|How It Works: The Federal Process|
|Engaging in Federal Process|
|Key Legislative Staff|
How It Works:
The Federal Process
Although we might tend to think of federal policy solely in terms of legislation, policy is set by all branches of the federal government—legislative, executive and judicial. This page provides a review of Congressional lawmaking, and a description of other federal policymaking processes.
Congress is the major policymaking body of the federal government. Congressional terms are two years, divided into two one-year sessions, with a new Congress beginning on January 3 of each year following a general election. Congress creates public policy through legislation to address specific problems and to set funding amounts for governmental programs. Members of Congress can also play a role in policy implementation, including making suggestions in appropriations bills to outline how agencies should actualize policies. Legislative policymakers also has authority over all new and amended regulations. Members of Congress can block a regulation from going into affect if it passes a joint resolution within 60 days.
The President sets public policy in three ways:
- By signing or vetoing legislation
- Through Executive Orders, or mandates to Executive Branch agencies on how to implement existing laws. While the President can suggest legislation to Congress, the President cannot independently create any new legislation.
- Through the annual budgeting process. At the beginning of each February, the President submits a budget request to Congress. This document represents the President's recommendation for overall federal fiscal policy. The request includes the President's proposal for how the government should take in tax revenue, and how these funds should be divided among federal programs. While many changes and negotiations occur between Congress and the President before the annual budget is approved, the President's initial budget request is an important step in framing and setting the policy agenda and priorities.
The federal courts set policy by interpreting statutes and Executive Orders. The courts cannot make any new laws or policy.
Regulatory agencies create policy by implementing statutes. Agencies are created by the President or by legislation enacted by Congress. When a regulation is created or amended, it is published in The Federal Register. A public comment period is required before regulations become final, and agencies must explain how it has responded to comments.