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About 'Sense of Congress' Resolutions

They do not make law and are not enforceable

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When members of the House, Senate or entire Congress want to "send a message," or state an opinion, they try to pass a "sense of" resolution. Since such resolutions do not create law, what good are they?

Simple or joint resolutions expressing the "sense of" the Senate, House or Congress merely express a majority opinion. They do not make law and are not enforceable. Only bills and joint resolutions create laws.

"Sense of" legislation can come in the form of Simple Resolutions (H.Res. or S.Res.), used to express the opinion of the House or Senate alone, or as Concurrent Resolutions (H.Con.Res. or S.Con.Res.) used to express the opinion of the entire Congress. "Sense of" resolutions can also be added as amendments to regular House or Senate bills. Even when added to regular bills, "sense of" amendments have no force law.

"Sense of" resolutions are typically used as:

  • For the record: a way for individual members of Congress to go on the record as supporting or opposing a particular policy or concept;

  • Political persuasion: a simple attempt by a group of members to persuade other members to support their cause or opinion;

  • Appeal to the president: an attempt to get the president to take or not take some specific action (such as S.Con.Res. 2, considered by Congress in January 2007, condemning President Bush's order sending over 20,000 additional U.S. troops into the war in Iraq.),

  • On foreign affairs: a way to express the opinion of the people of the United States to the government of a foreign nation; and

  • Just saying "thanks": a way to send the congratulations or gratitude of Congress to individual citizens or groups. For example, congratulating U.S. Olympic champions or thanking military troops for their sacrifice.

"Sense of" resolutions require only a simple majority vote to pass and, since they do not create laws, do not require the signature of the president.

Although "sense of" resolutions have no force in law, foreign governments pay close attention to them as evidence of shifts in U.S. foreign policy priorities.

Finally, no matter how momentous or threatening the language used in "sense of" resolutions may be, remember that they are merely a political tactic and create no laws, whatsoever.

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