The United States Congress is both a legislative and judicial body of the federal government and is made up of two houses. The lower house of Congress – the House of Representatives – meets regularly to conduct legislations and manage the executive branch of government. The upper house of Congress – the Senate – is chosen by the voters for the same purpose, to ensure that the legislation passed by both houses of Congress matches their preferences. The Congress generally meets each year in Washington, D.C., although it may meet in other states through specially called joint sessions. The Congress normally convenes for each of its legislative years in January. One of these years, the Congress must finish negotiating a deal for a budget before it reconvenes.
Every bill proposed to be passed by the House and Senate is debated and voted upon in the Senate and the House. A bill is passed, if it has the support of a majority of both the Houses and if it has been passed by a margin of at least two thirds of those voting. The House and the Senate may differ on the degree of support needed for a bill to pass. Once a bill has been passed in both houses of Congress, it goes to the President who then signs it. If the President does not sign a certain bill then it is forwarded to the other legislative branches for their review before it becomes law.
Each bill passed by the House and Senate has to be presented to a committee of one of two parties in the House and Senate, which may require the consent of a majority of those present or of a majority of states if the bill deals with taxation. Before a bill can be presented to either chamber, both chambers have to pass an identical resolution indicating its intent. If the resolution has already been passed by both Houses, it will need only the signature of the President in order for it to become law. But if the resolution has been passed only by the House, it still needs the approval of a conference committee composed of one representative from each party that may consist of members of both Houses of Congress.
The conferences negotiate differences between the two versions of a bill and reach a consensus together or attempt to divide them. Then, the conference report is filed with the House and Senate for review and possible endorsement or rejection. The final step is for the President to sign the bill into law. If a bill is passed by both Houses and receives the signature of the President, it becomes law without the usual formalities that precede the passage of bills through the House and Senate. However, a bill that has already been passed by either house is subject to reconsideration by the other body only after it has been presented to another conference committee in which members of both Houses are present and there are chances that differences may arise again between the two versions.
A bill becomes law, even though a single member of Congress has requested its override. Two-thirds of both Houses must agree for a bill to be considered for override. If a bill has no support among the members of Congress then it will not receive an override request. The members of Congress who request the override must indicate in the bill that they are really the ones who propose such action. There is a special procedure to determine if a bill is well supported by the members of Congress.
The way a bill becomes law depends largely on the efforts of both Houses of Congress and if they reach a consensus. The president and members of Congress who are concerned about a particular legislation have to try to work out a compromise before the bill becomes law. Otherwise, the bill could face a challenge in the courts and be declared null and void by the courts. In addition to having the effect of overriding the Constitution, a bill passed by Congress carries with it certain implied rights that may be enforced against a defected bill. For example, if a person were to bring a lawsuit against another person under a law that said he had a defective product, then the defective law could prevent that person from recovering damages if his product was found to be dangerous despite the fact that Congress had intended for it to be safe.