Rich Galen

Article 1 of the Constitution of the United States has to do with the Legislative Branch. Article II is about the Executive Branch; Article III is about the Judicial Branch. There are seven Articles in all, but you'll have to look those up if you want to know what they are.

Section 1 of Article I states in its entirety:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. The Constitution also commands that tax bills must originate in the House but other than that the legislative process is a free-for-all. Except for you and me. It is not free for you and me. We have to pay the taxes which pay for what the House and Senate members do.

After the House and the Senate have adopted a piece of legislation it goes to the President who may sign it, veto it, or do nothing in which case it becomes law after 10 days (excluding Sundays, and assuming the Congress hasn't adjourned) without his signature.

The reason for this discussion is because of H.R. 1 which is popularly known as The Stimulus Package. In our lesson about how a bill becomes law this is instructive. You could win many a bar bet on what the official short title is of H.R. 1. It is:

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

But you could win EVERY bar bet, including in every bar on Capitol Hill, if you asked what the official name of this thing is. Ready?

Making supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and State and local fiscal stabilization, for fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, and for other purposes.

Pretty snappy, huh?

And I love that "and for other purposes" catch-all at the end.

The House started this process and passed its version on January 28. The Senate picked up the ball after the House voted and has been messing with it ever since.

It is expected that the Senate will vote on its version today or Tuesday.

The Senate version and the House version are very different bills. But only one bill can go to the President for his action so what's the Congress to do?

What the Congress does is set up a special committee - and you will hear this a great deal in the next week - called a "Conference Committee" to hammer out the differences. The members of the Conference Committee - called Conferees - are chosen by the party leaders in each Chamber.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.