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What Is a Senate Bill?

Terrie Brockmann
Terrie Brockmann

In the U.S. federal government, a Senate bill is an instrument for introducing a proposed law into the legislature. From introduction to passage or defeat, each bill in the Senate follows an official agenda, although not all bills go through the Senate. There are two type of bills: public and private. Officially, each one has an assigned number and at least one sponsor, and the presiding officer of the Senate refers the bill to the appropriate committee for hearings and fact-finding sessions. People can find bills in several locations, including the Senate Document Room and most depository libraries.

There are several ways that people can introduce bills to the United States Senate. Citizens, special groups, and lobbyists can propose them through their legislators, or legislators can draft bills on their own initiative. Other times, the President may recommend bills through his or her party leaders or directly to the Senate. Each senate bill has a single sponsor or a group of sponsors, such as an organization. Bills are labeled with the sponsor's name and an assigned number.

The House and Senate convene in the U.S. Capital building.
The House and Senate convene in the U.S. Capital building.

Once the Senate Clerk introduces a bill into the Senate, the bill is sent to the appropriate committee or committees. A few examples of Senate committees are those for agriculture, nutrition, forestry, as well as appropriations and veterans' affairs. Other groups are considered to be select, or special, committees. These include the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, among others. Typically, the Senate has 20 committees, with 68 subcommittees and four joint committees, such as the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Lobbyists work to influence legislation.
Lobbyists work to influence legislation.

After the Senate bill goes through the committee process, the Senate Clerk gives it a new number, and reintroduces it on the Senate floor by reading it in full. The Senate then considers each committee's recommendations and debates the bill. If it passes a vote, the bill moves on to the House of Representatives or to the Vice-President for a signature. If the Senate amends the Senate bill, it returns to the House for further debate.

If a person wants to read a copy of a Senate bill, he or she can find copies in several places. Online access to bills includes official websites, such as THOMAS — offered by the U.S. Library of Congress — and the Government Printing Office (GPO). Printed copies are generally available at depository libraries, the GPO, and the Senate Document Room. The Congressional Record also publishes some bills.

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    • The House and Senate convene in the U.S. Capital building.
      By: Al Teich
      The House and Senate convene in the U.S. Capital building.
    • Lobbyists work to influence legislation.
      By: Andrey Burmakin
      Lobbyists work to influence legislation.