A question for the legal eagles

More a question for the legislative eagles, I suppose. This has nothing to do with the Memoirs of Lady Trent; it’s a question for the modern-day U.S. (Because when I’m on the home stretch of a book is a great time for totally unrelated stories to mug me!)

Suppose there is a federal law to deal with Topic X. Ambiguous Situation B arises, sparking disagreement over whether the law applies in this instance or not. This is the first time Ambiguous Situation B has occurred, but it likely won’t be the last, and Topic X is a pretty serious issue, so people are very invested in getting the matter settled beyond question.

Quite apart from the fact that there would be presumably be a legal brangle over the applicability or irrelevance of Law for Topic X, I imagine that there would also be a rush to amend the law and render that question permanently moot.

My question for you all: how would this proceed?

Assume that Congress is very interested in getting the law amended ASAP, but that it is divided as to whether it should be amended to say “nope, definitely doesn’t apply here” or “hell yes it applies.” Would there be competing bills, one for each side? (I imagine there would.) Different bills in the House and the Senate? How do those get started? What process do they go through before they come to a vote? How rapidly could all of this unfold, presuming there is a compelling reason for trying to make it happen quickly? How would Congress deal with there being two bills in direct opposition to one another, if that’s actually what would be going on? What effect would the ongoing legal brangle have on the legislative process? (The lawsuit being settled in favor of “yes, it applies” could theoretically render unnecessary any change to say that yes, it applies, but Congress is now worried about the possibility of Ambiguous Situations C, D, E, and everything else they can think up. And if the lawsuit gets settled the other way, the side that wants Ambiguous Situation B covered could say “well, we just changed the law, and this version definitely applies.”)

I know only slightly more than zilch about the legislative process in this country, so this is one of those “talk to me like I’m five” questions. I need to know the procedure here before I can judge what it would do to the rest of the story.

Comments are closed.