You may remember the Schoolhouse Rock song about how a bill becomes a law, but in case you don’t, we’re going to share the steps.
Let’s outline the process of how a bill becomes a law using an example of a bill that impacts all people with diabetes – S.586 – National Diabetes Clinical Care Commission Act
It’s not easy to go from bill to law; it’s a detailed process. Along the way, it may get lost among potentially 6,000 other bills and resolutions that are created every single year. How can we make diabetes focused bills stand out?
Drafting of a Bill
The first step in the bill process is an idea. These ideas can come from a grassroots effort where individuals reach out to their local elected officials and ask them to support a specific idea.
Once the idea is brought to the attention of a representative, the bill is written and sponsored. It is important to have not only a sponsor, but as many co-sponsors as possible when introducing the bill to Congress.
S.586 – National Diabetes Clinical Care Commission Act was initially introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) on February 26, 2015. The bill was introduced initially with 12 other co-sponsors. The bill currently (as of 3/10/2016) has 30 co-sponsors.
Submission of Bill
The bill is first submitted to the House of Representatives that begins with a number preceded with H.R.
In some instances, identical bills may be submitted in both the House and the Senate.
For example, an identical bill, H.R. 1192 was introduced in the House of Representatives on March 02, 2015 by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX-22) and 53 original cosponsors. Currently, (as of 3/10/2016), H.R. 1192 has 178 co-sponsors.
Comittee and Subcomittees
The bill is then referred to a committee. The committee is comprised of Congressional representatives who are subject area experts. While here, the bill will go through reviews and revisions, if necessary, before it is decided to be sent back to the House floor. If the committee members need more insight or information, they have the opportunity to send the bill to a subcommittee where the bill is re-examined and additional experts are called in.
A majority of bills never make it out of the committee phase. A bill may “die” because the committee could take a long time to review, table the bill (when a majority vote decides to suspend consideration of a bill), or the bill just simply loses its momentum and is forgotten about.
This is another reason why it is important to continue to take actions in order to keep diabetes related bills in the conversations. The more you talk about it, the better.
Mark-up of a Bill
During this time, additional revisions may be made to the bill. This revision phase is commonly known as a “mark-up” session. If there are a large amount of revisions and amendments to the initial proposed bill a new “clean bill” may be created.
This new clean bill will have its own, new number assigned to it and go through the same process again.
S. 586 was read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
The bill is currently in the Mark Up phase.
H.R. 1192 was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce initially. It was then referred to the Subcommittee on Health for consideration.
Once the bill is approved by the committee, it is reported to the House where it will be up for debate. During the debate phase, representatives will discuss pros and cons of the proposed bill.
Neither S. 586 or H.R. 1192 have reached this point. Which is why we need you to take action.
Voting on a Bill
Once final revisions are complete, the bill is ready to be voted on. If majority of representatives vote in favor of the bill, it is then referred to the Senate. There needs to be a simple majority of 218 out of 245 Representstives for the bill to move on.
Once the bill reaches the Senate, a similar process occurs to ensure that there is enough research, review and revisions put into the bill. After being voted on and passed by majority of the Senate, the bill will finally reach the President’s desk. There needs to be a simple majority of 51 out of 100 votes in favor in order to reach the President.
The President then has three options for the proposed bill. Sign and pass the bill, veto the bill, or do nothing (also known as a pocket veto).
The bill then becomes a law if the President has approved it or a Presidential veto is overridden.
In order for a Presidential veto to be overridden there must be a minimum of 2/3 vote in both the House and the Senate.
As you can see, it’s a long drawn out process for a bill to become a law. During this time period, there are thousands of bills that may be passing through the desk of representatives and may get lost within a committee or subcommittee.
Take Action Now
It is important as citizens and advocates to keep diabetes related legislation at the forefront of your representatives minds. Continuing to call, write letters, tweet, etc. helps keep a diabetes bill from being lost in the shuffle. If enough voices are heard about a specific concern, the bill will stay front and center.
What can you do today to help ensure that a diabetes bill doesn’t get lost on its way? Take action on just ONE of the bills currently in Congress. Just click here and send a message to your representatives.