I'm Just a Bill
"I'm Just a Bill" is a Schoolhouse Rock! segment, featuring a song of the same title written by Dave Frishberg. The segment debuted as part of "America Rock", the third season of the Schoolhouse Rock series, in 1975. The song featured in the segment is sung by Jack Sheldon (the voice of the Bill) and his son (the boy learning the process). It is about how a bill becomes a law, how it must go through Congress, and how it can be vetoed, etc.
The Bill is for the law that school buses must stop at railroad crossings. In the song, the Bill becomes a law. In reality, such a bill has never been approved by the United States Congress (traffic laws are typically handled at the state legislature level, and several states have such a law).
In popular culture
The rap group Groove B. Chill sings the tune with new lyrics "We're Groove B. Chill/and we're sitting here on top of the hill" in their song "Top of The Hill" from their 1990 album Starting From Zero.
A few lines from Deluxx Folk Implosion's cover of the song can be heard in the 2003 movie Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde and is included on the film's official soundtrack.
The sketch was parodied in The Simpsons episode "The Day the Violence Died", in which Krusty the Clown presents "I'm an Amendment to Be", depicting a Constitutional amendment's attempt to ban flag burning. The sketch was later briefly parodied in another Fox produced animated series, Family Guy. In the episode, "Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington", an anthropomorphic legal bill sings on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building until he is stabbed by a sanitation engineer. In a bit of stunt casting, Jack Sheldon provided the voice of the amendment in both parodies.
In the February 12, 2006 episode of Inside the Actors Studio, when James Lipton asked Dave Chappelle what he wanted to hear when he arrived in heaven, Chappelle answered "Congratulations, Bill, you're a law."
At the end of another Schoolhouse Rock! song, Tyrannosaurus Debt (Money Rock), the Bill runs off after the tour guide says, "Feeding time is ALL the time!" This made Bill one of the only characters to appear on more than one of the main Schoolhouse Rock cartoons. Mr. Morton & Interplanet Janet appeared in 2 direct-to-video episodes.
The rock band Primus borrow the lyrics in their song To Defy the Laws of Tradition.
In the January 16, 2011 issue of the comic strip Prickly City, Winslow, who is a long-time fan, discovers that the bill (in this case an oversized piece of legislation) likes to smoke and drink, and proceeds to tell Winslow that if he wants to get an autograph that he'll need to pay 100 bucks and has to be bribed with laundering money through political action committees. When Winslow reminds him of what the bill represents in the song, the bill's response was "I'm Just A Bill! A thirsty bill. Who's a guy gotta bribe to get a drink freshened up around here?"
The video was referenced in Johnny Bravo, when Johnny walks past the Congress Building, he sees a bill sitting on the steps, just like the video. However, when they announce that the bill will not make it to the White House, a man comes out and destroys the bill with a flamethrower.
The sketch was parodied in the opening sketch of Saturday Night Live on November 22, 2014. The bill, played by Kenan Thompson, was an immigration bill. However, before the bill could make it to the President's desk, an executive order, played by Bobby Moynihan came along. President Obama, played by Jay Pharoah, pushed the bill down the Capitol Hill steps several times and explained that laws can also be passed via executive orders.
2007 reference to the cartoon in the United States Senate
Criticizing a comprehensive immigration reform bill, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) critiqued the proposed legislation for three hours on May 21, 2007 in front of "a giant picture of a famous scene from Schoolhouse Rock's 'I'm just a bill' skit." The caption on the picture was "How a Senate Bill Becomes a Law". Sessions pointed out how the reform bill had proceeded through the Senate in contrast with what educational material like the cartoon had laid out, saying "[Professor Hugh Hewitt has written that this is] Not what we were taught in grade school, I assure you, and I couldn’t agree more. This is not how the process is supposed to work. We should not be asked to trust our colleagues and vote to put a bill on the floor when we do not know that the bill text is even finalized, that the bill has not been drafted by legislative counsel, the bill has not been introduced or even given a bill number, the committee process was skipped and not followed, a Congressional Budget Office score may not have been requested."
- "Senate Takes Time Before Vote on Compromise Immigration Reform Bill". Fox News. May 21, 2007.
- Dana Milbank (May 22, 2007). "On Behalf of the 'American People'". Washington Post.
- "Congressional Record - Senate". May 21, 2007. p. S6365.