What Is a Senate Bill?

A Senate bill is a piece of proposed legislation that either originated or was modified in the United States Senate. A bill can't become a law unless it has received majority approval in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and has been approved by the President of the United States.

Key Takeaways

  • A Senate bill is a proposed law or revision of an existing law that was either sponsored or modified in the United States Senate.
  • The proposed law is debated in Committee and if the majority of the members approve it, it will be advanced to the Senate floor for a broader discussion and to potentially be put up for a vote by the whole Senate.
  • Some Senate bills are instead added as amendments to already existing bills, so as to limit the number of bills and speed up the legislative process.
  • Even if a bill is approved by the Senate, in order to become a law, the bill must also receive majority approval in the House of Representatives and then be approved by the President of the United States.

Understanding a Senate Bill

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 begin with an 'S' and are then followed by numbers.

How a Senate Bill Works

Senate bills are introduced when a Senator sponsors, 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 Senate or the House passes the bill with a majority, it is sent to the other chamber to be voted upon. Any amendments to the bill during this process are also subject to being 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.

All Senate bills are labeled with an 'S' and are then followed by numbers.

Special Considerations

The President can take any of these four actions:

  1. approve the bill and pass it by signing it, making it a law.
  2. veto the bill, reject it, and return it to Congress. Congress can then choose to override a presidential veto but would need a 2/3 majority of those present in both the House and Senate.
  3. take no action and the bill becomes law after 10 days.
  4. 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.