Congressional Legislation 101 – The Magic Numbers And The Floors

NSSF Congressional Report Card: Democrats Fail Miserably, iStock-1154438278
Congressional Legislation 101 – The Magic Numbers And The Floors, iStock-1154438278

United States – -( Getting legislation through Congress is a lot harder than it sounds. In the 116th Congress, a total of 14,000 bills were introduced. About one percent became laws. But even after they get past the committee, these bills still have to survive the floor votes.

For the sake of discussion, let’s discuss a bill that originates in the House of Representatives. In the House of Representatives, you need a simple majority of those voting to pass a bill. That is 218 if all 435 members are voting. That is, believe it or not, the easiest part of the process. This is because in the House, debate on legislation is usually governed by a rule (a House Resolution) and has limits on amendments that can be offered. The rule is usually passed on a party-line vote that is generally pro forma. One notable exception to that was the rule for the 1994 Crime Bill, which was initially defeated and saw a lot of crossover votes.

After passing, the House, the bill goes to the Senate. Then its real problems begin.

First, the Senate may kick it to a committee for review – and it once again faces the long odds that doomed many measures in the chamber it originated in. But in the Senate, a bill’s path to passage is much harder.

First, the Senate Majority Leader must agree to bring the bill to the floor. Once he does, it technically takes a majority of Senators to pass the bill. But in practice, at least as of this writing, the real number is three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 votes, due to the filibuster. If the bill the House passes gets through the Senate without an amendment, then it goes to the president for signature or veto.

But if the Senate makes any changes, then the House and Senate must resolve those differences. Sometimes, the House agrees to those changes, but far more common is the need to establish a conference committee, where the two chambers iron out a compromise version. That version then has to go through the House and Senate again, subject to the same requirements as the original bill, and once that passes, it goes for the president’s signature.

What can make the difference whether a good bill gets through this process, or a bad bill ends up being halted? One of the biggest factors is your voice. You can always contact your Representative and Senators to urge them to oppose anti-Second Amendment legislation and to support measures to protect our rights. Then be sure to support the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action and Political Victory Fund to improve our odds in the next Congress.

About Harold Hutchison

Writer Harold Hutchison has more than a dozen years of experience covering military affairs, international events, U.S. politics and Second Amendment issues. Harold was consulting senior editor at Soldier of Fortune magazine and is the author of the novel Strike Group Reagan. He has also written for the Daily Caller, National Review, Patriot Post,, and other national websites.

Harold Hutchison

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Legislation proposed by Democrats will be on a fast track through both the House and Senate right to Biden’s Desk where it will be signed without benefit of being read. All other legislation will be dead on arrival at the outset.


actually no, I’ll vote for yours if you vote for mine…oh ignore those pesky voters, you’re an incumbent, after all, it’s guaranteed re-election


“Voice” what voice?