US Constitution

How A Bill Becomes a Law

This is an article in the continuing series of learning about the Constitution and our rights as American citizens.

Article One Sections 4-6 of the Constitution

Sections 4-6 deal with how Congress organizes itself, the times of its meetings, publishing a journal, pay, privileges, and responsibilities. Each House is independent of the other and is able to determine its own rules. The majority party of each chamber controls that chamber. The Floor Leader of a party handles legislation on the floor. Each chamber has a number of Standing Committees, where the membership of the committee may change but the committee continues on.

Currently, there are 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 Independents in the Senate, and the Floor Leader is Mitch McConnell, a Republican. In the House, there are 222 Democrats and 212 Republicans, with one Libertarian. The Democratic Floor Leader is Nancy Pelosi, and Kevin McCarthy is the Republican Floor Leader

Article One Section Seven of the Constitution

Article Seven describes what has to happen for a bill to become a law. The President (who is not in the legislative branch) has a hand in what becomes law. But even if he doesn’t want Congress to pass a law, he can be over-ruled by a 66% majority vote (or more) in both houses.

Members of Congress file bills, and each bill is assigned to a committee. A sub-committee holds public hearings on the bill, and then the full committee votes on the bill. The committee can decide the bill is not needed, it should be revised, or it should go to the floor to be considered.  If it goes to the floor, the bill is debated and voted on in the House or the Senate, whichever chamber originated the bill. If it is approved, it goes to the other chamber. (whichever one did not originate the bill) where it is voted on. If both the House and the Senate approve the bill, it goes to the President to sign or reject it. If signed, it becomes law. If rejected, the President’s objections and the bill go back to the two chambers for re-consideration. If 2/3 of the House AND 2/3 of the Senate approve the bill, it becomes a law.

Article One Section 9 of the Constitution

This section forbids Congress to legislate in eight different areas. These are the following:
1.) Congress can not retroactively change the legal consequences of actions that were committed or relationships that existed before the enactment of a law. In other words, once the law is in force, it is in force, but anything that happened before it was in force can not be legislated against.
2.) A person or a group can not be found guilty or punished for any crime or lose his property or rights without a trial, and no laws can be passed that make that possible.
3.) Laws cannot be passed which allow authorities to incarcerate citizens for any time without charging them so the imprisonment can be protested or challenged.
4.) The original Constitution made it unlawful for any income taxes to be levied. The only taxes were those that everyone would pay equally. The 16th Amendment allows income tax from any source.
5.) There were to be no taxes on goods exported from any state.
6.) There were to be no laws written which favored one port of commerce over another.
7.) No money was to be drawn from the Treasury, but a report of receipts and expenditures was to be published from time to time.
8.) No title of nobility shall be granted or accepted. 

The Powers States Have (and what Powers they do not have)

Article One Section 10 of the Constitution (re: States dos and don’ts) This article is divided into two parts, first the eight powers States do not have, with definitions of words directly underneath. Next, the powers States do have, with the approval of Congress, with definitions of words directly underneath.

This section of the Constitution enumerates the eight powers States do not have. They cannot: enter Into any treaty, alliance, or confederation
Treaty– a formally concluded and ratified agreement between countries, from Latin “tractatus”, treatise. Ratified-sign a treaty or contract, making it officially valid, from Latin “ratus” fixed. Alliance-a union or an association formed for mutual benefit, from Old French “alier”, to ally.
Confederation-a more or less permanent union of countries with some or most political power vested in a central authority, from Latin “con + foederare”, join in league with, “foedus”, league or treaty. grant letters of mark and reprisal

Letter of Marque and Reprisal-a government license in the Age of Sail that authorized a privateer to attack and capture vessels of a nation at war with the issuer of the license. It comes from Germanic “merg”, boundary.
Reprisal-retaliation against an enemy for injuries received, by the infliction of equal or greater injuries, from Latin “rerehendere”, to hold fast.
coin money
coin-make coins by stamping metal, from Latin “cuneus”, wedge.
emit bills of credit
emit-issue formally and with authority, put into circulation, especially currency, from Latin “emittere”, to send out of.
bills of credit-documents similar to bank notes issued by a government that represent a government’s indebtedness to the holder. They were designed to circulate as currency or a currency substitute.
make anything but gold and silver coin a tender
tender-to offer money as a payment, from Latin “tendere”, to stretch, hold forth.
pass any bill of attainer
bill of attainer-an act of a legislature declaring a person or a group guilty of crime(s), and punishing them without a trial, from Latin “attingere, ad + tangere”, to touch.
pass any ex post facto law
ex post facto- with retroactive effect or force, from Latin, from a thing done afterward.
pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts
obligation of contracts-the legal duty of contracting parties to fulfill the promises specified in their contracts
grant any title of nobility
nobility-the state or quality of being exalted in character, from Latin “nobilitas”, well-known, famous, notable.

This section also says what the States CAN DO, with the approval of Congress.

They can: lay down duties on imports or exports, money will go to the US Treasury duty-a tax imposed on goods when transported over borders lay down any duty of tonnage tonnage-weight in tons, usually of cargo or freight keep ships of war in times of peace enter into an agreement with another State enter into an agreement with another Country engage in War unless actually invaded.

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