Glossary

Adjourn:  Formally end a meeting of a chamber or committee.

Amendment – A proposed change to a pending text (e.g., a bill, resolution, another amendment, or a treaty [or an associated resolution of ratification]).

Amendment exchange – Also referred to as “amendments between the houses” or, colloquially, “ping-pong.” A method for reconciling differences between the two chambers’ versions of a measure by sending the measure back and forth between them until both have agreed to identical language.

Amendment in the nature of a substitute – Amendment that seeks to replace the entire text of an underlying measure.

Cloture – The method by which a supermajority (typically, three-fifths) of the Senate may agree to limit further debate and consideration of a question (e.g., a bill, amendment, or other matter). Details of the procedural process are provided for in Rule XXII of the Senate standing rules.

Cosponsor – Representatives or Senators who formally sign on to support a measure. Only the first-named Member is the sponsor, all others are cosponsors, even those whose names appeared on the measure at the time it was submitted.

Enacted – Made into law.

En bloc – “All together.” Sometimes a committee or congressional chamber will agree to act concurrently on multiple measures (e.g., bills) or matters (e.g., nominations), thereby considering them “en bloc.”

Filibuster – In the Senate, the use of dilatory or obstructive tactics to delay or block passage of a measure by preventing it from coming to a vote.

Fiscal Year:  A 12-month period different from the calendar year, used for accounting reasons.  The United States Government operates on a fiscal year which runs from October 1 to September 30.  Thus, FY2017 refers to the 12 months ending September 30, 2017.

Joint resolution – A form of legislative measure used to propose changes in law, or to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Depending on the chamber of origin, they begin with a designation of either H.J.Res. or S.J.Res.

Ping-pong – See “Amendment exchange”.

Quorum – Minimum number of members of a chamber (or committee) required for the transaction of certain types of business.

Quorum call – Action to formally ascertain the presence of the minimum number of members required to transact business. In the Senate, quorum calls are also commonly used as a sort of “time out” in floor proceedings without recessing the chamber.

Roll call vote – A vote that records the individual position of each Member who voted. Such votes occurring on the House floor (by the “yeas and nays” or by “recorded vote”) are taken by electronic device. The Senate has no electronic voting system; in such votes, Senators answer “yea” or “nay” as the clerk calls each name aloud. Each vote is compiled by clerks and receives a roll call number (referenced in Congress.gov as a “Record Vote” [Senate] or “Roll no.” [House]).

Sponsor – A Representative or Senator who introduces or submits a bill or other measure.

Suspension of the rules – In the House, a procedure that streamlines consideration of a measure with wide support by prohibiting floor amendments, limiting debate to 40 minutes, and requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. Although rarely used, the Senate may also suspend various rules by a vote of two-thirds following one day’s written notice.

Unanimous Consent: A parliamentary procedure situation, in which no one present objects to a proposal. Not the same as a unanimous vote — in the case of unanimous consent, no vote is actually taken.  Sometimes called general consent. See also “without objection.”

unanimous consent agreement – In the Senate, a proposal that, if agreed to, establishes the procedural guidelines for considering a measure or matter on the floor. If any member objects to such a request, it is not agreed to. Also sometimes called a “UC agreement” or a “time agreement.”

Veto – Presidential disapproval of a bill or joint resolution presented to him for enactment into law. If a president vetoes a bill, it can become law only if the House and Senate separately vote (by two-thirds) to override the veto. A less common form of presidential veto – a pocket veto – occurs if Congress has adjourned without the possibility of returning and the president does not sign the measure within the required 10-day (excluding Sundays) period.

Without Objection: A phrase typically used to request unanimous consent. A shortened form of the phrase “without objection, so ordered.”