Advocacy Terms



Legislation (a bill or joint resolution) that has passed both chambers of Congress (or a state legislature) in identical form and been signed into law by the President (or the Governor).


Formally end a meeting of a chamber or committee.

Adjournment sine die

An adjournment that terminates an annual session of Congress. A “sine die” (“without day”) adjournment sets no day for reconvening, so that Congress will not meet again until the first day of the next session. Under the Constitution, adjournment sine die (except when the next session is about to convene) requires the agreement of both chambers, accomplished through adoption of a concurrent resolution.


The act or process of advocating or supporting a cause or proposal.

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

A bill that was signed into law in 2010 by President Obama and consists of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. It reformed the American health care system to expand insurance coverage, reduce the cost of care, and increase the quality of care.


A proposed change to a pending text (e.g., a bill, resolution, another amendment, or a treaty).


The provision of funds, through an annual appropriations act or a permanent law, for federal agencies to make payments out of the Treasury for specified purposes. See also authorization.


A statutory provision that obligates funding for a program or agency. The formal federal spending process consists of two steps: (1) authorization and (2) appropriation.


Ballot measure

Items added to a ballot to allow voters to propose and enact laws. They include ballot initiatives, constitutional amendments, bond measures, and referenda.


Literally, “two chambers;” in a legislative body, having two houses (as in the U.S. Congress comprising the House of Representatives and the Senate).


The primary form of legislative measure used to propose law.

In the U.S. Congress, joint resolution is another form of legislative measure used to propose law.

Bill summary

A short summary that objectively describes a bill’s significant provisions. Introduced version summaries are subject to length limitations as a matter of policy.

When a measure receives action (e.g., it is reported from a committee or passed by the House or Senate), the analysts then write an expanded summary, detailing the measure’s effect upon programs and current law.

Budget resolution

A measure that sets out a congressional budget plan, including aggregate budgetary levels, that may be enforced during the subsequent consideration of spending and revenue legislation.


Congressional Budget Office (CBO)

An agency in the legislative branch of the federal government that produces independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.

Committee / subcommittee

A panel (or subpanel) with members from the House or Senate (or both) tasked with conducting hearings, examining and developing legislation, conducting oversight, and/or helping manage chamber business and activities.

Committee of the Whole

A committee of the House composed of every Representative that meets in the House chamber. The Committee of the Whole allows greater participation in floor consideration of measures. The House considers many major measures in the Committee of the Whole.

Companion measure

Identical or substantially similar measures introduced in the other chamber (House or Senate).

Conference committee

Temporary joint committee created to resolve differences between House-passed and Senate-passed versions of a measure.

Congress (in the sense of a 2-year timeframe)

When referring to a time-period (e.g., the 114th Congress, which convened on January 6, 2015) rather than the legislative branch generally, a Congress is the national legislature in office (for approximately two years). It begins with the convening of a new Congress composed of members elected in the most recent election and ends with the adjournment sine die of the legislature (typically after a new election has occurred).

Congressional Record

The official record of the proceedings and debates of the U.S. Congress. For every day Congress is in session, an issue of the Congressional Record is printed by the Government Publishing Office. Each issue summarizes the day’s floor and committee actions and records all remarks delivered in the House and Senate.

Congressional report

Reports from congressional committees dealing with proposed legislation or issues under investigation. Congress issues different types of reports, including committee reportsconference reports, and executive reports.


A member of a community or organization within an elected official’s district and having the power to appoint or elect.


Representatives or senators who formally sign on to support a measure. Only the first-named member is the sponsor; all others are cosponsors, even those whose names appeared on the measure at the time it was submitted.

Congressional Research Service (CRS)

A service of the Library of Congress that works exclusively for the U.S. Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. CRS provides Congress with analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective, and nonpartisan.




Made into law.

Executive Order

An order issued by the president, governor, or mayor that is not legislation but has the force and effect of law.

Executive session

A period under Senate rules during which executive business is considered on the floor. (Legislation is considered only in legislative session, with its own distinct rules and practices; the Senate may go back and forth between legislative and executive session, even within the course of a day.)



In the Senate, the use of delaying or obstructive tactics to delay or block passage of a measure by preventing it from coming to a vote.


Government Publishing Office (GPO)

An agency of the legislative branch of the federal government that publishes and disseminates the official and authentic government publications to Congress, federal agencies, federal depository libraries, and the American public.

Grassroots lobbying

A call to action directed to the general public that reflects a view on specific legislation and encourages people to contact their legislative representatives or staff to influence that legislation.



A formal meeting of a congressional committee (or subcommittee) to gather information from witnesses for use in activities such as development of legislation, oversight of executive agencies, investigations into matters of public policy, or Senate consideration of presidential nominations.

House Rules committee

A committee in the House that, among other things, is responsible for reporting out “special rules”—simple resolutions that propose to the House tailored terms for debate and amendment of a measure on the House floor.



Joint resolution

A form of legislative measure used to propose changes in law, or to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.




