Here’s another legislative process Q&A post. We tackle two questions in this post. Here’s the first:
Does one know who writes a bill? Is writing a bill considered different than being the Sponsor of the bill?
There’s no such term “writing” as far as I’ve ever heard. The sponsor is the Member of Congress primarily responsible for bringing the bill, resolution, or amendment to the House or Senate. Bills and resolutions can have any number of “co-sponsors”, but just one sponsor.
It’s another question entirely of who actually took pen to paper to write the text of the bill, of course. My impression is that Members rarely if ever actually write bills themselves. They have staffs as well as help from the House and Senate Offices of Legislative Counsel who specialize in turning ideas into legalese. They also get help from lobbyists — but this may not always be so bad considering that who better to write a law about something than someone who is professionally employed to know the legal issue in and out?
Here’s another question:
After a bill is introduced, how is it decided which bills will be debated on the floor and subsequently voted on?
If the bill is scheduled for debate does that ensure it will be voted on in this session of Congress?
This is determined primarily by majority party leadership. First, bills must be “reported out” of committee, and this (probably) requires the support of the chair of the committee, which is always a member of the majority party. Once out of committee, the Speaker of the House (currently Nancy Pelosi) or the Majority Leader in the Senate (currently Harry Reid, both Democrats of course) mostly determine the order in which bills are taken up for votes. In the House, the Rules Committee is also responsible for setting the order of business: essentially creating a special House rule for each item on the list of pending bills that it allows to be considered. The chair of that committee is Louise Slaughter.
Nothing guarantees that a bill ever comes up for debate or vote. This process is largely unpredictable (unless you work in the Capitol). To us on the outside, we have no idea what is going to come up until it happens (or perhaps a week before if you follow the Whip notices).
The status line on this site “Scheduled for Debate” was really a misnomer. That was listed for bills that were reported by committee or added to a “calendar of business” but neither had much of a relation to when bills actually get consideration. I am revising that now.