Act: A bill that has passed both chambers and has been signed by the President to become law. Often, a bill may have the word “Act” in its title when it is introduced and does not reflect if it has been officially considered.
Amendment: A change to a bill or motion. An amendment is debated and voted on in the same manner as a bill.
Appropriation: A formal approval to draw funds from the United States Treasury for an authorized program or activity.
Authorization: Legislation that formally establishes a program or activity and sets a funding limit for that program or activity.
Bill: A proposed law that is introduced in the legislature by a Member of Congress. In the House a bill is recognized as H.R. and S. in the Senate.
Chamber: A place where the legislative body meets to conduct business. In the U.S. we have two chambers, one each for the House and Senate respectively.
Committee: A group of legislators in the House or Senate that prepares legislation for action for the officiating chamber. Committees often schedule public hearings to discuss legislative issues. Most action takes place at the subcommittee level.
Concurrent Resolution: Legislation adopted by both Chambers to express the position of Congress. As such a resolution does not have the signature of the President; it does not have the force of law.
Congressional Record: The official transcript of House and Senate proceedings.
Conferees/Conference Committee: The House and Senate appoint conferees to a conference committee to resolve differences between House and Senate passed versions of the same legislation. The Senate Majority Leader and the House Majority Leader appoint conferees.
Continuing Resolution: Legislation passed by both the House and the Senate permitting specific Executive Branch agencies to continue operating even though funds have yet to be appropriated for the following fiscal year.
Cosponsor: When a member of the House or Senate supports a pending bill, but is not the primary sponsor, they sign their name onto the bill as a cosponsor to illustrate their support.
Filibuster: Delaying tactic associated with the Senate and used by the Minority in an effort to prevent the passage of a bill or amendment. Usually threatened but not executed. The House cannot filibuster as all debate is governed by rigid rules crafted by the Rules Committee setting the parameters for discussion and approved by the entire body for each separate piece of legislation. The Senate does not employ a rulemaking process.
Hearing: An occasion in which evidence to support particular points of view can be brought forth to the sponsoring Committee.
Joint Committee: Members of both chambers are appointed to consider matters of common interest. Such committees can speed up the legislative process by consolidating the time for hearings.
Mark up: The process of amending a legislative proposal. Held by the Committee of jurisdiction, committee members can offer amendments, which if successful, changes the legislative language of a particular bill. If the bill is changed drastically the committee might reintroduce the legislation under a new bill.
Majority Leader: The leader of the majority party in the Senate, elected by his/her peers. In the House, the Majority Leader is the second in command in the House after the Speaker of the House and is also elected to that post by his/her peers.
Minority Leader: Leader of the minority party in the House and Senate.
Recess: Adjournment by the House or Senate for at least three days, with a set time for reconvening.
Speaker of the House: Elected by the majority party, the Speaker presides over the House of Representatives during the two-year legislative session.
Whip: Senator or Representative who serves as an internal lobbyist for the Republican or Democratic party to persuade legislators to support their party position, and who counts votes for the leadership in advance of floor action.