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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress

Valerie Heitshusen
Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process

This report introduces the main steps through which a bill (or other item of business) may travel in the legislative process─from introduction to committee and floor consideration to possible presidential consideration. However, the process by which a bill can become law is rarely predictable and can vary significantly from bill to bill. In fact, for many bills, the process will not follow the sequence of congressional stages that are often understood to make up the legislative process. This report presents a look at each of the common stages through which a bill may move, but complications and variations abound in practice.

Throughout, the report provides references to a variety of other CRS reports that focus on specific elements of congressional procedure. CRS also has many other reports not cited herein that address some procedural issues in additional detail (including congressional budget and appropriations processes). These reports are organized by subject matter on the Congressional Operations portion of the CRS webpage, a link to which is on the main CRS homepage, but can also be found at

Congressional action on bills is typically planned and coordinated by party leaders in each chamber, though as described in this report, majority party leaders in the House have more tools with which to set the floor agenda than do majority party leaders in the Senate. In both chambers, much of the policy expertise resides in the standing committees, panels of Members who typically take the lead in developing and assessing proposed legislation within specified policy jurisdictions.

Date of Report: November 30, 2012
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: R42843
Price: $29.95

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