A member of either of the two houses of Congress can introduce legislation. After a bill is drafted, and the legislator is satisfied with the provisions of the bill, it is introduced into his house of Congress, and read. It is then sent to the appropriate committee. After the bill reaches the committee, it will be funneled to the proper subcommittee for hearings and discussion. At this stage, it may take months or years for the bill to move further. While the bill is in committee there are many different courses that it can follow. If the committee finds that the bill has value, they will then begin a process to refine it and make it acceptable to the other house of Congress. Hearings can be held in which witnesses from all sectors will be called. Governmental agencies will be invited to speak about the bill, as well as common citizens who have an interest.
The committee can decide to change language within the bill. Parts may be totally rewritten, and then additional hearings may be held. As a session of Congress ends, the bill will die. It must then be reintroduced in the new session, and receive a new number. The committee then picks up where it left off. Once a bill is passed by one house, it is sent to the other. When legislation is passed in the House, it is announced by the Sergeant At Arms in the Senate. If the bill is passed by both Houses, the Speaker of the House, and the Vice-president each sign it, and it is sent to the White House for the signature of the President.
The bill ends quickly if the committee finds the bill to be unnecessary but he bill can be reintroduced at a later date or in a new session. Some bills are buried. This is a method that is used when a bill is introduced by a minority party member and there is not enough support to get it out of committee. The bill may contain legislation which will be detrimental to the majority party during an election year, and there is reluctance to kill it, but a feeling that the time to bring it before the public is not appropriate. A bill can remain buried for many months.
Once the committee has finished its work, the bill will be reported favorably out of committee and is sent to the floor of the house in which it was introduced for debate. At this point, amendments are often attached to the bill. Another way, a bill can be killed after approval by congress is if the President holds the bill for ten days without signing it when Congress is not in session, this is known as a pocket veto. If the President vetoes a bill, he must send it back to the House where it originated with a letter of explanation.