ACT The term for legislation once it has passed both houses of Congress and has been signed by the president or passed over his veto, thus becoming law. (See also POCKET VETO.) Also used in parliamentary terminology for a bill that has been passed by one house and engrossed. (See ENGROSSED BILL.)
ADJOURNMENT SINE DIE Adjournment without definitely fixing a day for reconvening; literally “adjournment without a day.” Usually used to connote the final adjournment of a session of Congress. A session can continue until noon, January 3, of the following year, when, under the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, it automatically terminates. Both houses must agree to a concurrent resolution for either house to adjourn for more than three days.
ADJOURNMENT TO A DAY CERTAIN Adjournment under a motion or resolution that fixes the next time of meeting. Under the Constitution, neither house can adjourn for more than three days without the concurrence of the other. A session of Congress is not ended by adjournment to a day certain.
AMENDMENT A proposal of a member of Congress to alter the language, provisions or stipulations in a bill or in another amendment. An amendment usually is printed, debated and voted upon in the same manner as a bill.
AMENDMENT IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE Usually an amendment that seeks to replace the entire text of a bill. Passage of this type of amendment strikes out everything after the enacting clause and inserts a new version of the bill. An amendment in the nature of a substitute also can refer to an amendment that replaces a large portion of the text of a bill.
APPEAL A member’s challenge of a ruling or decision made by the presiding officer of the chamber. In the Senate, the senator appeals to members of the chamber to override the decision. If carried by a majority vote, the appeal nullifies the chair’s ruling. In the House, the decision of the Speaker traditionally has been final; seldom are there appeals to the members to reverse the Speaker’s stand. To appeal a ruling is considered an attack on the Speaker.
APPROPRIATIONS BILL A bill that gives legal authority to spend or obligate money from the Treasury. The Constitution disallows money to be drawn from the Treasury “but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
By congressional custom, an appropriations bill originates in the House, and it is not supposed to be considered by the full House or Senate until a related measure authorizing the funding is enacted. An appropriations bill grants the actual money approved by authorization bills, but not necessarily the full amount permissible under the authorization. The 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law stipulated that the House is to pass by June 30 the last regular appropriations bill for the fiscal year starting the following Oct. 1. (There is no such deadline for the Senate.) However, for decades appropriations often have not been final until well after the fiscal year begins, requiring a succession of stopgap bills to continue the government’s functions. In addition, much federal spending — about half of all budget authority, notably that for Social Security and interest on the federal debt — does not require annual appropriations; those programs exist under permanent appropriations. (See also AUTHORIZATION, BUDGET PROCESS, BACKDOOR SPENDING AUTHORITY, ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM.)
In addition to general appropriations bills, there are two specialized types. (See CONTINUING RESOLUTION, SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS BILL.)
AUTHORIZATION Basic, substantive legislation that establishes or continues the legal operation of a federal program or agency, either indefinitely or for a specific period of time, or which sanctions a particular type of obligation or expenditure. An authorization normally is a prerequisite for an appropriation or other kind of budget authority. Under the rules of both houses, the appropriation for a program or agency may not be considered until its authorization has been considered. An authorization also may limit the amount of budget authority to be provided or may authorize the appropriation of “such sums as may be necessary.” (See also BACKDOOR SPENDING AUTHORITY.)
BACKDOOR SPENDING AUTHORITY Budget authority provided in legislation outside the normal appropriations process. The most common forms of backdoor spending are borrowing authority, contract authority, entitlements and loan guarantees that commit the government to payments of principal and interest on loans — such as Guaranteed Student Loans — made by banks or other private lenders. Loan guarantees only result in actual outlays when there is a default by the borrower.
In some cases, such as interest on the public debt, a permanent appropriation is provided that becomes available without further action by Congress.
BILLS Most legislative proposals before Congress are in the form of bills and are designated by HR in the House of Representatives or S in the Senate, according to the house in which they originate, and by a number assigned in the order in which they are introduced during the two-year period of a congressional term. “Public bills” deal with general questions and become public laws if approved by Congress and signed by the president. “Private bills” deal with individual matters such as claims against the government, immigration and naturalization cases or land titles, and become private laws if approved and signed. (See also CONCURRENT RESOLUTION, JOINT RESOLUTION, RESOLUTION.)
BILLS INTRODUCED In both the House and Senate, any number of members may join in introducing a single bill or resolution. The first member listed is the sponsor of the bill, and all subsequent members listed are the bill’s cosponsors.
Many bills are committee bills and are introduced under the name of the chairman of the committee or subcommittee. All appropriations bills fall into this category. A committee frequently holds hearings on a number of related bills and may agree to one of them or to an entirely new bill. (See also REPORT, CLEAN BILL, BY REQUEST.)
BILLS REFERRED When introduced, a bill is referred to the committee or committees that have jurisdiction over the subject with which the bill is concerned. Under the standing rules of the House and Senate, bills are referred by the Speaker in the House and by the presiding officer in the Senate. In practice, the House and Senate parliamentarians act for these officials and refer the vast majority of bills.
BORROWING AUTHORITY Statutory authority that permits a federal agency to incur obligations and make payments for specified purposes with borrowed money.
BUDGET The document sent to Congress by the president early each year estimating government revenue and expenditures for the ensuing fiscal year.
BUDGET ACT The common name for the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which established the current budget process and created the Congressional Budget Office. The act also put limits on presidential authority to spend appropriated money. (See IMPOUNDMENTS, BUDGET PROCESS.)
BUDGET AUTHORITY Authority to enter into obligations that will result in immediate or future outlays involving federal funds. The basic forms of budget authority are appropriations, contract authority and borrowing authority. Budget authority may be classified by (1) the period of availability (one-year, multiple-year or without a time limitation), (2) the timing of congressional action (current or permanent) or (3) the manner of determining the amount available (definite or indefinite).
BUDGET PROCESS Congress enacted legislation in 1985 to strengthen its 11-year-old budget process with the goal of balancing the federal budget by fiscal year 1991. The law, called the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act but commonly known as Gramm-Rudman-Hollings for its congressional sponsors, was amended in 1987 so the federal budget would be balanced by fiscal year 1993. The law established annual maximum deficit targets and mandated across-the-board automatic cuts (“sequestration”) if the deficit goals were not achieved through regular budget and appropriations actions. (See SEQUESTRATION.)
The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law also established an accelerated timetable for presidential submission of budgets and for congressional approval of budget resolutions and reconciliation bills, two mechanisms created by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Budget resolutions, due by April 15 annually, set guidelines for congressional action on spending and tax measures; they are adopted by the House and Senate but are not signed by the president and do not have the force of law. Reconciliation bills, due by June 15, actually make changes in existing law to meet budget resolution goals. (See BUDGET RESOLUTION, RECONCILIATION.)
The Supreme Court in 1986 found Gramm-Rudman’s automatic spending cut mechanism to be unconstitutional because it violated the separation-of-powers doctrine by granting to the General Accounting Office (a legislative entity) the power to tell the president what cuts must be made. In 1987 Congress amended the law by giving that power to the Office of Management and Budget (an executive entity).
