No, I do not think that Congress’rules should be changed to make it more difficult to defeat a bill. The processof a bill becoming a law is a long and complex process already with the potentialof the bill being amended or killed. Often, the end product of the bill is verydifferent from the original. Although this process is complex and sometimesannoying, it ensures that the bill has been under careful review and has beenstudied thoroughly.

Any United States citizen may write a bill. The only personwho cannot write a bill is the president of the United States. In order topropose a bill, the citizen author must find a congress member who is willingto support that bill.

If the citizen does find a congress member, the Congressmember will take the bill to either the house or the Senate. In the house, thecongress member will drop the bill off in the mahogany box (hopper), and in theSenate, the Congress member will give the bill to the clerk. All bills havingto do with revenues and appropriations must originate in the House ofRepresentatives. All other bills may originate in either chamber of Congress.

The bill must then be recommended by a congress member, who will then becomethe bill’s sponsor. The bill will then be referred tothe action committee, where the presiding officer, either the Speaker of theHouse, Paul Ryan or the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Orrin Hatch, willsend the bill to the subcommittee which has the most jurisdictions. In theyears prior to 1995, the bill was sent to all of the subcommittees, not basedon who had the most jurisdictions. This was called the Multiple ReferralSystem. Now, post-1995, the bill will go to the subcommittee with the most jurisdictionsand will trickle down to other subcommittees in a sequential fashion. While the bill is in thissubcommittee, it will be carefully read over and scrutinized.

It will be amendedand changed as the committee sees fit. In certain cases, the Sunshine Law allowsfor the subcommittee to gain access to more publicity for the bill. While thebill is under review, it is open to the public and the subcommittee will have excerptswho will analyze the bill and the ramifications of passing the bill. After thesubcommittees have reviewed the bill and have submitted all their amendmentsand mark-ups, the bill will be sent back to the larger committee. The larger committee then takesall the recommendations from all the subcommittees and analyzes the results.

They will compare and contrast all the different opinions and make necessaryadjustments of their own. Once the larger committee has made all their adjustments,they may decide to completely overhaul the bill, or make changes and submit thechanges back to the original chamber of Congress. Should they decide tocompletely overhaul the bill; the bill will be called a “CommitteeBill.” Most bills (94%) die here. At this vital point in the process, thechances of passing the bill are extremely slight. If the bill gets stuck in thecommittee, then the members of the floor can sign a “dischargepetition,” if it is in the house, which will bring the Bill to the floor.If it is in the Senate, it is called a discharge motion.” These dischargeshave been tried over 800 times, but only 24 of them have been successful.

Inorder for the discharge to become effective, there must be a majority ofmembers who sign the bill, so for the house, there must be 216 votes for thedischarge to draw the bill to the floor. For the Senate, there must be 51 votesin favor of the discharge in order to draw it to the floor. If the discharge issuccessful, the bill, along with all the markups will be sent directly to thechamber in which it was discharged to.After the bill has been sent backto the originating chamber of Congress, it is placed on 1 of the 5 calendars inthe House, and 1 of the 2 calendars for the Senate. In the house, the bill isreviewed by the rules committee. The rules committee establishes the rules foreach hearing on a bill. The closed rule sets a limit on how long the bill canbe debated for and puts a restriction on how many amendments can be made to thebill.

The closed rule has become more popular in recent times. Another rule inthe house is the open rule. The open rule allows for unlimited debate on thebill, and an unlimited amount of changes can be made to the bill.

This ruleallows for any types of changes to be made to the bill, including those thathave nothing to do with the bill itself; these changes are commonly known asriders. In addition to these two rules for the house, there is another ruleknown as the restrictive rule. What the restrictive rule does is it allows forsome amendments to be made to the bill on the floor, unlike the open rule,which allows for any to be made, even if they do not pertain to the bill. Therule can only be changed from one type to another with the 2/3 majority vote ofthe house. Once the rules have been set, the speaker of the house, Paul Ryan,and the majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, will decide which bills will moveforward for debate. There are no such rules in the Senate, and the SenateMajority leader, Mitch McConnell, and the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumerwill set a date for the bills to go to the floor. When on the floor, the bill willbe debated in either the House or the Senate. In the house, the committee of theWhole discusses revenue bills and most other bills.

The Committee of the wholeis a quorum and must have at least 100 members present. The Mace which is theofficial symbol of authority is taking down, so that the committee sponsor maybe able to debate in a more relaxed atmosphere. Although the quorum is able tomake amendments to the bill, none of them are officially passed. Passing isdone only in the chamber of Congress that the bill is in. Sometimes in order toget a bill passed, riders will be added to the bill. When there are a largenumber of riders, the bill is referred to as a Christmas tree bill.

Sometimes in the Senate, asenator may dislike a bill and may wish to delay the process in which the billcan be voted on. In such a case, the senator will hold a filibuster. Thefilibuster gives the speaker the ability to speak indefinitely until thesession is over.

He may speak about anything he wishes to. This tactic isuseful for delaying a bill being voted on, in order to rally more members ofhis own party, to give his party more time to get the right amount of votes inorder to pass or suppress a bill. The longest filibuster ever record was heldby James Strom Thurmond. He held a filibuster for 24.

3hr over the 1957 civilrights bill. The only way to counter a filibuster is by voting for a cloture,the petition to start a cloture must have 16 signatures. After obtaining the 16to initiate a vote for cloture, the cloture must obtain a 3/5 vote in order tobecome effective and the filibuster will be terminated. If the senator issuccessful in his filibuster and manages to shelve the bill for a time, he hassuccessfully fulfilled a tactic called double tracking.

Once the bill has been thoroughlydissected interpreted and reviewed by Congress and has made it this far, itmust be voted on. There are several techniques Congress uses to vote on bills.The first method is a standing vote, in which members are called to stand ifthey agree with the bill, and stay seated if they are against it. Thosestanding are counted as votes. Another way to vote is the teller vote, in whicheach member uses a teller to vote yay or nay in order to voice their opinion.

Another way to vote is the voice vote, in which members of Congress will shouttheir nay and yay at a bill being voted upon. The louder majority will win. Thelast type of vote is the roll-call vote, which is the most official. Members ofCongress will be recorded by name for the way they vote on each bill.

Theirname will be called and they will answer yay or nay. Sometimes, the Senate and theHouse will have similar or identical bills being voted on. In such a case the Senateand House must reconcile their differences.

If the differences are minor, theycan be easily taken care of. If they are more complex and numerous, they willneed to be given to a conference committee in order to knead out thedifferences. Finally, the bill comes to theexecutive branch. The president will be given the bill and a 10-day window toreply. If the president does not sign the bill within 10 days, not including Sundays,if Congress is in session, then the bill will become law. If Congress isadjourned, the bill will be killed. This is known as a pocket-veto.

ThePresident can also simply veto the bill if he disagrees with it, and it iskilled. One thing the president cannot do is use the line-item veto, whichallows the executive to pick and choose parts of the bill he does not like,veto it, and pass the rest. This is established by the Clinton v. The City ofNew York case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that as a state in theline-item veto act of 1996 violated the presentment clause of the United StatesConstitution. However, if the president likes it, he may sign it and leave asigning statement along with the bill. If the bill is not passed within thefirst session, it must start the whole process over again.

 

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