How Are Laws Passed in the United States Government?

Only Congress has the power to enact U.S. legislation.
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According to the U.S. House of Representatives, among thousands of bills introduced every two-year Congressional session, a lucky few hundred will, after a long journey, become laws.


Every law begins as a proposal from a member of the Senate or House of Representatives. The bill's sponsor provides copies for all members of that house to read.

Standing Committee

The bill goes to a standing House or Senate committee for study and discussion in light of expert testimony. The committee releases the bill, revises it or tables it for later.

Floor Debate

A released bill eventually goes to the House or Senate floor, for further debate and amendment, if necessary. It passes or fails by a simple majority vote: 218 of 435 in the House or 51 of 100 in the Senate. Once passed, it repeats the process in the other house.

Conference Committee

After a passing vote, conference committee members from the House and Senate work out any differences between their versions of the bill. The revised bill then goes to each house for final approval and enrollment.


The speaker of the house and vice president sign the enrolled bill, followed by the president, who has 10 days to sign or veto it. A vetoed bill can still become law if two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House then vote to pass it.

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