Introducing a Senate Bill or Resolution

Introducing a Senate Bill or Resolution
Betsy Palmer
Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
Developing Ideas for Legislation. Ideas and recommendations for legislation
come from a wide variety of sources, from individual Senators, committees and other
Senate work groups, and party and chamber leaders; executive branch agencies and the
White House; states and localities; and ordinary citizens or interest groups. Any or all of
these entities may also participate in drafting measures.1
Some of the most common considerations that may be taken into account when
preparing the initial draft of a bill are
!To which committee is the measure likely to be referred?
!How can the measure attract cosponsors?
!Does the measure have bipartisan appeal?
!Is the measure best introduced early or late in a session of Congress?
!What are the budgetary or appropriations implications?
For more information on legislative process, see
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Senate Office of Legislative Counsel. The Senate Office of Legislative
Counsel usually plays a critical role in drafting legislation, although there is no
requirement that they draft bills or resolutions. Its staff attorneys are both subject-matter
specialists and experts in legislative drafting. The office is at 668 Dirksen Senate Office
Building (4-6461). Legislative counsel staff are often assigned to a committee or
committees, and focus almost exclusively on related policy areas in which they are expert.
They act as nonpartisan, shared staff, working closely with committee members and staff.
Personal office staff assigned responsibility for drafting legislation may seek assistance
from legislative counsel at any stage. Numerous drafts of a bill or resolution may be
required before the measure is formally introduced.
The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration has set the drafting priorities
of the Office of the Legislative Counsel as follows: (1) measures in conference; (2)
measures pending on the floor; (3) measures pending before a committee; and (4)

1 This report was originally prepared by former CRS Specialist Richard C. Sachs. Please direct
any inquiries to the listed author.

measures to be prepared for individual Senators. Within each of these categories, priority
is given to requests in the order they are received.
Guidelines for expediting requests for assistance from the Office of the Legislative
Counsel are to be found on the Senate Webster website. Only Senate offices have access
to Webster. See [].
Seeking Cosponsors. When a Senator introduces a measure, he or she
commonly attaches a form bearing the names of cosponsors. Before the bill is introduced,
Senators may become cosponsors by contacting the office of the chief sponsor and
requesting that their names be added to the bill or resolution. Initial cosponsors can be
added until the measure is presented to the clerk in the Senate chamber. There is no limit
on the number of cosponsors.
One of the most common techniques for informing Senators of the pending
introduction of a bill or resolution, and for soliciting support, is the “Dear Colleague”
letter, sent to most or all Senators. Typically, these letters briefly state the issue the
measure addresses, the measure’s significant features and an appeal to become a
cosponsor. Almost always, they carry the name and phone number of a staff aide to
contact about cosponsoring the bill. (See CRS Report 98-279, Sponsorship and
Cosponsorship of Senate Bills, by Betsy Palmer and CRS Report RL34636, ‘Dear
Colleague’ Letters: Current Practices, by Jacob R. Straus.)
Introducing a Bill or Resolution. Senate Rule VII requires measures to be
introduced from the floor as part of “morning business.” In practice, however, morning
business seldom occurs as provided in Rule VII. Instead, on most days, the Senate
provides by unanimous consent that a period for transacting routine morning business
occur at some point. Senators may introduce measures from the floor during this period.
Also, at the beginning of each new Congress, the Senate adopts a standing order allowing
Senators to introduce measures at any time the chamber is in session by presenting them
to a clerk at the desk. Most measures are introduced in this fashion. However, no bill may
be introduced on a day in which there has been no period for morning business.
To be introduced for Senate consideration, a measure must be signed by the
sponsoring Senator. If Senators wish to accompany the measure with a statement, they
may either deliver the statement during morning business, or at any other time, or they
may ask unanimous consent to insert the statement in the Congressional Record. By
unanimous consent, the text of the measure also is typically included.
Referral. Senate Rule XIV requires that all bills and resolutions be read twice
before they are referred to committees. Committee jurisdictions are set forth in Rule
XXV. Referral decisions are made by the Senate parliamentarian’s office acting on behalf
of the presiding officer. Under the provisions of Rule XVII, a measure is referred to the
committee with “jurisdiction over the subject matter which predominates.” Multiple
referrals occur only occasionally. A procedure in Rule XIV allows an introduced measure
to be placed directly on the calendar of business without being first referred to a standing
committee (see CRS Report RS22309, Senate Rule XIV Procedures for Placing Measures
Directly on the Senate Calendar, by Michael L. Koempel).