I don’t know a lot about the details of the US senate, but I used to think that the senate can’t pass a proposal that hasn’t been supported by the house of representatives.
From what I’ve gathered, they’re modifying an existing bill, then vote on it, and if it passes, send it back to the house. Seems strange to me. Does this sort of thing happen a lot? Also, what happens if the house modifies it again?
With the exception of revenue bills, legislation can begin in either House. The same bill must eventually be passed by both houses in order to go to the President to become a law or get vetoed.
Quite frequently. Often, the House and Senate will originate completely different bills for much the same purpose, and then fight over which one is better. In this case, they’re using the Senate debate as essentially a second round of debate over the merits of the bailout, and what protections (and pork) should be included.
That also happens frequently. Sometimes bills will bounce back and forth several times. Eventually, a conference committee of Senators and Representatives will meet to negotiate the differences in the House and Senate versions of a bill. If they come up with a compromise, then the compromise bill must go back to each house yet again for passage.