Senate Glossary Terms A – C
Adjourn for more than 3 days – Under the Constitution, neither chamber may adjourn for more than three days without the approval of the other. Such approval is obtained in a concurrent resolution approved by both chambers.
act – Legislation (a bill or joint resolution, see below) which has passed both chambers of Congress in identical form, been signed into law by the President, or passed over his veto, thus becoming law. Technically, this term also refers to a bill that has been passed by one house and engrossed (prepared as an official copy).
adjourn – A motion to adjourn in the Senate (or a committee) ends that day’s session.
adjournment to a day and time certain – An adjournment of the Senate that fixes the day and time for its next session.
amendment – A proposal to alter the text of a pending bill or other measure by striking out some of it, by inserting new language, or both. Before an amendment becomes part of the measure, the Senate must agree to it.
appeal – When the Chair rules on a point of order, any Senator may appeal the ruling, in which case the full Senate makes a final decision on the point of order by voting whether to sustain or reverse the ruling.
authorization – A statutory provision that obligates funding for a program or agency. An authorization may be effective for one year, a fixed number of years, or an indefinite period. An authorization may be for a definite amount of money or for “such sums as may be necessary.” The formal federal spending process consists of two sequential steps: authorization and then appropriation.
balanced budget – A budget in which receipts equal outlays.
baseline – Projection of the receipts, outlays, and other budget amounts that would ensue in the future without any change in existing policy. Baseline projections are used to gauge the extent to which proposed legislation, if enacted into law, would alter current spending and revenue levels.
bill – The principal vehicle employed by lawmakers for introducing their proposals (enacting or repealing laws, for example) in the Senate. Bills are designated S. 1, S. 2, and so on depending on the order in which they are introduced. They address either matters of general interest (“public bills”) or narrow interest (“private bills”), such as immigration cases and individual claims against the Federal government.
budget resolution – Legislation in the form of a concurrent resolution setting forth the congressional budget. The budget resolution establishes various budget totals, divides spending totals into functional categories (e.g., transportation), and may include reconciliation instructions to designated House or Senate committees.
caucus – From the Algonquian Indian language, a caucus meant “to meet together.” An informal organization of Members of the House or the Senate, or both, that exists to discuss issues of mutual concern and possibly to perform legislative research and policy planning for its members. There are regional, political or ideological, ethnic, and economic-based caucuses.
class – Article I, section 3 of the Constitution requires the Senate to be divided into three classes for purposes of elections. Senators are elected to six-year terms, and every two years the members of one class—approximately one-third of the Senators—face election or reelection. Terms for Senators in Class I expire in 2007, Class II in 2009, and Class III in 2011.
cloakroom – Democratic and Republican cloakrooms adjacent to the Senate chamber serve as gathering places for party members to discuss chamber business privately.
committee calendar – Senate committees periodically publish a committee calendar that lists the bills and resolutions referred to them, action taken on those measures, and other relevant information.
committee jurisdiction – The subjects and functions assigned to a committee by rule, resolution, precedent, or practice, including legislative matters, oversight and investigations, and nominations of executive officers.