We know this info is a bit basic. But just in case you need your memory jogged since your 7th grade civics class, we thought we’d provide a quick primer on the fundamentals of how our governmental system works.
The Three Branches of Government
The Legislative Branch makes the laws and is made up of the Hose and Senate, known collectively as Congress. Among other powers, the legislative branch makes all laws, declares wars, regulates interstate and foreign commerce and controls taxing and spending policies.
The Executive Branch carries out the laws. This branch consists of the President, his or her advisors and various departments and agencies. The President is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws written by Congress and, to that end, appoints the heads of the federal agencies, including the Cabinet.
The Judicial Branch evaluates the laws and consists of the US Supreme Court and the Federal Judicial Center. The Federal Judicial Center is the education and research agency for the federal courts. The Supreme Court settles disputes over the law and its interpretations.
The Legislative Process
Introduction. The bill is introduced in either the House or Senate. Spending (appropriations) bills may only be introduced in the House.
First Reading. The bill is printed in the House or Senate journal. Once entered into the journal, the bill is referred to the appropriate committees.
Committee Consideration. The committee(s) considering the bill get input from affected government agencies.
Subcommittee Markup. Subcommittees recommend that the full committee approve, disapprove or table the bill. They may also recommend amendments to the bill.
Final Committee Action. After considering proposed amendments, full committee votes on bill. The committee may vote to send the bill on to the full House or Senate, or table it.
Second Reading. The bill may now be considered by the full House or Senate.
Bill Reported. The committees report their actions on the bill to the full House or Senate, and the bill is placed on the official calendar.
Floor Debate. The bill is debated. Amendments can be offered and are voted on separately.
Filibuster (Senate Only). A Senator, once granted permission, may speak indefinitely to delay the vote. Filibusters can be halted if the Senate passes a “cloture”resolution by 60 votes.
Third Reading & Vote. The clerk will read the title of the bill and the full House or Senate votes on it. Votes may be taken by simple voice vote or by roll call.
Bill Sent To Other Chamber Of Congress. All bills must be passed in exactly the same form, including amendments, by both the House and Senate. Once received from the other chamber, the bill may passed as is, defeated or passed with more amendments.
Conference Committee. If bills are different in each chamber, a joint House/Senate conference committee is appointed to resolve differences. Once reconciled, the House and Senate revote.
Bill Sent To President. The President of the United States receives the bill from Congress and may either sign it into law or veto it.