How Congress Works
The chief function of Congress is the making of laws. The legislative process comprises a number of steps. On this page you can find links to resources and information concerning legislation introduced and considered in Congress. The Library of Congress provides an in-depth description of the legislative process in How Our Laws are Made and Enactment of a Law. The Clerk of the House describes how laws are made for young learners, grade schoolers, middle schoolers, and high school students. The Library of Congress also provides an A to Z directory that contains help pages, research guides, lists, and popular saved searches.
The House of Representatives divides its work among over twenty permanent and standing committees. After a bill is introduced on the House or Senate floor, it is normally referred to the committee of jurisdiction (the committee charged with reviewing measures in the area of law or policy with which the bill is concerned). The committee of referral most often sends the measure to its specialized subcommittee(s) for study, hearings, revisions and approval.
For most bills, the committee or subcommittee fails to take further action on the referred bill, effectively "killing" the measure at this point. Occasionally, a committee will report a measure "unfavorably," with explicit recommendations against its passage, or it will report a bill "without recommendation," which has the same effect as an unfavorable report. If the bill passes the subcommittee with a favorable vote, it is sent back to the full committee for further consideration, hearings, amendment and vote.
- Committee Hearings Schedule
- Committee Hearings and Markup Videos
- Congressional Committee Materials Online via the Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys)
Normally, before a piece of legislation is considered by the House, it has been reviewed by at least one of the committees, and that committee has issued a report describing the legislation and indicating (on a section-by-section basis) how the proposed statute changes existing statutes.
The U.S. Code is the official compilation of the current Federal statutes of a general and permanent nature, arranged by subject. The Code is arranged according to subject matter under 52 subject headings ('titles'). The Code sets out the current status of the laws, incorporating all amendments into the text. Prior to being added to the U.S. Code, individual laws are published in pamphlet form as "slip laws" which are later collected together in chronological order (not in subject order) as the Statutes at Large.
Proceedings of the House
A live video stream of the House floor is available on HouseLive. A text summary of what is currently happening on the Floor of the House is available from the Clerk of the House as the debate occurs. The Congressional Record—the official transcript of the proceedings and debates of the U.S. Congress—is published the day after each meeting of the House or Senate. You can also view the current House Schedule.
Roll Call Votes
Rules and Precedents of the House
The House Rules and Precedents are the official documents that spell out the process by which legislation is considered by the House and its committees; as well as specifying the authority of the officers and committees of the House. Several collections of material explaining the rules and precedents are available through the House Rules Committee. The Parliamentarian of the House, who provides guidance on parliamentary procedure and precedents to Members, offers an overview of rules and precedents in the House.
Schedules of the House
Various schedules of upcoming House activities are available. You can find schedules of the house published by Congressional leadership at http://www.majorityleader.gov/floor/#annual and http://www.democraticwhip.gov/calendar.
Sponsored and Co-sponsored Legislation
Before a proposed piece of legislation can be considered by the House of Representatives, it must first be sponsored by a Member of Congress (either a Member of the House or a Member of the Senate). Members of Congress who are not the primary sponsor of a piece of legislation may express their strong support for the legislation by becoming a co-sponsor of that legislation. Learn more about legislation sponsored and co-sponsored by Congressman Swalwell.