Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

The Making of Our Laws

The US Capitol is a familiar landmark to people around the world. But do we know as much about the inside as we do about the outside? Let’s take a peek at what goes on there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

lawLet’s Make a Law

The Capitol is home to the U.S. Congress. We elect the men and women who work here. The Congress is a bicameral, or two chambers, arrangement — one chamber is called the House of Representatives (the people who work there are called representatives) and the other is called the Senate (the people who work there are called — that’s right — senators.)

There are always 100 members of the Senate, but the House changes size — right now it has 435. That’s due to something called the Great Compromise: Every state always has two members in the Senate, but in the House, a state has Representatives in proportion to how many people it has. For example, California has 53 Representatives while Vermont has only 1.

Representatives and senators are called legislators, which means they are the ones who create the laws. (A law is a rule that everyone in a state or country must follow. An amendment is a change to a law.)

Congress makes laws that affect the entire nation, like deciding if the country needs stronger defenses. Imagine if a few members of the House of Representatives feel that the country needs a new army plane. What do they do? 

First they write down their idea in a legal format. Instead of “build new planes,” the law says: “Sec. 113. Multiyear procurement authority for airframes for Army UH-60M/HH-60M helicopters and Navy MH-60R/MH-60S helicopters” (that’s part of an actual law called the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012).

Then they put the law into a box called the “hopper” (nope, it’s not shaped like a frog), and a clerk gives it a number and the initials “HR” if it was introduced in the House and “S” if it was introduced in the Senate. Now the idea is called a bill, and the Government Printing Office makes copies and gives them out to each member of the House.


Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"