BUDGET RESOLUTION A concurrent resolution passed by both houses of Congress, but not requiring the president’s signature, setting forth or revising the congressional budget for each of three fiscal years. The budget resolution sets forth various budget totals and functional allocations and may include reconciliation instructions. (See FUNCTIONS, RECONCILIATION.)
BY REQUEST A phrase used when a senator or representative introduces a bill at the request of an executive agency or private organization but does not necessarily endorse the legislation.
CALENDAR — An agenda or list of business awaiting possible action by each chamber. The House uses five legislative calendars. (See CONSENT, DISCHARGE, HOUSE, PRIVATE and UNION CALENDAR.)
In the Senate, all legislative matters reported from committee go on one calendar. They are listed there in the order in which committees report them or the Senate places them on the calendar, but they may be called up out of order by the majority leader, either by obtaining unanimous consent of the Senate or by a motion to call up a bill. The Senate also uses one non-legislative calendar; this is used for treaties and nominations. (See EXECUTIVE CALENDAR.)
CALENDAR WEDNESDAY In the House, committees, on Wednesdays, may be called in the order in which they appear in Rule X of the House, for the purpose of bringing up any of their bills from either the House or the Union Calendar, except bills that are privileged. General debate is limited to two hours. Bills called up from the Union Calendar are considered in Committee of the Whole. Calendar Wednesday is not observed during the last two weeks of a session and may be dispensed with at other times by a two-thirds vote. This procedure is rarely used and routinely is dispensed with by unanimous consent.
CALL OF THE CALENDAR Senate bills that are not brought up for debate by a motion, unanimous consent or a unanimous consent agreement are brought before the Senate for action when the calendar listing them is “called.” Bills must be called in the order listed. Measures considered by this method usually are non-controversial, and debate on the bill and any proposed amendments is limited to a total of five minutes for each senator.
CHAMBER The meeting place for the membership of either the House or the Senate; also the membership of the House or Senate meeting as such.
CLEAN BILL Frequently after a committee has finished a major revision of a bill, one of the committee members, usually the chairman, will assemble the changes and what is left of the original bill into a new measure and introduce it as a “clean bill.” The revised measure, which is given a new number, then is referred back to the committee, which reports it to the floor for consideration. This often is a time-saver, as committee-recommended changes in a clean bill do not have to be considered and voted on by the chamber. Reporting a clean bill also protects committee amendments that could be subject to points of order concerning germaneness.
CLERK OF THE HOUSE Chief administrative officer of the House of Representatives, with duties corresponding to those of the secretary of the Senate. (See also SECRETARY OF THE SENATE.)
CLOTURE The process by which a filibuster can be ended in the Senate other than by unanimous consent. A motion for cloture can apply to any measure before the Senate, including a proposal to change the chamber’s rules. A cloture motion requires the signatures of 16 senators to be introduced. To end a filibuster, the cloture motion must obtain the votes of three-fifths of the entire Senate membership (60 if there are no vacancies), except when the filibuster is against a proposal to amend the standing rules of the Senate and a two-thirds vote of senators present and voting is required. The cloture request is put to a roll-call vote one hour after the Senate meets on the second day following introduction of the motion. If approved, cloture limits each senator to one hour of debate. The bill or amendment in question comes to a final vote after 30 hours of consideration (including debate time and the time it takes to conduct roll calls, quorum calls and other procedural motions). (See FILIBUSTER.)
COMMITTEE A division of the House or Senate that prepares legislation for action by the parent chamber or makes investigations as directed by the parent chamber. There are several types of committees. (See STANDING and SELECT or SPECIAL COMMITTEES.) Most standing committees are divided into subcommittees, which study legislation, hold hearings and report bills, with or without amendments, to the full committee. Only the full committee can report legislation for action by the House or Senate.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE The working title of what is formally “The Committee of the Whole House (of Representatives) on the State of the Union.” The membership is comprised of all House members sitting as a committee. Any 100 members who are present on the floor of the chamber toconsider legislation comprise a quorum of the committee. Any legislation taken up by the Committee of the Whole, however, must first have passed through the regular legislative or Appropriations committee and have been placed on the calendar.
Technically, the Committee of the Whole considers only bills directly or indirectly appropriating money, authorizing appropriations or involving taxes or charges on the public. Because the Committee of the Whole need number only 100 representatives, a quorum is more readily attained, and legislative business is expedited. Before 1971, members’ positions were not individually recorded on votes taken in Committee of the Whole. (See TELLER VOTE.)
When the full House resolves itself into the Committee of the Whole, it supplants the Speaker with a “chairman.” A measure is debated and amendments may be proposed, with votes on amendments as needed. (See FIVE-MINUTE RULE.) The committee, however, cannot pass a bill. When the committee completes its work on the measure, it dissolves itself by “rising.” The Speaker returns, and the chairman of the Committee of the Whole reports to the House that the committee’s work has been completed. At this time members may demand a roll-call vote on any amendment adopted in the Committee of the Whole. The final vote is on passage of the legislation.
COMMITTEE VETO A requirement added to a few statutes directing that certain policy directives by an executive department or agency be reviewed by certain congressional committees before they are implemented. Under common practice, the government department or agency and the committees involved are expected to reach a consensus before the directives are carried out. (See also LEGISLATIVE VETO.)
CONCURRENT RESOLUTION A concurrent resolution, designated H Con Res or S Con Res, must be adopted by both houses, but it is not sent to the president for approval and therefore does not have the force of law. A concurrent resolution, for example, is used to fix the time for adjournment of a Congress. It also is used as the vehicle for expressing the sense of Congress on various foreign policy and domestic issues, and it serves as the vehicle for coordinated decisions on the federal budget under the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act. (See also BILLS, JOINT RESOLUTION, RESOLUTION.)
CONFERENCE A meeting between the representatives of the House and the Senate to reconcile differences between the two houses on provisions of a bill passed by both chambers. Members of the conference committee are appointed by the Speaker and the presiding officer of the Senate and are called “managers” for their respective chambers. A majority of the managers for each house must reach agreement on the provisions of the bill (often a compromise between the versions of the two chambers) before it can be considered by either chamber in the form of a “conference report.” When the conference report goes to the floor, it cannot be amended, and, if it is not approved by both chambers, the bill may go back to conference under certain situations, or a new conference must be convened. Many rules and informal practices govern the conduct of conference committees.
Bills that are passed by both houses with only minor differences need not be sent to conference. Either chamber may “concur” in the other’s amendments, completing action on the legislation. Sometimes leaders of the committees of jurisdiction work out an informal compromise instead of having a formal conference. (See CUSTODY OF THE PAPERS.)
CONFIRMATIONS (See NOMINATIONS.)
