I was asked by a noder here to elaborate on some nodes with a challenge to explain how a bill becomes law.

The writeup above is the "naive, how they tell you it works in school" version of the process. But as we know, it's more complex than that.

In reality:

  • A bill is drafted by members of Congress, the Executive Branch or an outside group and a Representative introduces it in the House.
  • Occasionally some naive citizen or citizen's group thinks that something would be a good idea. Those are the bills that go to committee to die in step two.

    But really, it's usually a special interest group, corporation or other group that wants something, so they get one of their paid lackeys like a Congress-critter to draft some great sounding thing. If it comes from the President you know it's part of a Grand Plan that means we're all going to get assrailed without lubricant.

  • The Speaker of the House sends the bill to a committee. If it passes, it goes to Rules Committee, which decides the rules for and timing of debate.
  • This is where the bills from actual real people or the boy scout types who went to Washington to not be like other politicians and believes in the system quietly get thrown in the garbage while the real power brokers have a good laugh at the naivete. Then on to the real business. Person X has proposed a law on behalf of a corporation, so they look to see how either to add their own special interest language to it, or oppose it if they oppose the special interest in question.

    Then comes the quiet power jockeying to get it past the Rules Committee, who will figure out how to game the system (e.g. there will be five minutes to read all 1500 pages of legalese, then 15 minutes for everyone to discuss it...)

  • House debates the bill. If a majority votes in favor, it goes to the Senate.
  • This is the first degree of politicking about it. That's when you hear about it in the news. Say for example that the original bill was drafted by a citizen group called "We Moms" who want the ability to treat dying children with cannabis extract. The left wing will be crying about the children, what about the children - while the right wing plays the "sanctity of all life" card but cautions about how cannabis is in the same class as heroin for a reason and we need much more research. Like 40 years' worth. Because the slippery slope, next thing is crazed stoners who got a prescription for it for "a slight cough" are raping, pillaging and destroying the fabric of the country.

    This is when both sides take polls.

  • A Senator introduces the bill, which is sent to a committee. If the committee majority votes for the bill, it goes to the whole Senate.
  • This is where the real politicking begins. Sometimes a Democrat Congress will attempt to assrail a Republican senate by writing a great bill that their special interests oppose, so they look like total jerks to the public in the next election cycle. Or a Republican Congress would really like to get something done, and the Democrats get the chance to smile and say "no soup for you."

  • Majority floor leader decides when the whole Senate will consider the bill.
  • Note that this includes 20 years from now and never.

  • The Bill is debated and potentially amended. If a majority votes in favor, it is returned to the House. If the House rejects any changes, it goes to a conference committee of members from both houses for compromise. Both houses must approve these changes. If approved, the bill goes to the president.
  • At this point in the process, one of three things happen.

    It all depends what the bill is for. Say that the powers that be want us all microchipped and under constant 24/7 GPS surveillance. That is NOT how the bill will start. It will start out as the Defend America with Mom And Apple Pie with fluffy kittens bill, and will be enthusiastically fast tracked by both sides. It will call for an increase in funding for veterans and remove soldiers from foreign wars to defend here instead. In the Senate is where the bit about veterans gets quietly emasculated, the bit about foreign wars has language added to say "eventually" and in the 20,000 pages it grows by the part about microchipping, surveillance, an abrogation of the fourth amendment and so forth gets quietly tucked in between long boring legal words that at one point tried to say "help the veterans" but now says the opposite.

    Or, it could be that the cannabis bill from before is more popular than people think, and Senators are getting quiet calls from Big Pharma saying nope, cut it out. So what they do is add scope and amendment to make the bill politically unpopular. Absolutely, the 75 kids whose lives are saved by this would be helped, but at a cost of 1.5 billion because the bill also now contains sensible provisions like warning labels on cannabis in Portugese, long red tape, and millions of dollars in funding for anti-drug campaigns, as well as authorizing the release of untreated medical waste into our rivers, and that every child with autism gets 100% of their medical treatment completely free on the public dime.* The news gets tipped about the medical waste, and feel like heroes for Letting You Know What Our Congress People Were Up To. Oppose the medical waste dumping law.

    Or it's the usual collusion between both parties to simply make money. All of it is quiet jockeying to make sure that enough major players get tax breaks, pork or other goodies to make the law pass.

  • The president may sign (approve) the bill or veto (reject) it. If approved, it becomes law.
  • How this goes depends on the eventual re-election campaign.




    *The autism part of that sentence actually happened in the state of Georgia.