Following the resolution of any discrepancies between the House and Senate versions of the bill by the conference committee, each chamber must vote again to accept the final bill text. After each house has accepted the law, it is forwarded to the President. If he signs it into law, that version becomes effective 90 days after being signed into law. If the President vetoes the bill, it can be re-introduced in both houses of Congress. The last congressional session to pass a bill with an intervening presidential election was Bill Clinton's first term (1993–1994). His signing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 made it possible for most Americans to have access to local telephone service from multiple providers. All previous congressional sessions had been shorter than one year.
In the event that Congress cannot reach an agreement on a final version of the bill, then neither chamber can advance the legislation toward approval or rejection. Instead, they can either continue to debate the bill indefinitely or put it up for procedural vote. If two-thirds of each chamber vote "no" to kill the bill, then it cannot come to fruition. However, if just one house votes no, then the other chamber can override this decision by voting yes on its own version of the bill.
Since 1973, all congressional bills have included language allowing federal agencies to adopt rules through formal adjudication rather than only through executive order.
Finally, a conference committee comprised of members from both the House and Senate irons out any discrepancies between the House and Senate versions of the measure. The law that results now goes back to the House and Senate for final approval. If it passes through both chambers, the bill becomes law. If only one chamber approves it, the other chamber can vote on whether to accept the bill, reject it, or modify it.
In general, bills that have passed both houses of Congress are referred to as "signed" bills. Those that have failed to win approval in their respective houses are called "unsigned" bills. Some measures become law without being signed by the president, such as laws that are approved by a majority of both houses of Congress and then quickly signed into law by the president. Other measures become law with the signature of the president. These include all presidential orders, proclamations, and waivers. A third category includes bills that have been vetoed by the president; these will be discussed later in this chapter.
When a bill has passed both houses of Congress and is waiting to be sent to the president, it first goes to the White House for approval. If the president signs it, he or she will do so either at the White House or some other location.
After the House and Senate have passed opposing versions of a law, a conference committee is formed. Conference committees exist to create a law that both chambers can agree on. For the law to be presented to the President, both chambers of Congress must finally adopt identical legislation. If they do not, then the previous version passed by one chamber will take effect.
In order for the conference committee to produce a result that both chambers are satisfied with, members of the committee meet in the antechamber of the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate to discuss how to resolve the differences between the bills. If no agreement can be reached, then a vote is taken on each bill portion from which it was unable to reach consensus. If either house votes against its own proposal, it dies. If neither house votes against its own proposal, then it becomes law.
Conference committees are commonly used when there is disagreement about what should be included in a bill. For example, the House may want to include more provisions than the Senate, so they pass a bill that includes everything except what the Senate wanted. The House and Senate would then each appoint members to a conference committee who would work out what should be included in the final version of the law.
Conference committees also allow lawmakers to avoid voting on controversial issues. For example, the House may want to pass a bill that funds abortion providers but the Senate does not.