GED Social Studies Test: Understanding the Legislative Process

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

You will need a basic understanding of the legislative process for the GED Social Studies test. The legislative process consists of the steps required to pass a bill into law. Any member of the Senate or the House of Representatives can propose a bill, but party leaders typically introduce the bill. Often both chambers of Congress introduce similar bills at the same time.

After the initial reading, a bill is referred to a committee (and perhaps a subcommittee), which reviews the legislation, makes amendments, and may request input from government agencies and the public. Committees can kill legislation by simply refusing to consider it.

After the committee approves a bill, it returns to its chamber of origin, where the Speaker of the House or the Senate Majority Leader schedules a debate and vote. They, too, can kill a bill simply by not scheduling it. After debate and possible further amendment, members of the chamber vote on the bill. If it passes and no similar bill is in the other chamber, the bill is sent to the other chamber, where it undergoes the same cycle of committee consideration, debate, and vote.

If the other chamber passes the bill, it proceeds to the president, who can then sign the bill into law or veto it. If both the chambers pass similar bills, the legislation is then referred to the conference committee made up of members of both chambers. If that committee can reach a compromise on the content of the bill, it sends a report to both chambers outlining the agreement. That report, if approved, then goes to the president for approval.

If the president signs the bill, it becomes law. The president can also veto it, which returns it to the congressional body that originated it for a possible override vote. If Congress is in session and the president does nothing with the bill, it automatically becomes law after ten days. However, if Congress adjourns before the ten days pass, the bill dies.

Check your knowledge.

  1. Who can introduce a bill?

    • (A) only a senator

    • (B) any member of Congress

    • (C) only a member of the House of Representatives

    • (D) only the president

  2. After either chamber of Congress passes a bill, it is sent to

    • (A) committee for further review

    • (B) the president to sign into law

    • (C) the conference committee

    • (D) the other chamber of Congress

Now check your answers.

  1. The correct answer is Choice (B). Any member of Congress — House of Representatives or Senate — can introduce a bill.

  2. After passing one chamber of Congress, the bill goes to the other chamber for review, debate, and vote, so Choice (D) is the correct answer. A bill must pass both chambers before proceeding to the president.