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Act: Legislation that has passed both Houses of Congress and approved
by the President, or passed over his veto, thus becoming law. Also used technically
for a bill that has been passed by one House of Congress.
Alien: A person residing under a government or in a country other
than that of one's birth without having or obtaining the status of citizenship there.
Amendment: A proposal by a Member (in committee or floor session
of the respective Chamber) to alter the language or provisions of a bill or act.
It is voted on in the same manner as a bill. The Constitution of the United States,
as provided in Article 5, may be amended when two thirds of each house of Congress
approves a proposed amendment and three fourths of the states thereafter ratify
Anti-Federalists: Opponents of the adoption of the federal Constitution.
Leading Anti-Federalists included George Mason, Elbridge Gerry, Patrick Henry, and
Autonomy: Independence or freedom; the right of self-government.
Bill: Formally introduced legislation. Most legislative proposals
are in the form of bills and are designated as H.R. (House of Representatives) or
S. (Senate), depending on the House in which they originate, and are numbered consecutively
in the order in which they are introduced during each Congress. Public bills deal
with general questions and become Public Laws, or Acts, if approved by Congress
and signed by the President. Private bills deal with individual matters such as
claims against the Federal Government, immigration and naturalization cases, land
titles, et cetera, and become private laws if approved and signed.
Bicameral: The quality of having two branches, chambers, or houses,
such as Congress which is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Calendar: A list of bills, resolutions, or other matters to be
considered before committees or on the floor of either House of Congress.
Checks and Balances: A system of limits imposed on all branches
of a government by vesting in each branch the right to amend or void those acts
of another that fall within its purview.
Citizen: A native or naturalized member of a state or nation who
owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection.
Confirmation: Action by the Senate approving Presidential nominees
for the executive branch, regulatory commissions, and certain other positions.
Concurrent Powers: Duties shared by both the national government
and state governments, such as collecting taxes, building roads, and making/enforcing
Concurrent Resolution: Legislation that relates to the operations
of Congress, including both chambers, or express the collective opinion of both
chambers on public policy issues. A concurrent resolution originating in the House
of Representatives is designated by the letters “H. Con. Res.” followed by a number
and concurrent resolutions introduced in the Senate as “S. Con. Res.” followed by
a number. For example: H. Con. Res. 64.
Decennial: Occurring every ten years.
Democratic: Characterized by the principle of political or social
equality for all.
Dual Federalism: A system of government where the states governed
the people directly and the national government concerned itself with issues relating
to foreign affairs
Elastic Clause: a statement in the U.S. Constitution granting Congress
the power to pass all laws necessary and proper for carrying out the enumerated
list of powers (Article I, Section 8 ).
Enrolled Bill: A copy of a bill passed by both houses of Congress,
signed by their presiding officers, and sent to the President for signature.
Federal: A union of states under a central government distinct
from the individual governments of the separate states
Federalism: A union of states in which sovereignty is divided between
a central authority and member state authorities.
Federalists: A group of people who supported the adoption of the
Constitution. Leading Federalists included Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and
Gerrymandering: Drawing of district lines to maximize the electoral
advantage of a political party or faction. The term was first used in 1812, when
Elbridge Gerry was Governor of Massachusetts, to characterize the State redistricting
Hearing: A meeting or session of a committee of Congress, usually
open to the public, to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation,
conduct an investigation, or oversee a program.
Immigrant: A person who migrates to another country, usually for
Impeachment: A formal accusation issued by a legislature against
a public official charged with crime or other serious misconduct.
Initiative: A procedure by which a specified number of voters may
propose a statute, constitutional amendment, or ordinance, and compel a popular
vote on its adoption.
Joint Resolution: Legislation considered to have the same effect
as a bill. Unlike simple and concurrent resolutions, a joint resolution requires
the approval of the President. Also, a joint resolution may be used to propose amendments
to the Constitution. A joint resolution originating in the House of Representatives
is designated by the letters “H.J. Res.” followed by a number and joint resolutions
introduced in the Senate as “S.J. Res.” followed by a number. For example: S.J.