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD The daily, printed account of proceedings in both the House and Senate chambers, showing substantially verbatim debate, statements and a record of floor action. Highlights of legislative and committee action are embodied in a Daily Digest section of the Record, and members are entitled to have their extraneous remarks printed in an appendix known as “Extension of Remarks.” Members may edit and revise remarks made on the floor during debate, and quotations from debate reported by the press are not always found in the Record. The Congressional Record provides a way to distinguish remarks spoken on the floor of the House and Senate from undelivered speeches. In the Senate, all speeches, articles and other matter that members insert in the Record without actually reading them on the floor are set off by large black dots, or bullets. However, a loophole allows a member. to avoid the bulleting if he delivers any portion of the speech in person. In the House, undelivered speeches and other material are printed in a distinctive typeface.(See also JOURNAL)
CONGRESSIONAL TERMS OF OFFICE Normally begin on Jan. 3 of the year following a general election and are two years for representatives and six years for senators. Representatives elected in special elections are sworn in for the remainder of a term. A person may be appointed to fill a Senate vacancy and serves until a successor is elected; the successor serves until the end of the term applying to the vacant seat.
CONSENT CALENDAR Members of the House may place on this calendar most bills on the Union or House Calendar that are considered to be non-controversial. Bills on the Consent Calendar normally are called on the first and third Mondays of each month. On the first occasion that a bill is called in this manner, consideration may be blocked by the objection of any member. The second time, if there are three objections, the bill is stricken from the Consent Calendar. If less than three members object, the bill is given immediate consideration.
A bill on the Consent Calendar may be postponed in another way. A member may ask that the measure be passed over “without prejudice.” In that case, no objection is recorded against the bill, and its status on the Consent Calendar remains unchanged. A bill stricken from the Consent Calendar remains on the Union or House Calendar.
CONTINUING RESOLUTION A joint resolution, cleared by Congress and signed by the president (when the new fiscal year is about to begin or has begun), to provide new budget authority for federal agencies and programs to continue in operation until the regular appropriations acts are enacted. (See APPROPRIATIONS BILL.)
The continuing resolution usually specifies a maximum rate at which an agency may incur obligations, based on the rate of the prior year, the president’s budget request or an appropriations bill passed by either or both houses of Congress but not yet enacted. In recent years, most regular appropriations bills have not cleared and a full-year continuing resolution has taken their place. For fiscal 1987 and 1988, Congress intentionally rolled all 13 regular appropriations bills into one continuing resolution.
Continuing resolutions also are called “CRs” or continuing appropriations.
CONTRACT AUTHORITY Budget authority contained in an authorization bill that permits the federal government to enter into contracts or other obligations for future payments from funds not yet appropriated by Congress. The assumption is that funds will be available for payment in a subsequent appropriation act.
CONTROLLABLE BUDGET ITEMS In federal budgeting this refers to programs for which the budget authority or outlays during a fiscal year can be controlled without changing existing, substantive law. The concept “relatively uncontrollable under current law” includes outlays for open-ended programs and fixed costs such as interest on the public debt, Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits and outlays to liquidate prior-year obligations. More and more spending for federal programs has become uncontrollable or relatively uncontrollable.
CORRECTING RECORDED VOTES Rules prohibit members from changing their votes after the result has been announced. But, occasionally hours, days or months after a vote has been taken, a member may announce that he was “incorrectly recorded.” In the Senate, a request to change one’s vote almost always receives unanimous consent. In the House, members are prohibited from changing their votes if tallied by the electronic voting system. If the vote was taken by roll call, a change is permissible if consent is granted.
COSPONSOR(See BILLS INTRODUCED.)
CURRENT SERVICES ESTIMATES Estimated budget authority and outlays for federal programs and operations for the forthcoming fiscal year based on continuation of existing levels of service without policy changes. These estimates of budget authority and outlays, accompanied by the underlying economic and policy assumptions upon which they are based, are transmitted by the president to Congress when the budget is submitted.
CUSTODY OF THE PAPERS To reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill, a conference may be arranged. The chamber with “custody of the papers” — the engrossed bill, engrossed amendments, messages of transmittal — is the only body empowered to request the conference. By custom, the chamber that asks for a conference is the last to act on the conference report once agreement has been reached on the bill by the conferees.
Custody of the papers sometimes is manipulated to ensure that a particular chamber acts either first or last on the conference report.
DEFERRAL Executive branch action to defer, or delay, the spending of appropriated money. The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act requires a special message from the president to Congress reportinga proposed deferral of spending. Deferrals may not extend beyond the end of the fiscal year in which the message is transmitted. A federal district court in 1986 struck down the president’s authority to defer spending for policy reasons; the ruling was upheld by a federal appeals court in 1987. Congress can and has prohibited proposed deferrals by enacting a law doing so; most often cancellations of proposed deferrals are included in appropriations bills. (See also RESCISSION.)
DILATORY MOTION A motion made for the purpose of killing time and preventing action on a bill or amendment. House rules outlaw dilatory motions, but enforcement is largely within the discretion of the Speaker or chairman of the Committee of the Whole. The Senate does not have a rule banning dilatory motions, except under cloture.
DISCHARGE A COMMITTEE Occasionally, attempts are made to relieve a committee from jurisdiction over a measure before it. This is attempted more often in the House than in the Senate, and the procedure rarely is successful.
In the House, if a committee does not report a bill within 30 days after the measure is referred to it, any member may file a discharge motion. Once offered, the motion is treated as a petition needing the signatures of 218 members (a majority of the House). After the required signatures have been obtained, there is a delay of seven days. Thereafter, on the second and fourth Mondays of each month, except during the last six days of a session, any member who has signed the petition must be recognized, if he so desires, to move that the committee be discharged. Debate on the motion to discharge is limited to 20 minutes, and, if the motion is carried, consideration of the bill becomes a matter of high privilege.
If a resolution to consider a bill is held up in the Rules Committee for more than seven legislative days, any member may enter a motion to discharge the committee. The motion is handled like any other discharge petition in the House.
Occasionally, to expedite non-controversial legislative business, a committee is discharged by unanimous consent of the House, and a petition is not required. (Senate procedure, see Discharge Resolution.)
DISCHARGE CALENDAR The House calendar to which motions to discharge committees are referred when they have the required number of signatures (218) and are awaiting floor action.
DISCHARGE PETITION — (See DISCHARGE A COMMITTEE.)
DISCHARGE RESOLUTION In the Senate, a special motion that any senator may introduce to relieve a committee from consideration of a bill before it. The resolution can be called up for Senate approval or disapproval in the same manner as any other Senate business. (House procedure, see Discharge a Committee.)
DIVISION OF A QUESTION FOR VOTING — A practice that is more common in the Senate but also used in the House, a member may demand a division of an amendment or a motion for purposes of voting. Where an amendment or motion can be divided, the individual parts are voted on separately when a member demands a division. This procedure occurs most often during the consideration of conference reports.
DIVISION VOTE(See STANDING VOTE.)
ENACTING CLAUSE Key phrase in bills beginning, “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives . . .” A successful motion to strike it from legislation kills the measure.
ENGROSSED BILL The final copy of a bill as passed by one chamber, with the text as amended by floor action and certified by the clerk of the House or the secretary of the Senate.
ENROLLED BILL The final copy of a bill that has been passed in identical form by both chambers. It is certified by an officer of the house of origin (clerk of the House or secretary of the Senate) and then sent on for the signatures of the House Speaker, the Senate president pro tempore and the president of the United States. An enrolled bill is printed on parchment.
ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM A federal program that guarantees a certain level of benefits to persons or other entities who meet requirements set by law, such as Social Security, farm price supports or unemployment benefits. It thus leaves no discretion with Congress on how much money to appropriate, and some entitlements carry permanent appropriations.
EXECUTIVE CALENDAR This is a non-legislative calendar in the Senate on which presidential documents such as treaties and nominations are listed.
EXECUTIVE DOCUMENT A document, usually a treaty, sent to the Senate by the president for consideration or approval. Executive documents are identified for each session of Congress according to the following pattern: Executive A, 97th Congress, 1st Session; Executive B, and so on. They are referred to committee in the same manner as other measures. Unlike legislative documents, however, treaties do not die at the end of a Congress but remain “live” proposals until acted on by the Senate or withdrawn by the president.
EXECUTIVE SESSION A meeting of a Senate or House committee (or occasionally of either chamber) that only its members may attend. Witnesses regularly appear at committee meetings in executive session — for example, Defense Department officials during presentations of classified defense information. Other members of Congress may be invited, but the public and press are not allowed to attend.
EXPENDITURES The actual spending of money as distinguished from the appropriation of funds. Expenditures are made by the disbursing officers of the administration; appropriations are made only by Congress. The two are rarely identical in any fiscal year. In addition to some current budget authority, expenditures may represent budget authority made available one, two or more years earlier.
FEDERAL DEBT The federal debt consists of public debt, which occurs when the Treasury or the Federal Financing Bank (FFB) borrows money directly from the public or another fund or account, and agency debt, which is incurred when a federal agency other than Treasury or the FFB is authorized by law to borrow money from the public or another fund or account. The public debt comprises about 99 percent of the gross federal debt.
FILIBUSTER A time-delaying tactic associated with the Senate and used by a minority in an effort to prevent a vote on a bill or amendment that probably would pass if voted upon directly. The most common method is to take advantage of the Senate’s rules permitting unlimited debate, but other forms of parliamentary maneuvering may be used. The stricter rules of the House make filibusters more difficult, but delaying tactics are employed occasionally through various procedural devices allowed by House rules. (Senate filibusters, see Cloture.)
FISCAL YEAR Financial operations of the government are carried out in a 12-month fiscal year, beginning on Oct. 1 and ending on Sept. 30. The fiscal year carries the date of the calendar year in which it ends. (From fiscal year 1844 to fiscal year 1976, the fiscal year began July 1 and ended the following June 30.)
FIVE-MINUTE RULE A debate-limiting rule of the House that is invoked when the House sits as the Committee of the Whole. Under the rule, a member offering an amendment is allowed to speak five minutes in its favor, and an opponent of the amendment is allowed to speak five minutes in opposition. Debate is then closed. In practice, amendments regularly are debated more than 10 minutes, with members gaining the floor by offering pro forma amendments or obtaining unanimous consent to speak longer than five minutes. (See STRIKE OUT THE LAST WORD.)
FLOOR MANAGER A member who has the task of steering legislation through floor debate and the amendment process to a final vote in the House or the Senate. Floor managers usually are chairmen or ranking members of the committee that reported the bill. Managers are responsible for apportioning the debate time granted supporters of the bill. The ranking minority member of the committee normally apportions time for the minority party’s participation in the debate.
FRANK A member’s facsimile signature, which is used on envelopes in lieu of stamps, for the member’s official outgoing mail. The “franking privilege” is the right to send mail postage-free.
FUNCTIONS (FUNCTIONAL CLASSIFICATIONS)Categories of spending established for accounting purposes to keep track of specific expenditures. Each account is placed in the single function (such as national defense, agriculture, health, etc.) that best represents its major purpose, regardless of the agency administering the program. The functions do not correspond directly with appropriations or with the budgets of individual agencies. (See also BUDGET RESOLUTION.)
GERMANE Pertaining to the subject matter of the measure at hand. All House amendments must be germane to the bill being considered. The Senate requires that amendments be germane when they are proposed to general appropriation bills, bills being considered once cloture has been adopted or, frequently, when proceeding under a unanimous consent agreement placing a time limit on consideration of a bill. The 1974 budget act also requires that amendments to concurrent budget resolutions be germane. In the House, floor debate must be germane, and the first three hours of debate each day in the Senate must be germane to the pending business.
GRAMM-RUDMAN-HOLLINGS DEFICIT REDUCTION ACT See BUDGET PROCESS, SEQUESTRATION.)
GRANDFATHER CLAUSE A provision exempting persons or other entities already engaged in an activity from rules or legislation affecting that activity. Grandfather clauses sometimes are added to legislation in order to avoid antagonizing groups with established interests in the activities affected.
GRANTS-IN-AID Payments by the federal government to states, local governments or individuals in support of specified programs, services or activities.
HEARINGS Committee sessions for taking testimony from witnesses. At hearings on legislation, witnesses usually include specialists, government officials and spokespersons for individuals or entities affected by the bill or bills under study. Hearings related to special investigations bring forth a variety of witnesses. Committees sometimes use their subpoena power to summon reluctant witnesses. The public and press may attend open hearings but are barred from closed, or “executive,” hearings. The vast majority of hearings are open to the public. (See EXECUTIVE SESSION.)
HOLD-HARMLESS CLAUSE A provision added to legislation to ensure that recipients of federal funds do not receive less in a future year than they did in the current year if a new formula for allocating funds authorized in the legislation would result in a reduction to the recipients. This clause has been used most frequently to soften the impact of sudden reductions in federal grants.
HOPPER Box on House clerk’s desk where members deposit bills and resolutions to introduce them. (See also BILLS INTRODUCED.)
HOUR RULE A provision in the rules of the House that permits one hour of debate time for each member on amendments debated in the House of Representatives sitting as the House. Therefore, the House normally amends bills while sitting as the Committee of the Whole, where the five-minute rule on amendments operates. (See COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE, FIVE-MINUTE RULE.)
HOUSE The House of Representatives, as distinct from the Senate, although each body is a “house” of Congress.
HOUSE AS IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE A procedure that can be used to expedite consideration of certain measures such as continuing resolutions and, when there is debate, private bills. The procedure only can be invoked with the unanimous consent of the House or a rule from the Rules Committee and has procedural elements of both the House sitting as the House of Representatives, such as the Speaker presiding and the previous question motion being in order, and the House sitting as the Committee of the Whole, such as the five-minute rule pertaining.
HOUSE CALENDAR A listing for action by the House of public bills that do not directly or indirectly appropriate money or raise revenue.
IMMUNITY The constitutional privilege of members of Congress to make verbal statements on the floor and in committee for which they cannot be sued or arrested for slander or libel. Also, freedom from arrest while traveling to or from sessions of Congress or on official business. Members in this status may be arrested only for treason, felonies or a breach of the peace, as defined by congressional manuals.
IMPOUNDMENTS Any action taken by the executive branch that delays or precludes the obligation or expenditure of budget authority previously approved by Congress. The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 was enacted after frequent use of impoundments by President Richard Nixon. In addition to creating the budget process currently used, the 1974 law established procedures for congressional approval or disapproval of temporary or permanent impoundments, which are called deferrals and rescissions.
