1. In the design of the United States government, Congress was given the legislative power. It "makes the laws" for the nation.
a. What procedure does the Constitution require for Congress to make law?
Article I of the Constitution "all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives." The House and Senate are equal partners in the legislative process––legislation cannot be enacted without the consent of both chambers.
First, any bill for raising money (such as by taxes or fees) must start out in the House. All bills must pass both houses of Congress in the exact same form. Bills that pass both houses are sent to the President. He can either sign the bill, in which case it becomes law, or he can veto it. In the case of a veto, the bill is sent back to Congress, and if both houses pass it by a two-thirds majority, the bill becomes law over the President's veto.
b. Describe the legislative process utilized today, above and beyond the Constitutional requirements.
The general process for making a bill into law is described in the Constitution. First, a bill needs to be drafted. You do not need to be a member of congress to draft a bill. For example lobbyists and other congressional staff can draft a bill, but only a member of congress can introduce legislation. Bills then get referred to standing committees. Once referred, the bill gets on the committee’s calendar for review by a subcommittee or by the full committee
After staff analysis and hearings, if the committee chooses, the bill then goes to “mark up”, which is a process in which subcommittees edit or amend the bill. Even after this process the bill may die there. If the bill survives, the committee votes to recommend the bill to the House or Senate. This procedure is called “ordering the bill”.
The bill then gets a date in which it will be debated and voted by the house and the senate. Only if the two chambers approve exactly the same final bill, the bill will get sent to the president for consideration.
If the President rejects the bill, called a veto, the bill returns to Congress. There it is voted on again, and if both houses of Congress pass the bill again, but this time by a two-thirds majority, then the bill becomes law without the President's signature. This is called "overriding a veto," and is difficult to do because of the two-thirds majority requirement.
Also, the President can sit on the bill, taking no action on it at all. If the President takes no action at all, and ten days passes (not including Sundays), the bill becomes law without the President's signature. However, if the Congress has adjourned before the ten days passes and without a Presidential signature, the bill fails. This is known as a pocket veto.
c. What role does the two party system play in today’s law-making process?
A two-party system is a system where two major political parties dominate voting in nearly all elections at every level of government. As a result, all, or nearly all, elected offices are members of one of the two major parties. Under a two-party system, one of the two parties typically holds a majority in the legislature and is usually referred to as the majority party while the other is the minority party. The chances for third party candidates winning election to any office are remote, although it's possible for groups within the larger parties, or in opposition to one or both of them, to exert influence on the two major parties.
d. What reforms or changes have been proposed for the process?
Over the last several decades, many proposals have been made to reform and improve congress such as term limitations, new ethics and campaign finance laws and organizational changes intended to reduce power and perks of members while making it easier for Congress to pass legislation in a timely fashion. Many reformers