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The length of time allowed for debate on a bill depends on the importance of the proposed measure and the debate time is usually divided equally between the proponents and the opponents of a measure. After the general debate, a 'second reading' of the bill is carried out during which members of the House (or the Senate, if the bill has originated in the Senate) are allowed to propose amendments in the bill ("Enactment of a Law"; Johnson 27-28).
Voting: When the amendment process is completed, the bill is put up to the house for voting. Normally a simple majority vote is required for the passage of a bill. However, the House rules require a three-fifths vote to pass a bill, joint resolution, amendment, or conference report that contains a specified type of federal tax increase. In most cases, the voice vote is considered adequate for the voting process but the division and the recorded vote can also be employed. The division is used when it is difficult to determine the result of a voice vote; in this case the Chair asks those in favor and the ones opposed to the bill to stand and be counted in turn. A member can also demand a recorded vote if the demand is supported by one-fifth of the members. In such a case, an electronic device is used for recording the vote (Ibid., para on "Final Passage").
Referring the Bill to Other Chamber: Once a bill has been approved by one chamber of the Congress (i.e., the House or the Senate), it is sent to the other chamber for its consideration. The bill is again given the same detailed consideration in the other chamber, i.e., it goes through the process of debate and public hearings in the relevant committee and comes up for discussion on the floor of the House or Senate. The other chamber has the right to approve, reject, ignore, or amend the bill. If the bill is approved without amendments, it is sent back to its place of origin for further processing; if ignored or rejected, the bill dies a natural death (Johnson 37).
Conference Committee: If the bill is sent back with significant amendments, the chamber where the bill originated may request for the formation of a "conference committee" comprising of members of both chambers. The conference committee endeavors to reconcile the differences between the points-of-view of the two chambers. If the Committee fails to reconcile, the bill dies. If it agrees on a compromise; it has to prepare a detailed "conference report" for approval of both the chambers (Ibid. 42-45).
Enrollment: If both chambers (the House and the Senate) approve the bill in identical form after considering the conference report, the bill is "enrolled" and sent to the President for his approval. The enrolled bill is the final form of the bill, which meticulously contains all the amendments and their effect on the original bill (Ibid. 50-51).
Presidential Action: The President may sign the bill into law; if he takes no action on the bill for ten days while Congress is in session, the bill automatically becomes law. The President also has the power to veto the bill and send it back with his objections to the House of its origin; or use the "pocket veto," i.e., takes no action on the bill for ten days after Congress has adjourned their second session; in this case the bill dies (Ibid. 51-53).
Over-riding the Veto: The Congress has the powers to over-ride a Presidential veto by approving the bill with two-thirds majority of the members present (provided the quorum is met) in the House as well as the Senate.
Committees." United States Senate. 2007. http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/committees/d_three_sections_with_teasers/committees_home.htm
Committee Offices." U.S. House of Representatives. 2007. http://www.house.gov/house/CommitteeWWW.shtml
Enactment of a Law." United States Senate. 2007. http://www.senate.gov/legislative/common/briefing/Enactment_law.htm
Johnson, Charles, W. "How our Laws are Made." Document No. 108-93: U.S. Government Printing Office. June 20, 2003. http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/howourlawsaremade.pdf
Schneider, Judy. "The Committee System in the U.S. Congress." Congressional Research Service: The Library of Congress. May 2, 2003. http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/politics/legbranc/committee_system.pdf
As an example: during the 107th Congress (2001-2002), 8,948 bills and 178 joint resolutions were introduced in both Houses. Of the total number introduced, 5,767 bills and 125 joint resolutions originated in the House of Representatives (Johnson 6).
The President may veto a bill which can be over-ridden by two-thirds majority in both houses; a bill also becomes the law if the President fails to return it to the House of its origin with objections within 10 days, if the Congress is in session.
The "hopper" is a wooden box placed on the side of the rostrum in the House Chamber
All bills accepted for consideration is given a legislative number: A bill originating in the House of Representatives is designated by the letters "H.R." followed by a number. Similarly, a bill from the Senate is represented by the letter "S" followed by its number.
Each hearing by a committee or subcommittee, except the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, is required to be open to the public except when a majority of its members decide that part of a hearing be closed to public for specific reasons such as endangerment of national security
The House has a long-standing rule that the provisions of Jefferson's Manual prepared by Thomas Jefferson for own guidance as President of the Senate from 1797 to 1801, should govern the House in all applicable cases and where they are not inconsistent with the rules of the House.
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