A Bill Becomes a Law
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Unit 4
Legislative Lingo
Strategies and Power Plays
Stats, Quirks, and Examples
The Legislative Junkie

Strategies and Power Plays

Unit 4


Politics in Congress is the process of lining up legislative support. It permeates the entire legislative process since Congress deals with differences of opinion for which there is no clearly accepted right answer. Each of the following political strategies help build support.

1. The Naming Game: Bill names are like headlines in newspapers--they attract interest and summarize a bill in a positive way making it more difficult for Members to oppose.

The Naming Game: Introduction with Popular Names [Note: The Naming Game requires the use of Microsoft PowerPoint.]

2. The Numbering Game: Bills are often referred to by their number. A bill's number may have some meaning if it is linked to a particular historical event or seems to be a high priority because the number is low. The party leadership reserves the first few bills numbers for their priority items. Patriotic bill numbers, such as "HR 1776," have been used for bills supporting national defense, funding the Coast Guard, promoting home ownership and protecting pensions.

COMING SOON! [Video: introduction with numbers (1776, S1 etc)]

3. Co-Sponsorship: Bill proponents recognize that the more initial support they can show, the more likely their colleagues are to support a piece of legislation. Proponents seek out co-sponsors who indicate their support by signing on to the bill.

Video: Announcement of Co-sponsors Time: 0:24 [Requires most recent version of the RealPlayer. To find which version you have installed, open the RealPlayer and click on Help >> About RealPlayer.]

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4. Omnibus Legislation: At times more is better. A Member of Congress does not have to agree with every portion of a bill to support it. Adding many desirable initiatives into a bill may draw support despite perceived shortcomings elsewhere in the bill.

Video: Member Supporting Portions of a Bill Time: 0:40 [Requires most recent version of the RealPlayer. To find which version you have installed, open the RealPlayer and click on Help >> About RealPlayer.]

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5. Humanizing Abstract Problems: Legislation is often promoted by linking it to an individual whose problem would purportedly have been ameliorated if the legislation had been in force. Click on the following to see examples.



James Brady, President Reagan's press secretary, was wounded in an attempt on the President's life in 1981. Few people would get very excited about "H.R. 7" or the "Omnibus Crime Bill", but naming the legislation the "Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1991" (H.R. 7) put a human face on the misuse of firearms. The legislation established a national seven-day waiting period before the purchase of a handgun, giving law enforcement officials time to conduct a criminal background check.


Megan's Law


After Megan Kanka was assaulted and killed by a convicted sex offender who lived in her neighborhood, pressure built for a method of warning children and their parents of potential risks. While the official name of the proposed federal legislation was "To amend the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to require the release of relevant information to protect the public from sexually violent offenders," it quickly became known as "Megan's Law" and passed with little difficulty.


Ryan White Aids Bill

While helping AIDS victims was controversial since many Americans linked AIDS to risky personal behavior, teenager Ryan White was seen as an innocent victim of tainted blood transfusions. He became the poster child for the necessity of increased funding for research. "The Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act" was given increased political momentum by referring to it as the Ryan White CARE Act.

Unit Introduction

Home Unit 1: Introduction Unit 2: From Problems to Solutions Unit 3: Origin of Bills Unit 4: Bill Drafting and Floor Introduction Unit 5: Referral to Committee Unit 6: Subcommittee Review Unit 7: Mark-up and Subcommittee Voting Unit 8: Committee Action Unit 9: Scheduling Floor Consideration Unit 10: Floor Debate Unit 11: Floor Votes Unit 12: Ironing Out Differences Unit 13: Presidential Action and Congressional Reaction Unit 14: The Legislative Processes