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033 Who signs bills to become laws?

33. Who signs bills to become laws?
The President

Congress is the legislative or lawmaking part of the U.S. government. Congress spends a lot of time debating or talking about different bills (or ideas for new laws). Sometimes the members of Congress can’t agree on the details of a bill and it never becomes a law. But even when the members of Congress do agree on all the details of the bills, they still haven’t become law. Most bills need the president’s signature (or written name placed on the bill to show that it is approved) to become law.

Once Congress votes to make a bill become a law, the bill is sent to the president. The president then has four choices. First, the president can sign the bill to make it become a law. The president does this when he or she thinks that it is a very good idea and wants to show this to the American people.

The president’s second option or choice is to just let the bill sit on his desk without doing anything to it. Once 10 days pass (or go by), the bill automatically, without anyone doing anything, becomes a law even without the president’s signature. The president might do this when he or she doesn’t think that the bill is a great idea, but doesn’t want to create a lot of trouble either. In other words, the bill is something that is not very important to the president.

The third option that the president has is to veto the bill. By vetoing a bill, the president returns the bill to Congress, indicating (or showing) that the bill is a bad idea that should not become a law. This shows a big difference between Congress and the president, because the president is disagreeing with more than half of the members of Congress who had voted for the bill. Congress can decide to vote again, and if more than two-thirds (or 67%) of the members agree, they can override the president’s veto, making the bill become a law anyway.

Finally, the president’s fourth option when he receives a bill is a pocket veto. This happens when Congress passes a bill very late in its session (or the period of time when Congress meets). The president always has 10 days to act on (or respond to) bills, but it is possible that Congress’s session ends before those 10 days have passed. In this situation, if the president does not sign the bill, it does not automatically become a law, but instead is automatically vetoed through a pocket veto.


bill – a proposal or an idea for a new law
* Would you support a bill that changed the laws on immigration?

signature – a person's name written down in a unique style, showing that a person agrees with a document or approves of it
* You forgot to put your signature on the check before you mailed it.

to pass – to go by in time
* More than two months have passed since I sent in my application and I still haven't received a response!

to veto – to vote against something; to reject something, especially so that it cannot become a law
* Everyone is hoping that the president will veto the unpopular law that Congress is trying to make.

to indicate – to show something; to make something clear
* He pointed with his finger to indicate which way we should go.

to override – to change another person's or organization's decision by using one's power or authority
* The children wanted to have pizza and ice cream for dinner, but their mother overrode that idea.

pocket veto – the way that a bill is vetoed when the president does not sign the bill and Congress's meetings end less than 10 days after the bill is presented to him or her
* Mr. President, if you don't sign the bill by Friday, Congress will go into vacation and you'll have made a pocket veto

session – period of time when Congress meets; a period of time when a committee meets
* How long will Congress's session be this year?

to act on (something) – to respond; to do something as a result of something else that happens
* Did you read about the new tax credit for homebuyers? We need to act on it by the end of the year to get the money.