Welcome to the Social Work Policy Research Guide! Within this guide, you will find information and links to policy related resources that you may find useful for your classwork and research. Use the tabs on this page to explore different resources and materials.
View this throwback video for a brief refresher on what is a bill, and how it becomes a law.
(video titled, "I'm Just a Bill" by School House Rock)
The chief function of Congress is making laws.
Ideas for legislation can be proposed by the President, individual Senators or Representatives, you, me, or any United States citizen.
A proposal must be considered and approved by both Houses (also called Chambers) of Congress in order to become a law.
A Congress lasts for two years and is divided into two regular sessions (one session per calendar year).
Bills are numbered in sequence, starting with 1. So the first bill introduced during a new session of the Senate would be numbered S. 1. The first bill introduced during a new session of the House of Representatives would be numbered H.R. 1.
Major legislation is often introduced in both houses in the form of companion (identical) bills.
The member of Congress introducing the bill is known as the primary sponsor. Any number of members may cosponsor a public bill.
Typically, a bill is introduced or "read" into one house of Congress, and then it is assigned to a committee or committees. This is considered by some to be the most important part of the legislative process. This is also the part of the process where the public is given the opportunity to be heard.
If the committee reports favorably on the bill, the committee staff writes a report. Committee Reports can be an important source of information regarding the purpose and meaning of a law.
A committee may also "table" a bill or fail to take action on it, thereby preventing its report back to the full House or Senate. If a bill is tabled in committee, it generally dies there. If the committee reports favorably on a bill, it goes back up to the full House or Senate for general debate, at which time amendments may be offered. If the bill passes, it is sent to the other chamber for consideration.
The bill must be approved in identical form in both Houses of Congress in order to go to the President for signature. If he approves, the President signs it, and it becomes law. If he disapproves, the President can return the bill with objections, thus vetoing the bill. If 2/3 of Congress votes to pass the bill, not withstanding the objections of the President, the veto is overridden and the bill becomes law.
Very similar to a bill. Bills are generally used to add, repeal, or amend laws. Joint Resolutions are generally used to authorize small appropriations, for continuing resolutions, to create temporary commissions, to declare war.
Joint Resolutions originating in the House are designated H.J. Res, followed by a number (e.g. H.J. Res 138). Joint Resolutions originating in the Senate are designated S. Res, followed by a number (e.g. S. Res 1).
A Joint Resolution goes through the same process as a bill, unless it's used to propose an amendment to the Constitution.
A Concurrent Resolution addresses a matter affecting the operations of both Houses, but is not sent to the President for approval and does not become law.
A Simple Resolution addresses the rules, operations, or opinions of either House alone (e.g. rule changes). It is not sent to the President and does not become law.