How a bill really becomes law, or not

Kid: “Wow! You’ve sure got to take a lot of steps to pass a bill into law. But I wonder if the steps are different than before…”


I’m just a bill

Yes, I’m only a bill

and things have changed on Capitol Hill.

Well it’s been a long time

In the capital city

Since the parties worked together

On anything in committee.

If your party rules, you could pass someday.

If not, hope and pray that you will,

But you’ll never be more than a bill.


Kid: “Gee Bill, you mean that when one party controls Congress, the other can’t even get its bills considered in committee hearings?”

Bill: “Yeah that’s called partisanship. It’s gotten so bad that congressmen won’t support a bill from the other party even if they like it. Members of both parties support me, the Dream Act, to provide legal status for young undocumented immigrants, but the Republican leadership won’t vote on it because they don’t want to give Democrats anything they want.”


I’m just a bill

Yes I’m only a bill

And I passed the House on Capitol Hill

But I got stuck in the Senate

That decided my fate

Even though 55 Senators

Voted to end debate

And they never made me a law

How I hope and pray that they will,

But today I am still just a bill


Kid: “Listen to those Senators arguing! Are they ever going to stop?”

Bill: “Probably not. In the Senate, there’s a rule that you need 60 votes to stop a ‘filibuster’ and actually vote.”

Kid: “So Democrats can block a vote even though they’re in the minority? Republicans must hate that!”

Bill: “Yeah but Republicans did it all the time when Democrats were in charge. Both sides change positions instead of working together. Like how Republicans complained about spending and debt until they controlled the government and now they don’t care about those things at all. The tax cuts they just passed cost $1.5 trillion!, and your generation will have to pay for it.”

Kid: “Oh no!”

Bill: “Oh yes!”


I’m just a bill

Yes I’m only a bill

But they won’t vote for me on Capitol Hill

So now it’s off to the White House

Where I’ll wait in a line

With executive orders that the president may sign

That’s the next best thing to being a law

Oh how I hope and pray that he will,

But today I am still just a bill.


Kid: “You mean the president can sign orders to do the same thing as a law?”

Bill: “Yeah, but only if the courts allow it, and the Supreme Court has a Republican majority. So the justices wouldn’t let a Democrat like President Obama help immigrants with DACA, but they did let President Trump, a Republican, ban travel from Muslim-majority nations. Trump would never sign me anyway…”

Kid: “It seems like our system has lots of problems. Would it help if more people voted?”

Bill: “Oh yes!”

(dedicated with gratitude to composer Bob Dorough)