Laws, considered collectively. For example, a group of laws about taxes can be called “tax legislation.”



Meeting by a committee or subcommittee during which committee members offer, debate, and vote on amendments to a measure.


A legislative vehicle: a bill, joint resolution, concurrent resolution, or simple resolution.

Motion to proceed to consider

A motion in the Senate, which, if agreed to by a majority of those present and voting, brings a measure (e.g., bill) or matter (e.g., nomination) before the chamber for consideration. Often referred to simply as a “motion to proceed.”

Motion to table

A non-debatable motion in the House and Senate (and in their committees) by which a simple majority may agree to negatively and permanently dispose of a question (e.g., an amendment).


Joint resolution

A form of legislative measure used to propose changes in law, or to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

A federal agency where editors assign a public law number to a bill after the President has signed it into law.


The president’s formal submission of an individual’s name, and the federal government position to which he or she is proposed to be appointed, for Senate consideration and potential confirmation.


Official title

The title of a bill designated by the bill’s sponsor; it may be amended in the course of legislative action. Bills may also have short titles. The more complex a bill becomes, the more likely the bill is to acquire additional titles.

See also popular title and short title.

Original bill

An introduced bill that contains text approved in a committee markup but not formally introduced before the markup. Senate committees are authorized to report original bills within their jurisdictions in addition to reporting measures that have been introduced and referred to them; some House committees also have authority to originate certain measures.



Nonpartisan staff officials (one in each chamber, assisted by deputies and assistants) who provide expert advice and assistance to the presiding officer and to members on the application and interpretation of chamber rules, precedents, and practices (including referral of measures to committee).

Party caucus / conference

The official organization made up of all members of a political party serving within a congressional chamber (e.g., the Senate Republican Conference, the House Democratic Caucus, etc.).


Written statement from any entity other than a state legislature – boards, commissions, cities, towns, individuals – that may affect the proceedings of a committee or Congress in general.

Point of order

A member’s statement to the presiding officer that the chamber (or committee) is taking action contrary to the rules or precedents, and a demand that they be enforced.


A system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action, and funding priorities concerning a given topic communicated by a governmental entity or its representatives.

Popular title

An informal, unofficial name for legislation that may be assigned by the House, Senate, or Congressional Research Service (CRS) to improve access. Popular titles are usually not found within official legislative texts (e.g., the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is commonly known as the health care reform bill).

Procedurally related measure

Legislation that affects consideration of other legislation (e.g., a rule for consideration, a bill ordered to be reported or passed in lieu of another measure).

Pro forma session

A daily session of either chamber held chiefly to avoid the occurrence of either a recess of more than three days within the annual session or an adjournment sine die (either of which would constitutionally require the consent of the other chamber). Pro forma sessions are typically short, with no or very little business conducted.

Public Law

A law or joint resolution that has passed both chambers and has been enacted into law.



Minimum number of members of a chamber (or committee) required for the transaction of certain types of business.

Quorum call

Action to formally determine whether the minimum number of members required to transact business are present. In the Senate, quorum calls are also commonly used as a sort of “time out” in floor proceedings without recessing the chamber.


Ranking member

The most senior (though not necessarily the longest-serving) member of the minority party on a committee (or subcommittee). The ranking member typically oversees minority committee staff and may coordinate involvement of the minority party committee members in committee activities.


A temporary interruption of the House or Senate’s proceedings.


Assignment of a measure to a committee or committees (or subcommittees) for potential consideration.

Roll call vote

A vote that records the individual position of each member who voted.


Short title

An alternative title that may be assigned to a bill upon introduction, committee or chamber action, or enactment. Short titles may name all or portions of the bill’s content.

Simple resolution

A form of legislative measure introduced and potentially acted upon by only one congressional chamber and used for the regulation of business only within the chamber of origin.

Special rule

A resolution reported by the Rules Committee that, if agreed to by the House, sets the terms for debating and amending a specified measure or measures.


A representative or senator who introduces or submits a bill or other measure.


A term sometimes used for a vote on a matter that requires approval by more than a simple majority of those members present and voting, with a quorum being present; also referred to as extraordinary majority.



See official titlepopular title, and short title


Unanimous consent agreement

In the Senate, a proposal that, if agreed to, establishes the procedural guidelines for considering a measure or matter on the floor. If any member objects to such a request, it is not agreed to. Also sometimes called a “UC agreement” or a “time agreement.”

Unanimous consent request

A proposal that all members (of a chamber or committee) agree to set aside one or more chamber or committee rules to take some action otherwise not in order. If any member objects to such a request, it is not agreed to.



Presidential disapproval of a bill or joint resolution presented to him or her for enactment into law. If a president vetoes a bill, it can become law only if the House and Senate separately vote (by two-thirds) to override the veto. A less common form of presidential veto – a pocket veto – occurs if Congress has adjourned without the possibility of returning and the president does not sign the measure within the required 10-day (excluding Sundays) period.