No, I do not think that Congress’
rules should be changed to make it more difficult to defeat a bill. The process
of a bill becoming a law is a long and complex process already with the potential
of the bill being amended or killed. Often, the end product of the bill is very
different from the original. Although this process is complex and sometimes
annoying, it ensures that the bill has been under careful review and has been
studied thoroughly. Any United States citizen may write a bill. The only person
who cannot write a bill is the president of the United States. In order to
propose a bill, the citizen author must find a congress member who is willing
to support that bill. If the citizen does find a congress member, the Congress
member will take the bill to either the house or the Senate. In the house, the
congress member will drop the bill off in the mahogany box (hopper), and in the
Senate, the Congress member will give the bill to the clerk. All bills having
to do with revenues and appropriations must originate in the House of
Representatives. All other bills may originate in either chamber of Congress.
The bill must then be recommended by a congress member, who will then become
the bill’s sponsor.

The bill will then be referred to
the action committee, where the presiding officer, either the Speaker of the
House, Paul Ryan or the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Orrin Hatch, will
send the bill to the subcommittee which has the most jurisdictions. In the
years prior to 1995, the bill was sent to all of the subcommittees, not based
on who had the most jurisdictions. This was called the Multiple Referral
System. Now, post-1995, the bill will go to the subcommittee with the most jurisdictions
and will trickle down to other subcommittees in a sequential fashion.

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While the bill is in this
subcommittee, it will be carefully read over and scrutinized. It will be amended
and changed as the committee sees fit. In certain cases, the Sunshine Law allows
for the subcommittee to gain access to more publicity for the bill. While the
bill is under review, it is open to the public and the subcommittee will have excerpts
who will analyze the bill and the ramifications of passing the bill. After the
subcommittees have reviewed the bill and have submitted all their amendments
and mark-ups, the bill will be sent back to the larger committee.

The larger committee then takes
all the recommendations from all the subcommittees and analyzes the results.
They will compare and contrast all the different opinions and make necessary
adjustments 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 the
changes back to the original chamber of Congress. Should they decide to
completely overhaul the bill; the bill will be called a “Committee
Bill.” Most bills (94%) die here. At this vital point in the process, the
chances of passing the bill are extremely slight. If the bill gets stuck in the
committee, then the members of the floor can sign a “discharge
petition,” 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 discharges
have been tried over 800 times, but only 24 of them have been successful. In
order for the discharge to become effective, there must be a majority of
members who sign the bill, so for the house, there must be 216 votes for the
discharge to draw the bill to the floor. For the Senate, there must be 51 votes
in favor of the discharge in order to draw it to the floor. If the discharge is
successful, the bill, along with all the markups will be sent directly to the
chamber in which it was discharged to.

After the bill has been sent back
to the originating chamber of Congress, it is placed on 1 of the 5 calendars in
the House, and 1 of the 2 calendars for the Senate. In the house, the bill is
reviewed by the rules committee. The rules committee establishes the rules for
each hearing on a bill. The closed rule sets a limit on how long the bill can
be debated for and puts a restriction on how many amendments can be made to the
bill. The closed rule has become more popular in recent times. Another rule in
the house is the open rule. The open rule allows for unlimited debate on the
bill, and an unlimited amount of changes can be made to the bill. This rule
allows for any types of changes to be made to the bill, including those that
have nothing to do with the bill itself; these changes are commonly known as
riders. In addition to these two rules for the house, there is another rule
known as the restrictive rule. What the restrictive rule does is it allows for
some 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. The
rule can only be changed from one type to another with the 2/3 majority vote of
the 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 move
forward for debate. There are no such rules in the Senate, and the Senate
Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer
will set a date for the bills to go to the floor.

When on the floor, the bill will
be debated in either the House or the Senate. In the house, the committee of the
Whole discusses revenue bills and most other bills. The Committee of the whole
is a quorum and must have at least 100 members present. The Mace which is the
official symbol of authority is taking down, so that the committee sponsor may
be able to debate in a more relaxed atmosphere. Although the quorum is able to
make amendments to the bill, none of them are officially passed. Passing is
done only in the chamber of Congress that the bill is in. Sometimes in order to
get a bill passed, riders will be added to the bill. When there are a large
number of riders, the bill is referred to as a Christmas tree bill.

Sometimes in the Senate, a
senator may dislike a bill and may wish to delay the process in which the bill
can be voted on. In such a case, the senator will hold a filibuster. The
filibuster gives the speaker the ability to speak indefinitely until the
session is over. He may speak about anything he wishes to. This tactic is
useful for delaying a bill being voted on, in order to rally more members of
his own party, to give his party more time to get the right amount of votes in
order to pass or suppress a bill. The longest filibuster ever record was held
by James Strom Thurmond. He held a filibuster for 24.3hr over the 1957 civil
rights 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 16
to initiate a vote for cloture, the cloture must obtain a 3/5 vote in order to
become effective and the filibuster will be terminated. If the senator is
successful in his filibuster and manages to shelve the bill for a time, he has
successfully fulfilled a tactic called double tracking.

Once the bill has been thoroughly
dissected interpreted and reviewed by Congress and has made it this far, it
must 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 if
they agree with the bill, and stay seated if they are against it. Those
standing are counted as votes. Another way to vote is the teller vote, in which
each 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 shout
their nay and yay at a bill being voted upon. The louder majority will win. The
last type of vote is the roll-call vote, which is the most official. Members of
Congress will be recorded by name for the way they vote on each bill. Their
name will be called and they will answer yay or nay.

Sometimes, the Senate and the
House will have similar or identical bills being voted on. In such a case the Senate
and House must reconcile their differences. If the differences are minor, they
can be easily taken care of. If they are more complex and numerous, they will
need to be given to a conference committee in order to knead out the

Finally, the bill comes to the
executive branch. The president will be given the bill and a 10-day window to
reply. 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 is
adjourned, the bill will be killed. This is known as a pocket-veto. The
President can also simply veto the bill if he disagrees with it, and it is
killed. One thing the president cannot do is use the line-item veto, which
allows 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 of
New York case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that as a state in the
line-item veto act of 1996 violated the presentment clause of the United States
Constitution. However, if the president likes it, he may sign it and leave a
signing statement along with the bill. If the bill is not passed within the
first session, it must start the whole process over again. 


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