JOINT COMMITTEE A committee composed of a specified number of members of both the House and Senate. A joint committee may be investigative or research-oriented, an example of the latter being the Joint Economic Committee. Others have housekeeping duties such as the joint committees on Printing and on the Library of Congress.
JOINT RESOLUTION A joint resolution, designated H J Res or S J Res, requires the approval of both houses and the signature of the president, just as a bill does, and has the force of law if approved. There is no practical difference between a bill and a joint resolution. A joint resolution generally is used to deal with a limited matter such as a single appropriation.
Joint resolutions also are used to propose amendments to the Constitution. They do not require a presidential signature but become a part of the Constitution when three-fourths of the states have ratified them.
JOURNAL The official record of the proceedings of the House and Senate. The Journal records the actions taken in each chamber, but, unlike the Congressional Record, it does not include the substantially verbatim report of speeches, debates, statements and the like.
LAW An act of Congress that has been signed by the president or passed over his veto by Congress. Public bills, when signed, become public laws, and are cited by the letters PL and a hyphenated number. The two digits before the hyphen correspond to the Congress, and the one or more digits after the hyphen refer to the numerical sequence in which the bills were signed by the president during that Congress. Private bills, when signed, become private laws. (See also POCKET VETO, SLIP LAWS, STATUTES AT LARGE, U.S. CODE.)
LEGISLATIVE DAY The “day” extending from the time either house meets after an adjournment until the time it next adjourns. Because the House normally adjourns from day to day, legislative days and calendar days usually coincide. But in the Senate, a legislative day may, and frequently does, extend over several calendar days. (See RECESS.)
LEGISLATIVE VETO A procedure, no longer allowed, permitting either the House or Senate, or both chambers, to review proposed executive branch regulations or actions and to block or modify those with which they disagreed.
The specifics of the procedure varied, but Congress generally provided for a legislative veto by including in a bill a provision that administrative rules or action taken to implement the law were to go into effect at the end of a designated period of time unless blocked by either or both houses of Congress. Another version of the veto provided for congressional reconsideration and rejection of regulations already in effect.
The Supreme Court June 23, 1983, struck down the legislative veto as an unconstitutional violation of the lawmaking procedure provided in the Constitution.
LOAN GUARANTEES Loans to third parties for which the federal government in the event of default guarantees, in whole or in part, the repayment of principal or interest to a lender or holder of a security.
LOBBY A group seeking to influence the passage or defeat of legislation. Originally the term referred to persons frequenting the lobbies or corridors of legislative chambers in order to speak to lawmakers.
The definition of a lobby and the activity of lobbying is a matter of differing interpretation. By some definitions, lobbying is limited to direct attempts to influence lawmakers through personal interviews and persuasion. Under other definitions, lobbying includes attempts at indirect, or “grassroots,” influence, such as persuading members of a group to write or visit their district’s representative and state’s senators or attempting to create a climate of opinion favorable to a desired legislative goal.
The right to attempt to influence legislation is based on the First Amendment to the Constitution, which says Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
MAJORITY LEADER The majority leader is elected by his party colleagues. In the Senate, in consultation with the minority leader and his colleagues, the majority leader directs the legislative schedule for the chamber. He also is his party’s spokesperson and chief strategist. In the House, the majority leader is second to the Speaker in the majority party’s leadership and serves as his party’s legislative strategist.
MAJORITY WHIP In effect, the assistant majority leader, in either the House or Senate. His job is to help marshal majority forces in support of party strategy and legislation.
MANUAL The official handbook in each house prescribing in detail its organization, procedures and operations.
MARKING UP A BILL Going through the contents of a piece of legislation in committee or subcommittee to, for example, consider its provisions in large and small portions, act on amendments to provisions and proposed revisions to the language, and insert new sections and phraseology. If the bill is extensively amended, the committee’s version may be introduced as a separate bill, with a new number, before being considered by the full House or Senate. (See CLEAN BILL.)
MINORITY LEADER Floor leader for the minority party in each chamber. (See also MAJORITY LEADER.)
MINORITY WHIP Performs duties of whip for the minority party. (See also MAJORITY WHIP.)
MORNING HOUR The time set aside at the beginning of each legislative day for the consideration of regular, routine business. The “hour” is of indefinite duration in the House, where it is rarely used.
In the Senate it is the first two hours of a session following an adjournment, as distinguished from a recess. The morning hour can be terminated earlier if the morning business has been completed. Business includes such matters as messages from the president, communications from the heads of departments, messages from the House, the presentation of petitions, reports of standing and select committees and the introduction of bills and resolutions. During the first hour of the morning hour in the Senate, no motion to proceed to the consideration of any bill on the calendar is in order except by unanimous consent. During the second hour, motions can be made but must be decided without debate. Senate committees may meet while the Senate conducts morning hour.
MOTION In the House or Senate chamber, a request by a member to institute any one of a wide array of parliamentary actions. He “moves”
for a certain procedure, such as the consideration of a measure. The precedence of motions, and whether they are debatable, is set forth in the House and Senate manuals.
NOMINATIONS Presidential appointments to office subject to Senate confirmation. Although most nominations win quick Senate approval, some are controversial and become the topic of hearings and debate. Sometimes senators object to appointees for patronage reasons — for example, when a nomination to a local federal job is made without consulting the senators of the state concerned. In some situations a senator may object that the nominee is “personally obnoxious” to him. Usually other senators join in blocking such appointments out of courtesy to their colleagues. (See SENATORIAL COURTESY.)
OBLIGATIONS Orders placed, contracts awarded, services received and similar transactions during a given period that will require payments during the same or future period. Such amounts include outlays for which obligations had not been previously recorded and reflect adjustments for differences between obligations previously recorded and actual outlays to liquidate those obligations.
ONE-MINUTE SPEECHES Addresses by House members at the beginning of a legislative day. The speeches may cover any subject but are limited to one minute’s duration.
OUTLAYS Payments made (generally through the issuance of checks or disbursement of cash) to liquidate obligations. Outlays during a fiscal year may be for the payment of obligations incurred in prior years or in the same year.
OVERRIDE A VETO If the president disapproves a bill and sends it back to Congress with his objections, Congress may try to override his veto and enact the bill into law. Neither house is required to attempt to override a veto. The override of a veto requires a recorded vote with a two-thirds majority in each chamber. The question put to each house is: “Shall the bill pass, the objections of the president to the contrary notwithstanding?” (See also POCKET VETO, VETO.)
OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE A congressional committee, or designated subcommittee of a committee, that is charged with general oversight of one or more federal agencies’ programs and activities. Usually, the oversight panel for a particular agency also is the authorizing committee for that agency’s programs and operations.
PAIR A voluntary, informal arrangement that two lawmakers, usually on opposite sides of an issue, make on recorded votes. In many cases the result is to subtract a vote from each side, with no effect on the outcome. Pairs are not authorized in the rules of either house, are not counted in tabulating the final result and have no official standing. However, members pairing are identified in the Congressional Record, along with their positions on such votes, if known. A member who expects to be absent for a vote can pair with a member who plans to vote, with the latter agreeing to withhold his vote.
