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Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone: (703) 837-8812

Making Laws

Legislative Definitions, Processes, Procedures and Terms for the Making of Laws in the US Senate and US House

Below you will find a number of links to authoritative discussions of the process and terms relevant to an idea becoming a federal law in the United States.

To meet the needs of users with different levels of familiarity with Congress, we’ve included material with various degrees of detail and complexity. Each site is responsible for the accuracy of the information, which we believe is reliable.

We invite you to take time to visit a number of these sites to get the most comprehensive picture of our country’s legislative processes that has evolved over 200 years.

If you want to know more about the language Members of the U.S. House use in addressing the Chair and one another during Floor debate, see our original document:U.S. House Floor Procedures Manual.

House Resources

* Overview of the House Legislative Process Brief summary of the forms of congressional action, the introduction and referral of House bills, House committee and floor consideration, etc.

* Detailed House Procedures An in-depth presentation of the House legislative process, written by the House Parliamentarian.

* Glossary of Parliamentary Terms An abridged dictionary of parliamentary terms covering both houses.

* Glossary of Budget Process Terms A lengthy glossary of terms used in the Federal Budget Process.

Senate Resources

* Graphic Overview of the Senate Legislative Process (PDF) A table that briefly illustrates each stage in the process by which a Senate bill becomes a law.

* Overview of the Senate Legislative Process (Text) More detailed summary outlining the Senate’s legislative framework, committee organization and procedure, floor procedure, etc.

* Detailed Senate Procedures An in-depth presentation of the Senate legislative process, written by the Senate Parliamentarian.

* Senate-Specific Functions Brief summaries of certain powers and procedures that apply only to the Senate, including procedures for considering treaties, nominations, etc.

* Senate Glossary A glossary that provides brief definitions of terms related to Congress and the legislative process.

Other Resources on the U.S. Legislative Process

* The Legislative Process: Summary by C-SPAN A concise summary of the legislative process covering both houses.

* Center on Congress (University of Indiana) A detailed presentation of the legislative process for both houses, including discussions on types of legislation, "packaging" legislation, etc. This Web site also contains an historical overview of the two houses and information on the role of Congress in American life.