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How to Make a Bill a Law

What you learned in civics class may not have given you the whole picture. Update your knowledge on what it takes to get a bill made into a law.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Write a bill Write a piece of legislation and present it to the House of Representatives.
  • Step 2: Hire some lobbyists Find some big corporations in favor of your bill, and get them to hire a few lobbyists. Have the lobbyists wine and dine key Congress members until they begin to see why your bill makes such good sense.
  • TIP: Tell the lobbyists to be careful about arranging vacations; corporate-sponsored travel is not allowed. Technically.
  • Step 3: Follow the fighting Keep tabs on the Congressional debates about your bill. If there are a few members who seem intent on derailing it, find out if they're sponsoring any legislation that requires your support; perhaps some backroom deals can be struck.
  • Step 4: Hand out some pork Hand out some "pork" during the mark-up session, when revisions and additions are made to a bill. Pork, or pork-barrel legislation, is the practice of attaching a rider to the bill that promises public funding for a local project. It's a way to convince a Congress member to vote for your bill, because now there's something in it for their state.
  • TIP: In the Senate, entire bills can be offered as amendments to other bills, and they don't even have to be pertinent to the original piece of legislation.
  • Step 5: Brace yourself for filibusters Once the bill passes the House, it moves to the Senate. When it hits the floor for debate, brace yourself for filibusters. That's when senators opposed to your bill delay voting with long speeches. And they can talk about whatever they like. If this happens to your bill, try to get 60 members to vote for "cloture," which brings an end to the yammering.
  • Step 6: Vote Cross your fingers that both the House and the Senate pass your bill. If either chamber doesn't sign off on it, it dies. If both pass it, it goes to conference committee, where the differences between the House and Senate versions are ironed out.
  • Step 7: The president signs or vetoes When the bill is approved, it goes to the President, who can sign it into law or veto it. And if it gets vetoed, you'll have to start the entire process all over again with a new bill.
  • FACT: Fewer than 1 in 20 bills that are introduced to the House or Senate become law.

You Will Need

  • Bill
  • Corporate sponsors
  • Lobbyists
  • Backroom deals
  • Pork
  • Cloture
  • Votes

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