Bills, Resolutions, Nominations, and Treaties: Origins, Deadlines, Requirements, and Uses
Bills, Resolutions, Nominations, and Treaties:
Characteristics, Requirements, and Uses
Richard S. Beth
Specialist on the Congress and Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
In each chamber of Congress, four forms of legislative measure may be introduced
(or, for resolutions, submitted) and acted on: bills, joint resolutions, concurrent
resolutions, and resolutions of one house (“simple resolutions”). In addition, under the
Constitution the Senate acts on two forms of executive business: nominations and
treaties. This report provides a tabular comparison of the formal characteristics and uses
of these six different kinds of business. For more information on legislative process, see
[ http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml] .
The rules of the two houses include references to the four types of measure, but
generally take for granted the distinctions among them, which have developed in the
course of congressional history. Today, a bill or joint resolution is used when the purpose
is to make law; a joint resolution is used also for the purpose of proposing an amendment
to the Constitution. The other two forms of resolution are used for internal business of
Congress itself. (For specific examples of how each form of measure is used, see CRS
Report 98-706, Bills and Resolutions: Examples of How Each Kind is Used.) Executive
business is so called because it is transmitted by the President, who must obtain the advice
and consent of the Senate before the nomination or treaty becomes effective.
The following table compares all six of the forms of business on which Congress
acts in terms of the following characteristics:
!Designation: series in which business of each form is numbered.
!Origin: who may formally introduce, submit, or transmit to Congress
business of each form.
!Deadline for action: point at which business of each form ceases to be
available for action (if not earlier disposed of).
!Requirements for approval: institutions that must act for business of
each form to be enacted, finally agreed to, or advised and consented to.
!Product or Use: result of successful action on business of each form.
Table 1. Forms of Business Before Congress
Form of BusinessDesignation aOriginfor action for approvalor Use
Legislative Business (Measures)
Bill S. Introduced byFinal adjournment Both chambers andLaw (statute)
H.R.Member of chamberof a CongressPresident
Joint Resolution S.J.Res. Submitted by Final adjournment Both chambers andLaw (statute)
(except to amend Constitution) H.J.Res.Member of chamber of a CongressPresident
728Joint Resolution S.J.Res.Submitted by Final adjournment Both chambersConstitutional
(to amend Constitution)H.J.Res.Member of chamber of a Congress c(by two-thirds’ vote) camendment
iki/CRS-98-Concurrent ResolutionS.Con.Res. H.Con.Res.Submitted by Member of chamberFinal adjournment of a Congress Both chambersRegulation of Congress as a whole
s.orResolution S.Res. Submitted by Final adjournment Chamber of originRegulation of
leak(“simple resolution”)H.Res.Member of chamber of a Congress chamber of origin
httpNominationPN Transmitted byAdjournment of a session ofSenateConfirmation
or by name Presidentthe Senate, or a Senatee(advice and consent
and positionrecess of over 30 days to appointment)
TreatyTreaty Doc. fTransmitted byIndefinite SenateAdvice and consent
President(by two-thirds’ vote)to ratification
a. Designations beginning with “S.” are used for Senate measures; those beginning with “H.” for House measures. For each form of business, within each Congress, the
designation is followed by a sequence number (e.g., “H.R. 1” or “PN100”).
b. Deadline unless the business is earlier disposed of, or (for nominations and treaties) unless withdrawn by the President.
c. After action by Congress, the amendment must also be ratified by three-fourths of the states, usually within a time period specified in the joint resolution.
d. A PN number designates a Presidential nominating message, which may contain more than one nomination. Conversely, a renominated nominee, or one nominated for
more than one position, will be associated with more than one PN number.
e. Deadline unless, when the Senate recesses or adjourns its session, it orders that nominations, or specified ones, not be returned to the President. The maximum deadline
is the final adjournment of a Congress. th
f. This designation is followed by the number of the Congress and a sequence number (e.g., “Treaty Doc. 110-1”). Before the 97 Congress, the form used was “Ex.” followed
by a sequence letter and the number of the Congress and session (e.g., “Ex. A, 96-1”).