Guide to Legislative Process in the House


Article I, Section 7, of the Constitution provides in part that--

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States.

In actual practice a clerk of the Committee on House Oversight (or the Secretary of the Senate when the bill originated in that body) delivers the original enrolled bill to an employee at the White House and obtains a receipt, and the fact of the delivery is then reported to the House by the Chairman of the Committee. Delivery to a White House employee has customarily been regarded as presentation to the President and as commencing the 10-day Constitutional period for Presidential action.

Copies of the enrolled bill usually are transmitted by the White House to the various departments interested in the subject matter so that they may advise the President who, of course, cannot be personally familiar with every item in every bill.

If the President approves the bill, he signs it and usually writes the word "approved" and the date, although the Constitution requires only that the President sign it.

The bill may become law without the President's signature by virtue of the Constitutional provision that if the President does not return a bill with objections within 10 days (excluding Sundays) after it has been presented to the President, it shall be a law in like manner as if the President had signed it. However, if Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, it does not become law. The latter event is what is known as a "pocket veto," that is, the bill does not become law even though the President has not sent his objections to the Congress. The Congress has interpreted the President's ability to "pocket veto" a bill to be limited to final adjournment sine die of a Congress, and not to interim adjournments or first-session adjournments, where Congress through its agents is able to receive a beto message. The extent of "pocket veto" authority has not been definitively decided by the courts.

Notice of the signing of a bill by the President is sent usually by message to the House in which it originated and that House informs the other, although this action is not necessary to the validity of the act. The action is also noted in the Congressional Record.

A bill becomes law on the date of approval (or passage over the President's veto), unless it expressly provides a different effective date.


By the terms of the Constitution, if the President does not approve the bill "he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it." A bill returned with the President's objections need not be voted on at once and, when laid before the House, can be postponed, referred back to committee, or tabled before the question on the passage is considered as pending. A vetoed bill is always privileged until directly voted upon, and a motion to take it from the table is in order at any time.

The Member in charge moves the previous question which is put by the Speaker, as follows: "The question is, Will the House on reconsideration agree to pass the bill, the objections of the President to the contrary notwithstanding?" The Clerk activates the electronic system or calls the roll and those in favor of passing the bill answer "Aye," and those opposed "No." If fewer than two-thirds of the Members present (constituting a quorum) vote in the affirmative, the bill is rejected, and a message is usually sent to the Senate advising that body of the decision that the bill shall not pass. If, however, two-thirds vote in the affirmative, the bill is sent with the President's objections to the Senate together with a message advising it of the action in the House.

There is a similar procedure in the Senate where again a two-thirds affirmative vote is necessary to pass the bill over the President's objections. If then passed by the Senate the measure becomes the law of the land notwithstanding the objections of the President, and it is ready for publication as a binding statute.