice, and referred to committee Committees operate in the Senate almost exactly as the operate in the House

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How a bill becomes a law in the senate

How a bill becomes a lawin the senate

Introducing a bill
Introducing a Bill

  • Bills are introduced by senators

  • A measure is given a number and short title, read twice, and referred to committee

    • Committees operate in the Senate almost exactly as the operate in the House

  • The Senate’s procedures are much less formal and less strict than those of the House – mostly because of the size of the body

    • The Senate has only 1 calendar

    • Bills are called to the floor at the discretion of the majority floor leader

Rules for debate
Rules for Debate

  • The major differences between House and Senate procedures involve the floor debates

  • Floor debate is strictly limited in the House, but is basically unrestrained in the Senate

    • Most senators are proud to be members of the “greatest deliberative body in the world”

  • Senators may speak on the floor for as long as they please

    • The Senate does have a “two-speech rule”

    • No senator may speak more than twice on a given question on the same legislative day

    • By recessing instead of adjourning a day’s session, the Senate can prolong a “legislative day” indefinitely

    • This can limit the amount of time the Senate spends on some matters

Rules for debate1
Rules for Debate

  • The Senate’s dedication to freedom of debate is almost unique among modern legislative bodies

  • It is intended to encourage the fullest possible discussion of matters on the floor

  • It also leads to the rise of the filibuster


  • An attempt to “talk a bill to death”

  • It is a stalling tactic in which a minority of senators seeks to delay or prevent Senate action on a measure

  • The member or members try to monopolize the Senate floor and its time so that the Senate must either drop the bill or change it in some minor that is acceptable to the minority

  • It can also be used to prevent a vote from taking place


  • Talk is the filibusterer’s greatest weapon

  • Senators may use time-killing motions, quorum calls, and other parliamentary maneuvers to keep the floor occupied

  • Basically, anything that delays or obstructs the bill from being voted on and passed

    • Senator Strom Thurmond holds the record: 24 hours and 18 minutes

      • A 1 man effort to stop the Civil Rights Act of 1957

    • Senator Huey Long from Louisiana spoke for more than 15 hours in 1935

      • He stalled by reading from the Washington, D.C. telephone directory, giving his colleagues his recipes


  • The filibuster has been used over 200 times effectively, which means the measure was killed

  • Just the threat of a filibuster has resulted in the Senate’s failure to consider bills and the amending of many more

  • Rules that are often overlooked are brought out to try to wear down participants of filibusters

    • Senators must stand – they cannot lean on their desks or walk around

    • They may not use “unparliamentary” language

      • Senator Ted Cruz of Texas read “Green Eggs and Ham” in September


  • Are filibusters a good use of time in the Senate? Why or why not?

The cloture rule
The Cloture Rule

  • The Senate has the ability to overturn a filibuster – the Cloture Rule

    • First adopted in 1917 when a filibuster was used to prevent the U.S. from considering a bill that would arm American merchant vessels

    • 12 senators worked together and used up 3 weeks’ time to prevent the Senate from voting on the bill before the end of the congressional term

The cloture rule1
The Cloture Rule

  • The Cloture Rule’s technical name is Rule XXII of the Senate’s Governing Rules

  • The Cloture is not a constantly standing rule, but is brought into play by special procedure

  • A vote to invoke Cloture must be taken 2 days after a petition calling for that action has been submitted by at least 16 members of the Senate

  • If at least 60 senators (3/5) vote for the motion, then the Cloture Rule becomes effective

    • No more than 30 more hours of floor time may be spent on the measure before it MUST be brought to a final vote

The cloture rule2
The Cloture Rule

  • Invoking Cloture is no easy matter

  • It has been attempted more than 400 times, and only about 125 have been successful

  • Many senators hesitate to support Cloture motions for 2 reasons:

    • Their dedication to the Senate’s tradition of free debate

    • Their practical worry that frequent use of Cloture will undercut the value of the filibuster in case they may want to use it someday


  • Do you think the Cloture Rule should be used more often? Why or why not?

Conference committees
Conference Committees

  • We started to talk about conference committees yesterday – those committees put together to amend different versions of the same bill passed by each chamber

  • In order to become a law, both chambers must pass the EXACT same bill

  • In a perfect world, the 2 chambers can come to terms on the amendments made by the 2nd chamber, but that’s not always possible

    • When no agreement can be reached the bill goes to a conference committee

Conference committees1
Conference Committees

  • The House and Senate rules restrict a conference committee to consider only those points on the bill that the 2 chambers cannot agree upon

  • The committee cannot include any new material

    • In practice, the committees often make changes that were not even considered in either chamber

  • Once the committee comes to an agreement, their new measure – the compromise bill – is submitted to both chambers

  • The new measure must be accepted or rejected without amendment

Conference committees2
Conference Committees

  • On rare occasions, the committee’s work is rejected

  • Rejections are rare for 2 reasons:

    • The powerful membership of the committee (typically the leadership from each chamber’s committee)

    • The fact that the measure usually comes in the midst of a rush to adjournment at the end of a congressional session

  • Conference committees are exceptionally powerful and effective

  • A senator once described conference committees as “the third house of Congress”


  • Why do you think the early members of Congress created the possibility for both chambers to work together in committees?

The final step
The Final Step

  • The Constitution requires that:

    • “Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate [and] Every Order Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President” Article I, Section 7, Clauses 2 and 3

The final step1
The Final Step

  • The President has 4 choices:

    • The President may sign the bill, and it is then a law

    • The President may veto (refuse to the sign the bill), at which time the bill must be returned to the chamber in which it originated along with the President’s objections

      • Congress can overturn a Presidential veto with a 2/3 vote

    • The President may allow the bill to become law without signing it – by not acting on it within 10 days, not counting Sundays, of receiving it AS LONG AS IT IS BEFORE THE END OF THE CONGRESSIONAL SESSION

    • The President may pocket veto – refuse to sign the bill and Congress adjourns before the 10 days are up

The final step2
The Final Step

  • Congress added a 5th possibility in 1996

    • The President could use a Line Item Veto, where the President could reject specific items on appropriations bills, effectively passing one part of a bill, but not another

    • The Supreme Court ruled that the line item veto was unconstitutional in Clinton v. New York City in 1998


  • Is a 2/3 vote to overturn a Presidential veto an appropriate amount, or should it be more or less? Why?