There are three types of pairs: 1) A live pair involves a member who is present for a vote and another who is absent. The member in attendance votes and then withdraws the vote, announcing that he has a live pair with colleague “X” and stating how the two members would have voted, onein favor, the other opposed. A live pair may affect the outcome of a closely contested vote, since it subtracts one “yea” or one “nay” from the final tally. A live pair may cover one or several specific issues. 2) A general pair, widely used in the House, does not entail any arrangement between two members and does not affect the vote. Members who expect to be absent notify the clerk that they wish to make a general pair. Each member then is paired with another desiring a pair, and their names are listed in the Congressional Record. The member may or may not be paired with another taking the opposite position, and no indication of how the members would have voted is given. 3) A specific pair is similar to a general pair, except that the opposing stands of the two members are identified and printed in the Record.
PETITION A request or plea sent to one or both chambers from an organization or private citizens’ group asking support of particular legislation or favorable consideration of a matter not yet receiving congressional attention. Petitions are referred to appropriate committees.
POCKET VETO The act of the president in withholding his approval of a bill after Congress has adjourned. When Congress is in session, a bill becomes law without the president’s signature if he does not act upon it within 10 days, excluding Sundays, from the time he gets it. But if Congress adjourns sine die within that 10-day period, the bill will die even if the president does not formally veto it.
The Supreme Court in 1986 agreed to decide whether the president can pocket veto a bill during recesses and between sessions of the same Congress or only between Congresses. The justices in 1987 declared the case moot, however, because the bill in question was invalid once the case reached the Court. (See also VETO.)
POINT OF ORDER An objection raised by a member that the chamber is departing from rules governing its conduct of business. The objector cites the rule violated, the chair sustaining his objection if correctly made. Order is restored by the chair’s suspending proceedings of the chamber until it conforms to the prescribed “order of business.”
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE Under the Constitution, the vice president of the United States presides over the Senate. In his absence, the president pro tempore, or a senator designated by the president pro tempore, presides over the chamber.
PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE The chief officer of the Senate in the absence of the vice president; literally, but loosely, the president for a time. The president pro tempore is elected by his fellow senators, and the recent practice has been to elect the senator of the majority party with the longest period of continuous service.
PREVIOUS QUESTION A motion for the previous question, when carried, has the effect of cutting off all debate, preventing the offering of further amendments and forcing a vote on the pending matter. In the House, the previous question is not permitted in the Committee of the Whole. The motion for the previous question is a debate-limiting device and is not in order in the Senate.
PRINTED AMENDMENT A House rule guarantees five minutes of floor debate in support and five minutes in opposition, and no other debate time, on amendments printed in the Congressional Record at least one day prior to the amendment’s consideration in the Committee of the Whole. In the Senate, while amendments may be submitted for printing, they have no parliamentary standing or status. An amendment submitted for printing in the Senate, however, may be called up by any senator.
PRIVATE BILLS See PRIVATE CALENDAR)
PRIVATE CALENDAR In the House, private bills dealing with individual matters such as claims against the government, immigration or land titles are put on this calendar. The private calendar must be called on the first Tuesday of each month, and the Speaker may call it on the third Tuesday of each month as well.
When a private bill is before the chamber, two members may block its consideration, which recommits the bill to committee. Backers of a recommitted private bill have recourse. The measure can be put into an “omnibus claims bill” — several private bills rolled into one. As with any bill, no part of an omnibus claims bill may be deleted without a vote. When the private bill goes back to the House floor in this form, it can be deleted from the omnibus bill only by majority vote.
PRIVILEGE Relates to the rights of members of Congress and to the relative priority of the motions and actions they may make in their respective chambers. The two are distinct. “Privileged questions” deal with legislative business. “Questions of privilege” concern legislators themselves.
PRIVILEGED QUESTIONS The order in which bills, motions and other legislative measures are considered by Congress is governed by strict priorities. A motion to table, for instance, is more privileged than a motion to recommit. Thus, a motion to recommit can be superseded by a motion to table, and a vote would be forced on the latter motion only. A motion to adjourn, however, takes precedence over a tabling motion and thus is considered of the “highest privilege.” (See also QUESTIONS OF PRIVILEGE.)
PRO FORMA AMENDMENT See STRIKE OUT THE LAST WORD.)
PUBLIC LAWS See LAW.)
QUESTIONS OF PRIVILEGE These are matters affecting members of Congress individually or collectively. Matters affecting the rights, safety, dignity and integrity of proceedings of the House or Senate as a whole are questions of privilege in both chambers.
Questions involving individual members are called questions of “personal privilege.” A member rising to ask a question of personal privilege is given precedence over almost all other proceedings. An annotation in the House rules points out that the privilege rests primarily on the Constitution, which gives him a conditional immunity from arrest and an unconditional freedom to speak in the House. (See also PRIVILEGED QUESTIONS.)
QUORUM The number of members whose presence is necessary for the transaction of business. In the Senate and House, it is a majority of the membership. A quorum is 100 in the Committee of the Whole House. If a point of order is made that a quorum is not present, the only business that is in order is either a motion to adjourn or a motion to direct the sergeant-at-arms to request the attendance of absentees.
READINGS OF BILLS Traditional parliamentary procedure required bills to be read three times before they were passed. This custom is of little modern significance. Normally a bill is considered to have its first reading when it is introduced and printed, by title, in the Congressional Record. In the House, its second reading comes when floor consideration begins. (This is the most likely point at which there is an actual reading of the bill, if there is any.) The second reading in the Senate is supposed to occur on the legislative day after the measure is introduced, but before it is referred to committee. The third reading (again, usually by title) takes place when floor action has been completed on amendments.
RECESS Distinguished from adjournment in that a recess does not end a legislative day and therefore does not interrupt unfinished business. The rules in each house set forth certain matters to be taken up and disposed of at the beginning of each legislative day. The House usually adjourns from day to day. The Senate often recesses, thus meeting on the same legislative day for several calendar days or even weeks at a time.
RECOGNITION The power of recognition of a member is lodged in the Speaker of the House and the presiding officer of the Senate. The presiding officer names the member who will speak first when two or more members simultaneously request recognition.
RECOMMIT TO COMMITTEE A motion, made on the floor after a bill has been debated, to return it to the committee that reported it. If approved, recommittal usually is considered a death blow to the bill. In the House, a motion to recommit can be made only by a member opposed to the bill, and, in recognizing a member to make the motion, the Speaker gives preference to members of the minority party over majority party members.
A motion to recommit may include instructions to the committee to report the bill again with specific amendments or by a certain date. Or, the instructions may direct that a particular study be made, with no definite deadline for further action. If the recommittal motion includes instructions to “report the bill back forthwith” and the motion is adopted, floor action on the bill continues; the committee does not actually reconsider the legislation.
