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Politics on Point: Who makes the laws?

In this Politics on Point, talk about how two of the three branches of government work together to create new laws. Nick walks us through how a bill becomes a law.

Class Discussion Questions:

1) Create a diagram illustrating how a bill becomes a law.

2) Which branch of the government do you think has a bigger influence in making laws?

Read the Script:

Did you know that it is illegal to fish for whales on a Sunday in the state of Ohio? Or that it is a federal crime to damage a lamp owned by the government?

So, Who or what determines what is illegal and what isn’t? Laws!

Today we’re going to talk about how two of the three branches of government work together to create new laws.

The Legislative branch and the executive branch. Laws start at the Legislative branch.

As a reminder, the Legislative branch is made up of two chambers: the Senate and House of Representatives.

All 100 senators and 435 representatives make up Congress. A Law starts as a bill. A bill is just a fancy government word for an idea for a new law.

Depending on what kind of law this would be, the bill can come from either chamber of Congress. But let’s use an example that follows a bill from the house of representatives.

A Representative with an idea for a new law proposes the bill to the House so they can vote on it.

Before they vote on this bill, the House assigns a committee for due diligence. Due Diligence means that enough research and analysis has been made to cover all possible scenarios that could be affected by this new law.

If the bill passes by a simple majority of the House of Representatives voting in favor of it, it then gets sent over to the Senate. The Senate debates and votes on the proposed bill one more time.

If at least 51 senators out of the 100 vote to approve the bill, this means the bill is one step closer to becoming a law.

Congress still has their work cut out for them though. A Conference Committee between the Senate and House of Representatives is brought together to make sure that they are all on the same page about this new law.

The bill is now off to the Executive Branch or the president. It has to be a little more official than just sending the president an email.

The final version of the law has to be printed on parchment paper and hand delivered to the president, becoming an enrolled bill.

The president now has to carefully review the entire document and only has 10 days to sign the bill into law. If the president does not sign the bill within those 10 days however, it becomes a law by default if Congress is still in session.

But if he has some concerns and vetoes the bill instead, it goes back to Congress. In our case, it goes back to the House of representatives where the original idea came from.

They can now vote to override the president’s veto. If two-thirds of the house vote in favor of this new bill, it is handed off once again to the Senate.

It also takes two-thirds of the Senate’s vote for the President’s veto to be officially overturned. And this bill finally becomes a law.

A successful override of a presidential veto is pretty rare.

If the bill makes it all the way to the finish line and becomes a law, it must then be taken to the Office of the Federal Register at the National Archives to be assigned an official public law number.

There are laws on an executive level all the way down to a state or county level.

All the different types of laws that are meant to protect our rights.

For example, there’s laws that protect individuals from other individuals. Laws that protect businesses, laws that protect properties. And laws that protect individuals from the government itself.