Posts tagged ‘legislative process’

The Link between the Congressional Committee System and Legislation

Different congressional committees within each chamber of Congress conduct most of the work on legislation, including the preparation that must occur on a bill leading to floor consideration.

0202 - Jameson Hall at the University of Cape Town
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Bills are referred to congressional committees for any needed further action. In the event a committee decides an issue or a bill has merit, it can send it to the full chamber. Bills can also die in committee. Committees determine whether an issue or bill has any possible life, including whether there will be further consideration of the matter.

The full scope of the legislative process is essentially linked to the congressional committee system. Members of a committee have the ability to review and dispose of proposals. Whenever a bill or issue is referred to a committee, that committee must decide whether they will devote necessary resources to advance the measure. If the decision is made to move ahead, the first step is often to conduct a congressional hearing.

If sufficient results are produced from the hearing phase, Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgethe committee may then choose to move to drafting and refining a bill–the markup phase. The bill is then recommended or reported to the full chamber. From that point, the measure will be taken up by the full Senate or House, and, if passed, will then be referred to the other chamber. A conference committee resolves any difference between the two versions produced by the two chambers before a final version will be put to a final vote in each chamber.

In the end, the committee hearing forms an initial staging ground for the development of most legislation. Through the gathering of information from witness testimony, committee members become educated regarding an issue and begin to formulate policy positions. As a result, committees form a critical dynamic within the legislative process. Of course, a measure is not required to be the subject of a hearing before it can be further considered by a committee or either chamber, but most important issues and measures do receive a full vetting through the committee hearings process before further action is taken.

To learn more about testifying before Congress, see TheCapitol.Net’s course Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony and its Capitol Learning Audio Course, Tips, Tactics & Techniques for Writing Congressional Testimony.

To learn more about the hearing process and the role it plays in the legislative process, see TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, and the 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 1.40 Understanding the Congressional Committee System.


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The Life Cycle of Lobbying

There is a distinctive life cycle in lobbying. The moment a bill is introduced, interest groups that track that issue will begin lobbying the legislation related to it. Often, reporters monitor congressional committee consideration quite closely and will pose questions to members of Congress regarding their position on that legislation. As increased public awareness is directed to the measure as a result of the media and interest groups, constituents learn more about the legislation and will then ask their own members of Congress to identify their position.

2010 Cross Nats Bend
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Most members of Congress have decided their position on a piece of legislation by the time a bill moves to the floor. As a result, communications must be made as early as possible within the legislative process. The astute lobbyist begins the communications process before a member formulates their position on a bill.

You will have far more influence shaping member votes when you concentrate your efforts early in the legislative cycle. However, even when you are able to achieve victories early on this is not an indication that you can stop working. Lobbying, press and constituent pressures intensify immediately before a vote and can result in significant changes in position as well as the degree of support offered to legislation.

Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna GelakThe first stage of the lobbying life cycle involves planning and strategy. This includes surveys, research and analysis of issues. The second stage involves education and advocacy, including testimony, letters to Capitol Hill, personal visits, advertisements, emails and mobilizing grassroots efforts. During the third stage, you work on issue maintenance. At this stage you track developments in states as well as courts, while keeping an eye on public opinion.

The all important vote will occur during this final stage. During this stage, you focus on determining the next step. This can include whether the measure will move to the other chamber, joint House-Senate Conference Committee, Presidential consideration, implementation, etc.

To learn more about the lobbying and advocacy process, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course, Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and their 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 4.36 The Principle of Early Intervention: the Life Cycle of Lobbying

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Methods of Consideration for Making it to the House Floor

In understanding the legislation process, it is important to understand that there are numerous ways in which a measure can be brought to the House floor for debate. These methods include amendment, voting on a passage, or because the measure was placed on a House calendar.
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Measures that are noncontroversial in nature and which have already been cleared by respective party leaders can often come to the House floor through unanimous consent. Once cleared, a member may request permission to bring up that particular measure. The process can be stopped by the objection by another member.

More than half of all measures that are considered by the House are brought onto the floor through a procedure known as suspension of the rules, which is primarily used for noncontroversial measures. The Speaker may choose to recognize members to move to suspend the rules and pass particular measures on each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as well as the last six days of a session. If a measure was considered to be controversial while it was in committee it will generally not be considered under the suspension procedure.

Measures can also come to the floor on the private calendar. Private Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneidermeasures may be considered on the third Tuesday of each month as well, at the discretion of the Speaker of the House. Bills on the private calendar typically relate to individual immigration and claims matters. There is an official objector for each party that is responsible for reviewing bills on the private calendar. If there is a concern by the official objector, an objection may be issued to the consideration of that measure.

A member may also file a motion with the clerk of the House to discharge from committee any measure that has been pending for thirty legislative days. The discharge calendar is considered on the second as well as the fourth Mondays of each month. For a measure to be eligible for discharge, it must have been on the discharge calendar for seven legislative days. Discharge motions are considered in the House with twenty minutes of debate that are divided equally between the opponent and the proponent.

To learn more about the legislative process, consider our 1-day course Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, and our 3-day Advanced Legislative Strategies.

Reference: Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, Section 8.80 House Floor Methods of Consideration

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