Understanding the Legislative Process

Be an informed advocate! Read about how a bill becomes law and about the federal government’s budgeting process for funding agencies and programs that make a difference to people living with pulmonary hypertension (PH).

Legislative Process

Thousands of bills are drafted in Congress each year, and only a small fraction make it through the two-year legislative process to become law.

Most bills go through the same eight steps to become a law:

  1. The bill is introduced to the House or Senate
  2. The bill is referred to a committee
  3. The bill is referred to a subcommittee
  4. There is a hearing on the bill held in a subcommittee meeting
  5. Subcommittee votes on bill. If it passes, the bill is sent to the full committee or the full House/Senate for debate and vote
  6. House or Senate votes. If the bill passes, it is sent to the other chamber (House or Senate) for debate and vote
  7. If the bill passes in both the House and Senate, then it goes to the President
  8. If the President signs the bill, it becomes a law.

There is one other way to get a bill through the House or Senate. If a bill gets 218 co-sponsors (Members of Congress promising to vote for the bill), the bill goes straight to vote on the floor (Step 6).

Diane Ramirez Legislative Process

PHA fights from both angles: targeting committee members to ask for their vote, and working to get 218 co-sponsors of a bill.

Your calls, emails and visits to Members of Congress help PHA achieve these goals.

To learn more about the legislative process, visit the Congress.gov website.

Appropriations Process

Every year, the President and Congress work together to create a budget to fund government agencies and programs for the next year. This includes funding for research and public education initiatives that are critical to early PH diagnosis and finding a PH cure.

The budget process typically begins in early February and ends by September 30. If Congress fails to pass a budget before October 1, it must pass a continuing resolution that funds government agencies at the previous year’s funding levels to avoid a federal government shutdown.

In recent years, Congress hasn’t followed the traditional schedule for approving a budget. Nevertheless, having a general knowledge of the Congressional budget timeline is helpful when talking to your Members of Congress about supporting funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).