|Abbreviations Used in the U.S. Congress|
Common terms and abbreviations used in discussion of legislation and related actions of the United States Congress.
Bills: The most common form of legislation; may be public or private.
H.R. - House Bill
S. - Senate Bill
Public Bills: Deal with issues of a general nature. If approved by both houses of Congress (the House and the Senate) in identical form and signed by the President (or re-passed by the Congress over a Presidential veto), they become "Public Laws."
Private Bills: Deal with matters of concern to individuals, such as claims against the Federal government, immigration or naturalization cases, or land titles. They become "Private Laws" if approved by Congress and signed by the President or enacted over his veto.
Resolutions: Resolutions may be of 3 types: simple, joint, and concurrent.
H.RES. - House Resolution (Simple)
S.RES. - Senate Resolution (Simple)
H.J.RES. - House Joint Resolution
S.J.RES. - Senate Joint Resolution
H.CON.RES. - House Concurrent Resolution
S.CON.RES. - Senate Concurrent Resolution
Simple Resolutions: Deal with matters concerning the operation of either house alone -- for example, waiving certain parliamentary procedures for consideration of a specific bill, fixing the spending levels for certain legislative committees, or changing the standing rules of a single house of Congress.
Joint Resolutions: There is little practical difference between bills and joint resolutions, although the latter are not as numerous as bills. Usually joint resolutions concern limited or temporary matters, such as a continuing or emergency appropriation. Like bills, joint resolutions also have the force of law, upon approval of both houses of Congress and the signature of the President.
Concurrent Resolutions: Are limited in nature. They are not legislative in character, and are not presented to the President for action. They are used to express facts, opinions, principles and purposes of the two houses, such as fixing the time and date for adjournment of a Congress.
Continuing Resolution: known as a "CR," continues funding for a program if the fiscal year ends without a new appropriation in place. A "CR" provides temporary funding at current levels or less.
Other Terms You'll See
Cloture (Senate): the formal procedure used to end a filibuster. It can take up to three days and requires 60 votes. If cloture wins, 30 additional hours of debate are allowed prior to voting, but they are rarely used. If cloture fails, debate would continue without limits. Instead, the bill is usually set aside.
Rescission Bill: cancels previously approved but unspent funds. Congress or the president may propose it. Rescissions must receive approval from congress within 45 days of the request to cancel allotted funds.
"Suspension(s)" of the rules: A special procedure used to speed up action by setting aside the regular rules. Bills brought up under this process are debated for 40 minutes, may not be amended and require a 2/3 vote.