Judicial Review: The power of a court to judge the constitutionality
of the laws of a government or the acts of a government official.
Legislative Day: A formal meeting of a House of Congress which
begins with the call to order and opening of business and ends with adjournment.
A legislative day may cover a period of several calendar days, with the House recessing
at the end of each calendar day, rather than adjourning.
Line-Item Veto: The power of the executive to disapprove of particular
items of a bill without having to disapprove of the entire bill.
National: A citizen or subject of a particular nation who is entitled
to its protection.
Naturalization: The official act by which a person is made a national
of a country other than his native one.
Pocket Veto: A veto of a bill brought about by an indirect rejection
by the president. The president is granted ten days, Sundays excepted, to review
a piece of legislation passed by Congress. Should he fail to sign a piece of legislation
and Congress has adjourned within those ten days, the bill is automatically killed.
The process of indirect rejection is known as a pocket veto.
Primary Election: An election held to decide which candidates will
be on the November general election ballot.
Private Law: A private bill passed by both the House of Representatives
and the Senate in identical form that has been enacted into law. Private laws only
affect a private individual or individuals. A Private law is designated by the abbreviation
“Pvt. L.” followed by the Congress number (e.g. 104), and the number of the law.
For example: Pvt. L. 104-1.
Public Law: A bill or joint resolution (other than for amendments
to the Constitution) passed by both Houses of Congress and approved by the President.
Bills and joint resolutions vetoed by the President, but overridden by the Congress
also become public law.
Ratification: Two uses of this term are: (1) the act of approval
of a proposed constitutional amendment by the legislatures of the States; (2) the
Senate process of advice and consent to treaties negotiated by the President.
Reapportionment: The process by which seats in the House of Representatives
are reassigned among the States to reflect population changes following the decennial
Redistricting: The process within the States of redrawing legislative
district boundaries to reflect population changes following the decennial census.
Referendum: The submission of a law, proposed or already in effect,
to a direct vote of the people.
Report: The printed record of a committees actions, including
its votes, recommendations, and views on a bill or question of public policy or
its findings and conclusions based on oversight inquiry, investigation, or other
Republic: A state or nation in which the supreme power rests in
all the citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives elected, directly
or indirectly, by them and responsible to them.
Resolution: Legislation introduced in either the House of Representatives
or the Senate, but unlike bills they may be limited in effect to the Congress or
one of its chambers. The three types of resolutions are joint resolutions, simple
resolutions and concurrent resolutions.
Roll Call Vote: There are several different ways of voting in Congress,
one of which is the roll call vote, where the vote of each member is recorded. Not
all bills, in fact, the minority of bills, receive a roll call vote.
Simple Resolution: Legislation that relates to the operations of
a single chamber or expresses the collective opinion of that chamber on public policy
issues. A simple resolution originating in the House of Representatives is designated
by the letters “H. Res.” followed by a number and simple resolutions introduced
in the Senate as “S. Res.” followed by a number. For Example: H. Res. 10.
Statutes At Large: The official source for the laws and resolutions
passed by Congress. Every law, public and private, ever enacted by the Congress
is published in the Statutes at Large in order of the date of its passage. Until
1948, all treaties and international agreements approved by the Senate were also
published in the set.
Sovereign: Above or superior to all others; chief; greatest; supreme
dominion or power.
Tabling Motion: A motion to stop action on a pending proposal and
to lay it aside indefinitely. When the Senate or House agrees to a tabling motion,
the measure which has been tabled is effectively defeated.
Veto: The constitutional procedure by which the President refuses
to approve a bill or joint resolution and thus prevents its enactment into law.
A regular veto occurs when the President returns the legislation to the originating
House without approval. It can be overridden only by a two-thirds vote in each House.
A pocket veto occurs after Congress has adjourned and is unable to override the