RECONCILIATION The 1974 budget act provides for a “reconciliation” procedure for bringing existing tax and spending laws into conformity with ceilings enacted in the congressional budget resolution. Under the procedure, Congress instructs designated legislative committees to approve measures adjusting revenues and expenditures by a certain amount. The committees have a deadline by which they must report the legislation, but they have the discretion of deciding what changes are to be made. The recommendations of the various committees are consolidated without change by the Budget committees into an omnibus reconciliation bill, which then must be considered and approved by both houses of Congress. The orders to congressional committees to report recommendations for reconciliation bills are called reconciliation instructions, and they are contained in the budget resolution. Reconciliation instructions are not binding, but Congress must meet annual Gramm-Rudman deficit targets to avoid the automatic spending cuts of sequestration, which means it must also meet the goal of reconciliation. (See also BUDGET RESOLUTION, SEQUESTRATION.)
RECONSIDER A VOTE A motion to reconsider the vote by which an action was taken has, until it is disposed of, the effect of putting the action in abeyance. In the Senate, the motion can be made only by a member who voted on the prevailing side of the original question or by a member who did not vote at all. In the House, it can be made only by a member on the prevailing side.
A common practice in the Senate after close votes on an issue is a motion to reconsider, followed by a motion to table the motion to reconsider. On this motion to table, senators vote as they voted on the original question, which allows the motion to table to prevail, assuming there are no switches. The matter then is finally closed and further motions to reconsider are not entertained. In the House, as a routine precaution, a motion to reconsider usually is made every time a measure is passed. Such a motion almost always is tabled immediately, thus shutting off the possibility of future reconsideration, except by unanimous consent.
Motions to reconsider must be entered in the Senate within the next two days of actual session after the original vote has been taken. In the House they must be entered either on the same day or on the next succeeding day the House is in session.
RECORDED VOTE A vote upon which each member’s stand is individually made known. In the Senate, this is accomplished through a roll call of the entire membership, to which each senator on the floor must answer “yea,” “nay” or, if he does not wish to vote, “present.” Since January 1973, the House has used an electronic voting system for recorded votes, including yea-and-nay votes formerly taken by roll calls.
When not required by the Constitution, a recorded vote can be obtained on questions in the House on the demand of one-fifth (44 members) of a quorum or one-fourth (25) of a quorum in the Committee of the Whole.(See YEAS AND NAYS.)
REPORT Both a verb and a noun as a congressional term. A committee that has been examining a bill referred to it by the parent chamber “reports” its findings and recommendations to the chamber when it completes consideration and returns the measure. The process is called “reporting” a bill.
A “report” is the document setting forth the committee’s explanation of its action. Senate and House reports are numbered separately and are designated S Rept or H Rept. When a committee report is not unanimous, the dissenting committee members may file a statement of their views, called minority or dissenting views and referred to as a minority report. Members in disagreement with some provisions of a bill may file additional or supplementary views. Sometimes a bill is reported without a committee recommendation.
Adverse reports occasionally are submitted by legislative committees. However, when a committee is opposed to a bill, it usually fails to report the bill at all. Some laws require that committee reports — favorable or adverse — be made.
RESCISSION An item in an appropriations bill rescinding or canceling budget authority previously appropriated but not spent. Also, the repeal of a previous appropriation by Congress at the request of the president to cut spending or because the budget authority no longer is needed. Under the 1974 budget act, however, unless Congress approves a rescission within 45 days of continuous session after receipt of the proposal, the funds must be made available for obligation. (See also DEFERRAL.)
RESOLUTION A “simple” resolution, designated H Res or S Res, deals with matters entirely within the prerogatives of one house or the other. It requires neither passage by the other chamber nor approval by the president, and it does not have the force of law. Most resolutions deal with the rules or procedures of one house. They also are used to express the sentiments of a single house such as condolences to the family of a deceased member or to comment on foreign policy or executive business. A simple resolution is the vehicle for a “rule” from the House Rules Committee. (See also CONCURRENT and JOINT RESOLUTIONS, RULES.)
RIDER An amendment, usually not germane, that its sponsor hopes to get through more easily by including it in other legislation. Riders become law if the bills embodying them are enacted. Amendments providing legislative directives in appropriations bills are outstanding examples of riders, though technically legislation is banned from appropriations bills. The House, unlike the Senate, has a strict germaneness rule; thus, riders usually are Senate devices to get legislation enacted quickly or to bypass lengthy House consideration and, possibly, opposition.
RULES The term has two specific congressional meanings. A rule may be a standing order governing the conduct of House or Senate business and listed among the permanent rules of either chamber. The rules deal with issues such as duties of officers, the order of business, admission to the floor, parliamentary procedures on handling amendments and voting and jurisdictions of committees.
In the House, a rule also may be a resolution reported by its Rules Committee to govern the handling of a particular bill on the floor. The committee may report a “rule,” also called a “special order,” in the form of a simple resolution. If the resolution is adopted by the House, the temporary rule becomes as valid as any standing rule and lapses only after action has been completed on the measure to which it pertains. A rule sets the time limit on general debate. It also may waive points of order against provisions of the bill in question such as non-germane language or against certain amendments intended to be proposed to the bill from the floor. It may even forbid all amendments or all amendments except those proposed by the legislative committee that handled the bill. In this instance, it is known as a “closed” or “gag” rule as opposed to an “open” rule, which puts no limitation on floor amendments, thus leaving the bill completely open to alteration by the adoption of germane amendments.
SECRETARY OF THE SENATE Chief administrative officer of the Senate, responsible for overseeing the duties of Senate employees, educating Senate pages, administering oaths, handling the registration of lobbyists and handling other tasks necessary for the continuing operation of the Senate. (See also CLERK OF THE HOUSE.)
SELECT or SPECIAL COMMITTEE A committee set up for a special purpose and, usually, for a limited time by resolution of either the House or Senate. Most special committees are investigative and lack legislative authority — legislation is not referred to them and they cannot report bills to their parent chamber. (See also STANDING COMMITTEES.)
SENATORIAL COURTESY Sometimes referred to as “the courtesy of the Senate,” it is a general practice — with no written rule — applied to consideration of executive nominations. Generally, it means that nominations from a state are not to be confirmed unless they have been approved by the senators of the president’s party of that state, with other senators following their colleagues’ lead in the attitude they take toward consideration of such nominations. (See NOMINATIONS.)
SEQUESTRATION A procedure established by the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction law, as amended in 1987, to cancel (or withhold) budgetary resources. Gramm-Rudman set up a declining deficit target timetable so the deficit would be zero by fiscal year 1993. If the federal budget exceeded the deficit target in any year, the president would be required to issue a sequester order — based on a deficit estimate report issued by the Office of Management and Budget — to make across-the-board cuts in budget programs. The sequester order would be issued twice; the first order (issued Aug. 25) withholding funds to give Congress time to meet the deficit target by regular budget actions (such as reconciliation), and the second order (issued Oct. 15) actually canceling funds. (See also BUDGET PROCESS.)
SINE DIE (See ADJOURNMENT SINE DIE.)
SLIP LAWS The first official publication of a bill that has been enacted and signed into law. Each is published separately in unbound single-sheet or pamphlet form. (See also LAW, STATUTES AT LARGE, U.S. CODE.)
SPEAKER The presiding officer of the House of Representatives, selected by the caucus of the party to which he belongs and formally elected by the whole House.
