The general process for making a bill into a law is described in the Constitution. As with many things, however, the Constitution leaves most of the details to the people of the day, dictating just the overall picture. Before we delve into those details, however, a look at the general process is useful.
First, a bill must pass both houses of Congress by a majority vote. After it has passed out of Congress, it is sent along to the President. If the President signs the bill, it becomes law.
The President might not sign the bill, however. If he specifically rejects the bill, called a veto, the bill returns to Congress. There it is voted on again, and if both houses of Congress pass the bill again, but this time by a two-thirds majority, then the bill becomes law without the President's signature. This is called "overriding a veto," and is difficult to do because of the two-thirds majority requirement.
Alternately, the President can sit on the bill, taking no action on it at all. If the President takes no action at all, and ten days passes (not including Sundays), the bill becomes law without the President's signature. However, if the Congress has adjourned before the ten days passes and without a Presidential signature, the bill fails. This is known as a pocket veto.
The process laid out in the Constitution is relatively complicated when it comes to vetoes, but pretty simple when it comes to approving a bill. But in reality, there is a lot more to law making than these steps spelled out in a clause of the Constitution.
Bills originate from several different sources, but primarily from individual members of Congress. In addition, bills might be brought to a member by a constituent or by...