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Glossary of Legislative and Media Terms

Legislative Terms - Legislative Glossary

Legislative Terms


A bill or measure after it passes one or both chambers of Congress; also used to describe a law that is in place.



The end of a legislative day and any business of that day; different from recess, which does not end the day.


adjournment sine die

Adjournment without formally setting the next meeting time; used to call the end of the Congressional session.


advice and consent

The constitutional power Senate has to weigh in on and confirm any Presidential appointments or international treaties.



A proposal by a member of Congress to change the language, provisions or stipulations in a bill, resolution, amendment, motion, treaty or in another amendment. The House Rules Committee predetermines the number and type of amendments that are relevant to a particular bill when it goes to the House floor. In the Senate, any senator may offer an amendment on the Senate floor.



Legislation that provides funds for a specific purpose.



The legislative action that establishes a program and the general amount of money to fund that program; the program is not given funds until there is an appropriation.



A proposed law.



The House and Senate appoint conferees to a conference committee to resolve differences between House and Senate-passed versions of the same legislation.


discretionary funds

Funds that a federal or state agency can award without publishing annual funding priorities.


majority leader

The leader of the majority party in the Senate is called the majority leader. The majority leader in the House is second in command of the majority party, after the speaker.



The process by which congressional committees and subcommittees debate, amend and rewrite proposed legislation.


minority leader

The leader of the minority party in the House or Senate.


ranking member

The member of the majority party who ranks first in seniority after the chair on a committee or subcommittee.


ranking minority member

The highest ranking (and usually longest-serving) minority member of a committee or subcommittee.



A temporary interruption of business; unlike adjournment. Generally, the Senate recesses (rather than adjourns) at the end of each calendar 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.



A formal statement of a decision or opinion by the House or Senate or both. A simple resolution is made by one chamber and generally deals with that chamber's rules or prerogatives. A concurrent resolution is presented in both chambers and usually expresses a Congressional view on a matter not within Congressional jurisdiction. A joint resolution also requires approval in both chambers and goes to the president for approval. Simple and concurrent resolutions do not go to the president.



A provision added to a bill so it may “ride” to approval on the strength of the bill. Generally, riders are placed on appropriations bills. Also known as “pork barrel” legislation.


Speaker of the House

Presides over the House of Representatives. Elected, in effect, by the majority party in the House; next in the line of succession to the presidency after the vice president.


table a bill

A proposal to remove a bill from immediate consideration; often used to kill a measure.


unanimous consen

A time-saving procedure for non-controversial measures whereby measures are adopted without a vote. A member simply says “I ask unanimous consent for...” and states the proposal.



A legislator who is chosen to be assistant to the leader of the party. Whips are chosen in both the House and the Senate.


*The following documents were gratefully consulted to compile this list:

  • The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Glossary of Legislative Terms
  • The American Academy of Adolescent & Child Psychology Glossary of Legislative Terms
  • The Capitol.net Glossary of Congressional and Legislative Terms
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