SPECIAL SESSION A session of Congress after it has adjourned sine die, completing its regular session. Special sessions are convened by the president.
SPENDING AUTHORITY The 1974 budget act defines spending authority as borrowing authority, contract authority and entitlement authority for which budget authority is not provided in advance by appropriation acts.
SPONSOR(See BILLS INTRODUCED.)
STANDING COMMITTEES Committees permanently established by House and Senate rules. The standing committees of the House were last reorganized
by the committee reorganization of 1974. The last major realignment of Senate committees was in the committee system reorganization of 1977. The standing committees are legislative committees — legislation may be referred to them and they may report bills and resolutions to their parent chambers. (See also SELECT or SPECIAL COMMITTEES.)
STANDING VOTE A non-recorded vote used in both the House and Senate. (A standing vote also is called a division vote.) Members in favor of a proposal stand and are counted by the presiding officer. Then members opposed stand and are counted. There is no record of how individual members voted.
STATUTES AT LARGE A chronological arrangement of the laws enacted in each session of Congress. Though indexed, the laws are not arranged by subject matter, and there is not an indication of how they changed previously enacted laws. (See also LAW, SLIP LAWS, U.S. CODE.)
STRIKE FROM THE RECORD Remarks made on the House floor may offend some member, who moves that the offending words be “taken down” for the Speaker’s cognizance, and then expunged from the debate as published in the Congressional Record.
STRIKE OUT THE LAST WORD A motion whereby a House member is entitled to speak for five minutes on an amendment then being debated by the chamber. A member gains recognition from the chair by moving to “strike out the last word” of the amendment or section of the bill under consideration. The motion is pro forma, requires no vote and does not change the amendment being debated.
SUBSTITUTE A motion, amendment or entire bill introduced in place of the pending legislative business. Passage of a substitute measure kills the original measure by supplanting it. The substitute also may be amended. (See also AMENDMENT IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE.)
SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS BILL Legislation appropriating funds afterthe regular annual appropriations bill for a federal department or agency has been enacted. A supplemental appropriation provides additional budget authority beyond original estimates for programs or activities, including new programs authorized after the enactment of the regular appropriation act, for which the need for funds is too urgent to be postponed until enactment of the next year’s regular appropriation bill.
SUSPEND THE RULES Often a time-saving procedure for passing bills in the House. The wording of the motion, which may be made by any member recognized by the Speaker, is: “I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill . . .” A favorable vote by two-thirds of those present is required for passage. Debate is limited to 40 minutes and no amendments from the floor are permitted. If a two-thirds favorable vote is not attained, the bill may be considered later under regular procedures. The suspension procedure is in order every Monday and Tuesday and is intended to be reserved for non-controversial bills.
TABLE A BILL Motions to table, or to “lay on the table,” are used to block or kill amendments or other parliamentary questions. When approved, a tabling motion is considered the final disposition of that issue. One of the most widely used parliamentary procedures, the motion to table is not debatable, and adoption requires a simple majority vote.
In the Senate, however, different language sometimes is used. The motion may be worded to let a bill “lie on the table,” perhaps for subsequent “picking up.” This motion is more flexible, keeping the bill pending for later action, if desired. Tabling motions on amendments are effective debate-ending devices in the Senate.
TELLER VOTE This is a largely moribund House procedure in the Committee of the Whole. Members file past tellers and are counted as for or against a measure, but they are not recorded individually. In the House, tellers are ordered upon demand of one-fifth of a quorum. This is 44 in the House, 20 in the Committee of the Whole.
The House also has a recorded teller vote, now largely supplanted by the electronic voting procedure, under which the votes of each member are made public just as they would be on a recorded vote.
TREATIES Executive proposals — in the form of resolutions of ratification — which must be submitted to the Senate for approval by two-thirds of the senators present. Treaties are normally sent to the Foreign Relations Committee for scrutiny before the Senate takes action. Foreign Relations has jurisdiction over all treaties, regardless of the subject matter. Treaties are read three times and debated on the floor in much the same manner as legislative proposals. After approval by the Senate, treaties are formally ratified by the president.
TRUST FUNDS Funds collected and used by the federal government for carrying out specific purposes and programs according to terms of a trust agreement or statute such as the Social Security and unemployment compensation trust funds. Such funds are administered by the government in a fiduciary capacity and are not available for the general purposes of the government.
UNANIMOUS CONSENT Proceedings of the House or Senate and action on legislation often take place upon the unanimous consent of the chamber, whether or not a rule of the chamber is being violated. Unanimous consent is used to expedite floor action and frequently is used in a routine fashion such as by a senator requesting the unanimous consent of the Senate to have specified members of his staff present on the floor during debate on a specific amendment.
UNANIMOUS CONSENT AGREEMENT A device used in the Senate to expedite legislation. Much of the Senate’s legislative business, dealing with both minor and controversial issues, is conducted through unanimous consent or unanimous consent agreements. On major legislation, such agreements usually are printed and transmitted to all senators in advance of floor debate. Once agreed to, they are binding on all members unless the Senate, by unanimous consent, agrees to modify them. An agreement may list the order in which various bills are to be considered, specify the length of time bills and contested amendments are to be debated and when they are to be voted upon and, frequently, require that all amendments introduced be germane to the bill under consideration. In this regard, unanimous consent agreements are similar to the “rules” issued by the House Rules Committee for bills pending in the House.
UNION CALENDAR Bills that directly or indirectly appropriate money or raise revenue are placed on this House calendar according to the date they are reported from committee.
U.S. CODE A consolidation and codification of the general and permanent laws of the United States arranged by subject under 50 titles, the first six dealing with general or political subjects, and the other 44 alphabetically arranged from agriculture to war. The U.S. Code is updated annually, and a new set of bound volumes is published every six years. (See also LAW, SLIP LAWS, STATUTES AT LARGE.)
VETO Disapproval by the president of a bill or joint resolution (other than one proposing an amendment to the Constitution). When Congress is in session, the president must veto a bill within 10 days, excluding Sundays, after he has received it; otherwise, it becomes law without his signature. When the president vetoes a bill, he returns it to the house of origin along with a message stating his objections. (See also POCKET VETO, OVERRIDE A VETO.)
VOICE VOTE In either the House or Senate, members answer “aye” or “no” in chorus, and the presiding officer decides the result. The term also is used loosely to indicate action by unanimous consent or without objection.
WHIP See MAJORITY and MINORITY WHIP.)
WITHOUT OBJECTION Used in lieu of a vote on non-controversial motions, amendments or bills that may be passed in either the House or Senate if no member voices an objection.
YEAS AND NAYS The Constitution requires that yea-and-nay votes be taken and recorded when requested by one-fifth of the members present. In the House, the Speaker determines whether one-fifth of the members present requested a vote. In the Senate, practice requires only 11 members. The Constitution requires the yeas and nays on a veto override attempt. (See RECORDED VOTE.)
YIELDING When a member has been recognized to speak, no other member may speak unless he obtains permission from the member recognized. This permission is called yielding and usually is requested in the form, “Will the gentleman yield to me?” While this activity occasionally is seen in the Senate, the Senate has no rule or practice to parcel out time.