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12.7: The Legislative Process

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    • Anonymous
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    Learning Objectives

    After reading this section, you should be able to answer the following questions:

    1. How does a bill become law?
    2. How do members of Congress develop and draft legislation?
    3. How does the congressional budget process work?

    The primary responsibility of Congress is making laws. Lawmaking is no easy task. Political scientists have characterized Congress as “a procedural obstacle course that favors opponents of legislation and hinders proponents.”[1] It often takes years before a bill is passed. Only a small number of bills that are introduced, formally proposed by members of the House and Senate, become law. On average, close to eleven thousand bills are introduced in the House and Senate during a two-year legislative session and fewer than four hundred become laws (Sullivan, 2008).

    The process of making laws involves complex written rules and procedures, some of which date back to 1797, when Vice President Thomas Jefferson prepared a rule book to help him carry out his responsibilities as president of the Senate. Jefferson’s Manual was adopted by the House and remains the authoritative statement of rules except where it has been superseded by provisions passed by members. In addition, there are fifteen volumes of parliamentary procedures and supplementary manuals of notes specifying current rules that pertain to lawmaking in the House. Similar reams of codes exist in the Senate (Johnson, 2000).

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