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Understanding the Legislative Process

The legislative process is the means by which a bill becomes a federal law.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

First, a member of the House or Senate drafts a bill and introduces it in their chamber. The bill is then considered and voted on by the committee of jurisdiction and then it is sent to the floor to be voted on by the entire chamber. The process may then be repeated in the other chamber, or a similar bill may be proceeding at the same time. Eventually, legislation that is passed by the House and Senate must go to “conference” where House and Senate members work out the differences before passing the legislation through their respective chambers. Then the bill is sent to the President to be signed into law.

For more information on how a bill becomes a law, please visit:

How to Track Legislation

Each bill that is introduced is given a number according to the chamber and the order in which it is introduced. (Every Congress, the numbering starts over at S. 1 and H. R. 1.) Once a bill is voted on and becomes a law, it is given a Public Law number and then becomes part of the United States Code. All of these numbers are possible ways to research past and present legislation.

You can look up a piece of legislation using the Library of Congress’ CONGRESS.GOV site. CONGRESS.GOV offers searches by bill number, key words, and sponsors. In addition, you can search previous Congress’ records and look up bills that have become Public Laws.

NNEDV follows domestic violence issues in Congress and can provide you with the latest information. To get critical updates on domestic violence legislation and information about how you can contact Congress, please join NNEDV’s action list!

Who is my Representative? Who are my Senators?

Based on the location where you live, you are represented in the United States Congress by one member of the U. S. House of Representatives (elected from a local district) and two members of the U. S. Senate (elected by the entire state). Your House of Representative member can be found by visiting the U.S. House of Representatives and typing in your zip code. Your Senators can be found by visiting the U.S. Senate and choosing your state.

How to Contact your Members of Congress

There are several ways to contact your members of Congress to communicate about domestic violence issues. For the latest information on what is happening in Washington and how you can help, be sure to visit NNEDV’s Take Action page.

Contacting your Member of Congress can be as simple as writing an email or making a telephone call. Members of Congress have local district offices as well as offices in Washington, DC. Complete contact information for these offices should be available on their websites.

By phone: You can call your member of Congress’ DC or district office directly. Or, you can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask the operator to connect you with the correct office.

By letter: Writing a letter to your member of Congress can be a valuable way to communicate. It is best to both mail the letter and fax a copy because security precautions can delay Congressional mail by several weeks. Fax contact information should be available on members’ websites.

When you write to your Senator, you may address your letter as follows:

The Honorable (Senator’s Name)
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

When you write to your Representative, you may address your letter as follows:

The Honorable (Representative’s Name)
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

By email: Many members of Congress have web site functions that allow you to email them a message. Remember to personalize your email.

In-person meeting: You can also meet with your members of Congress or their staff in their local district office. Check out NNEDV’s In-District Lobby Guide for more information.