Glossary of Legislative Terms

Act Legislation that has passed in both the House and the Senate, and becomes law.
Amendment A change to a bill, motion, or article of the Constitution.
Appropriation A formal approval to draw funds from the Treasury for specific purposes.
Authorization A law that creates a program and sets funding limits. Funds are actually drawn from the Treasury and the determined amount is established by appropriation.
Bill A proposed law.
Budget The president's annual proposal to Congress, usually submitted in January, for federal expenditures and revenues for the coming fiscal year budget.
Budget Resolution House and Senate-passed guidelines, and later caps, on federal budget authority and resolution outlays. It is a matter of internal congressional rules and procedure, and therefore is not submitted to the President for signature or veto. Bills that would exceed budget caps are subject to a point of order—although waivers have been granted in both houses.
Cloture A method of limiting debate or ending a filibuster in the Senate. For cloture to occur, 60 of the 100 Senators must vote in favor of it.
Conference Committee A committee comprised of senators and representatives appointed to resolve differences between House- and Senate-passed versions of the same legislation.
Continuing Resolution Continuing a resolution enacted to allow specific executive branch agencies to continue operating even though funds have not been appropriated for them for the following fiscal year.
Co-sponsor A senator or representative who joins in sponsoring a piece of legislation but is not the one who introduced the legislation. A large number of Co-sponsors increases a bill's chance for consideration.
Filibuster A delaying tactic to prevent action in the Senate by speaking continuously.
Fiscal Year The federal government's fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.
Hearing Meetings of committees or subcommittees to gather information on the ramifications of proposed legislation, investigate problems, or explore issues. Witnesses present testimony and answer questions.
Lame Duck A member of Congress (or the president) who has not been re-elected but whose term has not yet ended.
Lobbying Attempts by individuals or groups who are not members of Congress to influence the passage, defeat, or content of legislation.
Majority Leader The leader of the majority party and the most powerful position in the Senate. In the House, the floor leader and principal assistant to the speaker (the most powerful position in the House).
Mark-Up After hearings, members of a committee or subcommittee examine a proposed piece of legislation line by line to determine what additions or deletions should be made.
Member A U.S. senator or U.S. representative.
Minority Leader The leader of the minority party in the House or the Senate.
Omnibus Bill A bill that combines many different aspects of a particular subject, often employed during the budget process.
Override a Veto When both the House and the Senate vote by two-thirds majority to set aside a presidential veto of legislation.
Point of Order An objection by a member of Congress that the pending matter or proceeding is in violation of the rules.
Report A printed record of a committee's actions and views on a particular bill or matter.
Speaker of The House The presiding officer of the House, leader of the majority party in the House, and next in line to the vice president for succession to the presidency. One of the most powerful offices in Washington.
Sponsor The representative or senator who introduces a bill or resolution.
Whip The senator or representative who serves as an internal lobbyist for the Republican or Democratic party to persuade legislators to support the party's position and who counts the votes for the leadership in advance of floor action.