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Sherrod Library

East Tennessee State University

How Laws are Made: Introduction

Sherrod Library Government Documents



The process by which a bill in Congress becomes law can seem mysterious and complicated. Our system of government works basically as set forth in the Constitution; however, over the past 225 years, procedures, precedents, and preferences have made the process more complicated than it was originally envisioned. To muddle our understanding, traditions reaching back to British rule of the colonies have influenced how our government works.

The process has also developed its own terminology that can confuse us at each stage a bill goes through. This guide will try to clarify the process, break the steps down, and offer suggestions to help find documentation for each step.

How does a bill become law?

How a Bill Gets through Congress

"Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."

Attributed to Otto von Bismarck and others