A List of Useful Policy Terms

Legislative Glossary

Learn to talk the talk so you can walk the walk. 

Act — Legislation that has passed both Houses of Congress and becomes law

Amendment — A change in a bill or document by adding, substituting or omitting portions of it

Appropriations Bill — Legislation that provides funds for authorized programs

Authorization Bill — Legislation establishing a program and setting funding limits

Bill — Legislation introduced in either the House or Senate

Budget ResolutionConcurrent resolution that establishes spending and revenue targets for the upcoming fiscal year

Caucus — An informal meeting of a group of the members; most commonly based on political party affiliation, but may have other bases, such as gender, race, geographic location or specific issue.

Chamber — Place where the entire House or Senate meets to conduct business; also, the House of Representatives or the Senate itself

Cloture — Method of limiting debate or ending a filibuster in the Senate. At least 60 Senators must vote in favor before cloture can be invoked

Committee A body of members appointed by the presiding officer (or another authority specified by the chamber) to consider and make recommendations concerning disposition of bills, resolutions and other related matters.

  • Conference committee A committee composed of members from the two houses specifically appointed to reconcile the differences between House and Senate versions of a bill or bills.
  • Interim committee A committee established to study or investigate certain matters between annual or biennial legislative sessions and to report to the next regular session.
  • Joint committee A committee composed of members from both chambers.
  • Standing committee A committee appointed with continuing responsibility in a general issue area or field of legislative activity.

Constituent — A citizen residing within the district of a legislator.

Continuing Resolution — A joint resolution to appropriate funds, usually for a short period of time and often in the absence of a regular appropriations bill

Cosponsor — Legislator who joins in sponsoring legislation but who is not the principal sponsor or the one who introduced the legislation

Filibuster — Tactic used in the Senate whereby a minority intentionally delays a vote

Dissent — Difference of opinion; to cast a negative vote.

Introducer — The person (usually a legislator) who presents a bill or resolution for consideration; may be joined by others, who are known as cointroducer. See also: author, patron, sponsor

Introduction — The formal presentation of a proposal after it has been drafted.

Item veto — An action taken by the governor to prevent the enactment of an item of an appropriation bill; also may be called line-item veto.

Joint session — A combined meeting of the Senate and House in one chamber.

Lame Duck — Senator or representative (or the president) who has not been reelected but whose term has not yet expired

Lobbying — The process of attempting to influence the passage, defeat or content of legislation by individuals or a group other than legislators

Majority Leader — Chief spokesman and strategist for the majority party, elected by members of the majority party. In the House, the majority leader is often the second-ranking lawmaker, behind the Speaker of the House

Minority LeaderChief spokesman and strategist for the minority party, elected by members of the minority party

Omnibus Bill — Bill regarding a single subject that combines many different aspects of that subject

Quorum — The number of senators or representatives who must be present before a legislative body can conduct official business

Ranking Members — The members of the majority and minority party on a committee; next in seniority after the chairman.

Ratify To approve and make valid.

Referral — The assigning or referring of a bill to committee.

Resolution — A document that expresses the sentiment or intent of the legislature or a chamber, that governs the business of the legislature or a chamber, or that expresses recognition by the legislature or a chamber.

Sequestration — The permanent cancellation of budgetary resources by a uniform percentage, applied to all programs, projects, and activities within a budget account

Simple Majority — One more than half of those voting on a question.

Speaker — The presiding officer of the House, elected by members of the House

Sponsor — The representative or senator who introduces a measure

Yield — To relinquish the floor to another member to speak or ask a question.

For more information, contact Eric Storey, the ABA’s Director of Grassroots and Digital Advocacy by email or by calling (202) 662-1770.