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Thursday, July 14, 2011

"SAY" Advocacy Training Review: Federal Policy

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:

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:

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:

*This site also includes a glossary with definitions of some important terms.

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