Review of Federal Policy Making
There are two houses in the United States Congress: The Senate and The House of Representatives.
The U.S. Senate:
· Each state is represented by two senators, regardless of the state’s population.
· Senators are selected by popular election.
· The elections are held on the first Tuesday of November on even-numbered years
-This coincides with the election for the House of Representatives.
· In most states, a primary election is held first for the Democratic and Republican parties. A few months later, a general election is held.
· Senators serve a term of six years
-The terms are staggered.
· The majority party is the party that holds the largest number of seats in the Senate
-The Democratic Party is currently the majority party in the Senate.
· The Vice President of the United States is the head of the Senate (The vice president can only vote to break a tie).
-The current U.S. Vice President (and President of the Senate) is Joe Biden (Democrat).
For more information on the U.S. Senate visit: http://www.senate.gov/
The House of Representatives:
· The number of representatives from each state is determined according to each states’ population.
-This is one of the reasons why the census is so important.
· The elections are held every even-numbered year in early November (like the Senate).
· For states that are entitled to more than one representative, the states are divided into single-member districts.
· Representatives serve a term of two years.
· The majority party is the party that holds the largest number of seats in the House (like the Senate).
-The Republican Party is currently the majority party in the House.
· The Speaker of the House of Representatives is elected by the members of the House and is usually the leader of the majority party in the House.
-The current Speaker of the House is John Boehner (Republican).
For more information on the U.S. House of Representatives visit: http://www.house.gov/
The Process of Making a Bill into a Law:
· A bill is introduced by a member of Congress (any member can introduce a piece of legislation).
· The bill is sent to the appropriate committee (or several committees) where it is reviewed and revisions and/or additions can be made.
· The bill is placed on the calendar of either the Senate or the House of Representatives. When the time comes, the bill is debated and voted on.
· If the bill receives 2/3 of the vote from one of the Houses in Congress, it is sent to the other House where it is voted on.
· If the other House passes the bill (also by 2/3 of the vote), then the bill is sent to the president.
-If the two Houses of Congress do not agree on the bill, then a conference committee with representatives from each House will convene to work out the differences.
-If a compromise is reached in the Conference Committee, then a report is drafted and presented to each House, where it will be voted on again.
-If this revised bill receives by 2/3 of the vote from both Houses, then the bill will be sent to the president.
· A bill becomes a law if it is signed by the President or if the President does not sign the bill within 10 days and the Congress is in session.
-Alternatively, the President can veto a bill. In this case, the bill is sent back to Congress.
-If the bill receives 2/3 of the vote from both Houses, then the veto is overridden and the bill becomes a law.
· When a bill becomes a law it is assigned an official number.
For more information on policy making: http://www.votesmart.org/resource_govt101_02.php
*This site also includes a glossary with definitions of some important terms.