DEFINITION of Senate Bill

A Senate bill is a piece of proposed legislation that either originated or was modified in the United States Senate. In order to become law, a Senate bill must win majority approval in both the Senate and the House of Representatives and then be approved by the President of the United States. All Senate bills are numbered; the number begins with an S.


Senate bills are introduced when a Senator sponsors a bill or modifies a bill sponsored in the House of Representatives. Senators often generate the ideas behind bills they sponsor by listening to their constituents. After a Senate bill has been drafted and introduced in the Senate Chamber, it is entered in the Senate Journal, given a number, printed and delivered to an appropriate committee for debate.

A committee is a small group of Senators who meet to discuss, research and make changes to the bill before it goes to a vote. The bill may be sent to a subcommittee for further research, discussion and changes before being voted on.

Once the bill is out of committee, it is sent to Congress for debates and voting. During this stage of the process, both the House and Senate can debate the merits of the bill, and propose amendments to the bill. If either the House or the Senate passes the bill with a majority, it is sent to the other house to be voted upon. Any amendments to the bill during this process must, likewise, be voted on. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives must agree on the final version of the bill before it can be sent to the President for approval.

The President will either approve the bill and pass it by signing it, making it a law, or take one of three other actions. The President can veto the bill, rejecting it and returning it to Congress. Congress can override a presidential veto with a 2/3 majority of those present in both the House and Senate. If the President takes no action, the bill becomes law after 10 days. However, if Congress adjourns within those 10 days, the President can perform a pocket veto, in which he refuses to sign the bill and it does not become law.