We’ve all seen the SchoolHouse Rock video. (If you haven’t…)
We wish it were as simple as a cartoon, but it’s not.
The bills-to-laws process is a vital part of policy-making and policy changing within the U.S. government. However, the legislative branch of the Congress, consisting of the House of Representatives and Senate, will see thousands of bills introduced in this 115th United States Congress. Only 10% of these bills will become laws and make it through the entire process.
Let’s take the bill, H.R. 3271, the “Protecting Access to Diabetes Supplies Act of 2017,” as an example.
Bills-to-Laws: Where Do They Start?
Any bill can be drafted by members of Congress (or the Executive Branch!), and groups outside the legislative or executive branches can even draft bills. The bill is then introduced by a member of Congress in the House of Representatives. H.R. 3271 was sponsored by Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado, and co-sponsored by Representatives Susan Brooks of Indiana, and Tom Reed of New York. As chairs and co-chairs of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, these representatives assisted with drafting the bill and introducing H.R.3271 in the House.
From the House, the Speaker of the House sends the bill to a Committee to be heard. H.R. 3271 was sent to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and to the Committee on Ways and Means in July of 2017, formerly with the purpose “To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act in order to strengthen rules in case of competition for diabetic testing strips, and for other purposes.”
After the Committee hearing, the Committee takes action on whether to amend, vote on, or take other actions on the bill. In the Committee hearing for H.R. 3271, the CEO of DPAC, Christel Aprigliano spoke before the Health Subcommittee of Energy and Commerce. She urged the members to enact this bill, which will help ensure beneficiaries with diabetes will not be switched from the meters they know and trust by mail order suppliers. The bill provides oversight and protection.
Most bills do not make it past the Committee phase, but if they do, they are sent on to the Rules Committee to determine specifications about carrying out the debate of the bill. From here, the legislation is placed on the calendar for Floor Action. In this stage, the House of Representatives debates the bill via the rules from the Rules Committee, to be amended and voted on.
On to the Senate and Back to the House
If a majority votes in favor of the bill, the bill moves on to the Senate. The bill is then sent to another Committee, with the same process repeated as in the House with additional Committee Action. The bill can be talked about an unlimited amount by the Senate, where it often dies by a filibuster. If it does not die, the majority floor leader then decides if the whole Senate will vote on the bill. The Senate then takes Floor Action to amend and debate the bill, and if a majority votes on it, then the bill goes back to the House.
Here, Conference Committees are formed by each house if the changes made to the bill by the Senate are contested. The compromise is then voted on by each house; if a majority votes in favor of the bill then it goes on to the President.
The Last Step
Finally, the President may approve or veto the bill, and an approved bill becomes a law. If the President decides to veto the bill, then two-thirds of both houses can vote to override the Presidential veto.
As you remember in the SchoolHouse Rock video, the steps can make “the bill” tired.
The bills-to-laws process is extremely complex and slow, involving extensive debate and discussion.
It’s up to us – the diabetes community who care about access to accurate and trusted supplies in diabetes management want “to strengthen rules in case of competition for diabetic testing strips, and for other purposes” through H.R. 3271 , we must contact our representatives now.
We must take action on H.R. 3271 in order to give this bill the greatest chance of becoming a law. Click the image and send your email now!