Encl. (1) to COMDTINST 5860.2A
Legislative Terms and Process
The development of legislation is a complex process involving Constitutional authority, political
considerations, and many other factors. The flow chart at the end of this enclosure provides an
overview of Congressional action. Only a small percentage of all introduced bills become law.
Introduction of a Bill: Although the President or an Executive department or agency may propose
legislation, only a Member of the House of Representatives may introduce a bill in the House,
and only a Senator may introduce a bill in the Senate. For example, after the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approve a
proposed Coast Guard Authorization Bill, the Secretary of Homeland Security or the DHS
General Counsel sends letters to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate
asking that Congress consider and enact the proposed legislation. However, DHS must then rely on
Members of the House and Senators to introduce a bill and they are free to accept, reject, or
modify the DHS proposal. Historically, up to 50% of Coast Guard-proposed provisions are never
introduced in a bill. The Member or Senator who introduces a bill is the sponsor, and there is no
limit on the number of co-sponsors. Each bill is assigned a sequential number (H.R. ____ for
House bills, S. ___ for Senate bills), beginning with number 1 at the start of each Congress (a
Congress runs for two years beginning in January following an election). A Joint Resolution may
be introduced in the House (H. J. Res. ___) or Senate (S. J. Res. ___) and also becomes law if
passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by the President or enacted over a Presidential
veto. Bills are normally available through the Thomas Legislative Information Service
(http://thomas.loc.gov) within two to three days after introduction.
Committee Role: Committees play a critical role in a bill's progress. After introduction, a bill is
referred to one or more committees with jurisdiction over the bill's subject. Each Congress has
numerous House and Senate committees, and most committees have one or more subcommittees.
Committee members are appointed so that the majority party always maintains a majority, and a
member of the majority party chairs each committee or subcommittee. The senior member from
the minority party is the ranking member of the committee or subcommittee. Professional
committee staff members work for each committee, and committee staff positions are divided
between the majority and the minority parties. The House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee, and its Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, and the Senate
Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and its Oceans, Fisheries, and Coast
Guard Subcommittee, have primary jurisdiction over the laws that apply to the Coast Guard. The
House has also established a House Committee on Homeland Security, and its Economic
Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Cybersecurity Subcommittee with jurisdiction over
domestic port security infrastructure issues.
To move forward, a bill must be favorably reported out of the committee to which it is referred, so
bills referred to more than one committee face additional challenges. Committee staffs review each
bill, and often draft amendments. A committee may ask the Executive Branch for its view of the
bill, and any Coast Guard response must be coordinated with DHS and OMB. The majority of bills
introduced each year are never reported out of committee. Although both the House and Senate
have procedures to force a committee to release a bill, these procedures are rarely used. It is
unusual for a committee to discharge a bill with other than a favorable report.
Committee Hearings: A committee or subcommittee may hold hearings and invite witnesses.
Hearings are open to the public unless classified information or other sensitive subjects are
involved. Coast Guard members and employees may attend any public hearing, and should wear