Glossary of Legislative Terms: Learn What The Terms Mean

Glossary of Legislative Terms: Learn What The Terms Mean

action codes
Action Codes identify stages that condense detailed legislative action steps.

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, which in current practice also authorizes leaders of either chamber to reconvene its session if circumstances warrant.


A proposed change to a pending text (e.g., a bill, resolution, another amendment, or a treaty [or an associated resolution of ratification]).

See also Proposed/offered Senate amendment and Submitted Senate amendment.

amendment exchange
Also referred to as “amendments between the houses” or, colloquially, “ping-pong.” A method for reconciling differences between the two chambers’ versions of a measure by sending the measure back and forth between them until both have agreed to identical language.

amendment in the nature of a substitute
Amendment that seeks to replace the entire text of an underlying measure.

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

The primary form of legislative measure used to propose law. Depending on the chamber of origin, bills begin with a designation of either H.R. or S.

Joint resolution is another form of legislative measure used to propose law.

bill summary
Upon introduction of a bill or resolution in the House or Senate, legislative analysts in the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress write a short summary that objectively describes the measure’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. Bill summaries are written as a result of a congressional action and may not always correspond to a document published by the Government Publishing Office. A final public law summary is prepared upon enactment into law.

Each summary description identifies the date and version of the measure: e.g., Passed House (03/08/2019).

budget resolution
A measure (provided for by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, as amended) that sets forth a congressional budget plan, including aggregate budgetary levels, which may be enforced during the subsequent consideration of spending and revenue legislation. It is in the form of a concurrent resolution (e.g., an H.Con.Res or an S.Con. Res), not a law-making vehicle; as such, it is not submitted to the president.

by request
A designation on a measure indicating that the member has introduced the measure on behalf of someone else (e.g., the President or an executive branch agency), or pursuant to statutory requirements, and may not necessarily support its provision. See bills introduced by request.


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