Bills and Resolutions: Examples of How Each Kind is Used

Bills and Resolutions:
Examples of How Each Kind Is Used
Richard S. Beth
Specialist on the Congress and Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
When Congress seeks to pass a law, it uses a bill or joint resolution, which must be
passed by both houses in identical form, then presented to the President for his approval
or disapproval. To regulate its own internal affairs, or for other purposes where authority
of law is not necessary, Congress uses a concurrent resolution (requiring adoption by both
houses) or a simple resolution (requiring action only in the house of origin). More
detailed descriptions appear in CRS Report 98-728, Bills, Resolutions, Nominations, and
Treaties: Characteristics, Requirements, and Uses.
Congress may use each of the four forms of measure it employs for a variety of
purposes. This report identifies the most prevalent uses of each and, as appropriate, gives
brief explanations of these uses. For more information on legislative process, see
[] .
Bills (H.R. or S.)
!Authorization or reauthorization of federal policies, programs, and
!Amendment of existing law (sometimes also by joint resolution)
!Establishment of federal departments and agencies, or alteration of their
!Revenue (tax) legislation (originates in House only)
!Regular annual general appropriations
!Supplemental appropriations (sometimes also by joint resolution)
!Reconciliation bill (alters spending authority pursuant to instructions in
a congressional budget resolution)
!Private bill (provides specified benefits to named individuals)
Joint Resolutions (S.J.Res. or H.J.Res.)
!“Incidental, inferior, or unusual purposes of legislation” (House Manual,
section 397)
!Proposed constitutional amendment (requires two-thirds vote in each
!Declaration of war

!Continuing resolution (extends appropriations for specified purposes
until regular appropriations are enacted)
!Transfer of appropriations
!Adjustment of debt limit
!Abrogation of treaty
!Alteration of date for convening of Congress
!Resolution of disapproval or approval (of specified executive action
pursuant to a statute making a contingent delegation of authority)
!Extension of expiration or reporting dates under existing law (e.g., date
for President to submit budget)
!Congratulations, condolences, welcomes, thanks, etc. (also by simple or
concurrent resolution)
Concurrent Resolutions (S.Con.Res. or H.Con.Res.)
!Congressional budget resolution (sets targets for spending and revenue,
procedurally enforceable against subsequent legislation; may set
instructions to committees for reconciliation bill)
!Adjournment sine die
!Recess of either or both houses of more than three days
!Providing for a joint session of Congress
!Creation of a joint committee
!Correction of conference reports or enrolled bills
!Request for return of measures presented to the President
!“Sense of Congress” resolution (expresses “fact, principles, opinions, and
purposes of the two houses,” House Manual, section 396. “Sense of
Congress” provisions may also appear in lawmaking measures)
Simple Resolutions (H.Res. or S.Res.)
!Adoption or amendment of chamber rules
!Special rule (for considering a measure) or other “order of business
resolution” (House)
!Establishment of a standing order (principally Senate)
!Privileges of the House resolution (principally House; to secure a
chamber’s rights, safety, dignity, or integrity of proceedings, House Rule
!“Blue slip resolution” (House; returns a Senate tax measure as violating
House privilege to originate revenue measures)
!Personal privilege of individual Member
!Disposition of contest to a Member’s election
!Expulsion of a Member (requires two-thirds vote)
!Censure or other discipline of a Member
!Citation for contempt of Congress
!Authorization of response to subpoena by Members or employees
!Resolution of ratification (advice and consent to treaty; Senate)
!Election of committee members or chamber officers
!Committee funding

!Expenditures from chamber’s contingent fund (e.g., printing House and
Senate documents, also by concurrent resolution)
!Creation of a special or select committee (e.g., investigating committee)
!Resolution of inquiry (requests factual information from executive
branch; principally House)
!Providing notifications to other house, President, etc.
!Request for other house to return a measure (for technical corrections)
!Discharge of committee from a measure, nomination, or treaty (Senate)
!Instructions to conferees already appointed (Senate)
!Commemorative periods (formerly by joint resolution)
!“Sense of the Senate” or “sense of the House” resolution (expresses fact,
principles, opinions, or purposes of one house, House Manual, section

395; such provisions may also appear in lawmaking measures)