How fast can the idea for a law become a law? What's the theoretical limit? Assume that everyone is in agreement.
Assuming everyone is in agreement, including the president, less than a day. Assuming there is one person in disagreement in the House Senate, about a week. Assuming there is one person in disagreement in both chambers and the president opposes it, approximately 3 weeks. If more than two-fifths of the members of Senate oppose a bill, a really long time.
In both the House and Senate there is a procedure called suspension of the rules. This procedure requires two-thirds vote. This is the House Rule:
(a) A rule may not be suspended ex- cept by a vote of two-thirds of the Members voting, a quorum being present. The Speaker may not enter- tain a motion that the House suspend the rules except on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and during the last six days of a session of Congress.
(b) Pending a motion that the House suspend the rules, the Speaker may en- tertain one motion that the House ad- journ but may not entertain any other motion until the vote is taken on the suspension.
(c) A motion that the House suspend the rules is debatable for 40 minutes, one-half in favor of the motion and one-half in opposition thereto.
Essentially when this motion is in order and there is support of at least two-thirds or members, the bill can be passed in 40 minutes. If it is not in order, the House can ask for unanimous consent to pass the bill, which means barring any objections by the members, the bill passes.
The Senate could do the same under their suspension rules. The Senate rules require a day's notice to suspend the rules. See below:
- No motion to suspend, modify, or amend any rule, or any part thereof, shall be in order, except on one day's notice in writing, specifying precisely the rule or part proposed to be suspended, modified, or amended, and the purpose thereof. Any rule may be suspended without notice by the unanimous consent of the Senate, except as otherwise provided by the rules.
Thus it would take a day to pass through the Senate. However, if no Senator opposes the measure, the measure can be passed immediately through unanimous consent.
After both the House and Senate pass the bill, the President would need to sign it. If he does it immediately becomes law, otherwise he can delay it, for up to 10 days when it becomes a law OR he can veto it, upon which the bill will return to its original house. If there is any objection by any of the members both houses will have to go through their suspension rules again, which could take another week.
As a side note, the Senate has no restrictions on debate, except by three-fifths vote. In such a scenario where more than two-fifths oppose a bill, the opposition can just continue to debate the bill and in the end, it will never pass because it will never be voted on.