Guide to Senate Records: Appendix E
Appendix E - Glossary of Legislative and Archival Terms
The following glossary of legislative and archival terms is selective, covering terms used in the text of this volume to describe the records of the House of Representatives, the offices and types of committees that created and/or maintained them, and the legislative processes that resulted in the creation of the records. It does not include most of the technical procedural terms used by Congress. For definitions of these terms, see Congressional Quarterly's Guide to Congress, 3d edition (Washington: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1982).
Accompanying papers: Petitions, affidavits, letters, and other papers that support or oppose claims for damages, pensions, or other forms of relief for which a private bill has been introduced, or papers relating to public bills. Accompanying papers appeared as a separate House series from the 39th through the 57th Congress (1865-1903). Before 1865 these records were filed with committee papers. The series known as "papers accompanying specific bills and resolutions" begins in the 58th Congress (1903-5) and includes published and unpublished records relating to specific bills and resolutions.
Adjournment sine die: Adjournment without definitely fixing a day for reconvening; literally "adjournment without a day." Usually used to denote the final adjournment of a session of Congress.
Administrative records: See Housekeeping records.
Act: (1) As used by Congress, a bill that has been passed by one House and engrossed. (2) As commonly used, a bill that has been passed by both Houses of Congress, enrolled, and either signed by the President or passed over his veto.
See also Bill, Private law, Public law and Veto.
Amendment: (1) A change made in proposed legislation after it has been formally introduced. An amendment may be proposed by the committee to which the bill was referred, or it may be proposed by a Member from the floor of either House when it is brought up for consideration. All amendments must be agreed to by a majority of the Members voting in the House where the amendment is proposed. (2) A change in the Constitution. Such an amendment is usually proposed in the form of a joint resolution of Congress, which may originate in either House. If passed, it does not go to the President for his approval but is submitted directly to the States for ratification.
Architect of the Capitol: The official who acts as the agent of Congress and is responsible for the maintenance of the Capitol and its grounds, House and Senate office buildings, Capitol Power Plant, Senate garage, R. A. Taft Memorial, buildings and grounds of the Supreme Court and Library of Congress, and operation of the Botanic Gardens and the Senate and House restaurants. The architect is responsible for the acquisition of property and the planning and construction of congressional buildings. He or she assists in deciding which works of art, historical objects, and exhibits are to be accepted for display in the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings. The flag office that flies American flags over the Capitol is under the Architect's direction.
Archives: (1) The noncurrent records of an organization preserved because of their enduring value; also referred to, in this sense, as archival materials or holdings. See also Permanent records. (2) The agency responsible for preserving this material. (3) The building where such materials are located.
Arrangement: (1) The order in which documents are filed. (2) A logical plan for organizing records, such as chronologically, numerically, or alphabetically by name or subject. (3) The process of packing, labeling, and shelving of records and manuscripts intended to achieve physical or administrative control and basic identification of the holdings. The term unarranged refers to materials that have no apparent systematic order applied to them.
Bill: A written presentation to a legislative body proposing certain legislation for enactment into law. Bills may originate in either House, except as noted below, and must be passed by both Houses and approved by the President before they become law or, if disapproved by the President, must be passed over his veto by a two-thirds vote of each House. If a bill is passed within the 10-day period preceding the adjournment of Congress, the President may withhold approval and the bill will die (pocket veto). Bills for raising revenue, according to the Constitution, must originate in the House of Representatives, and bills for appropriating money customarily originate in the House. A bill is referred to in the following manner: H.R. 120, 70th Cong. 1st sess.
- Original bill: A bill in the form in which it was introduced,
handwritten or typewritten or a printed copy of a like bill that had been introduced in an earlier
Congress. A bill, after introduction, is assigned a number and is printed.
- Bill file: A type of case file containing materials relating to a
particular bill. It may include some or all of the following: copies of bills, reports, committee
prints, and printed hearings and transcripts of executive session hearings. Before the
establishment of a systematic collection of bill files in 1903, material on certain bills and
resolutions for the 39th through 57th Congresses is found in the accompanying papers
series. Another and equivalent term is "papers accompanying specific bills and resolutions." See
also case file.
- Reported copy of a bill: The copy of a bill that has been
discharged by a committee for consideration on the floor of the House. Such a bill is usually
placed on one of the House calendars but may be brought up for immediate consideration
without being placed on a calendar.
- Engrossed bill: The final printed copy of a bill as it passed the
House of origin and is sent to the other House for further action, or having passed the other
House also, is sent back to the House of origin for enrollment. The engrossed copy of a bill that
has passed both Houses together with its engrossed amendments is the official working copy
from which an enrolled bill is prepared.
- Enrolled bill: The final copy of an engrossed bill that has passed
both Houses, embodying all amendments. Such a bill is printed on paper (formerly copied by a
clerk in a fair, round hand on parchment) and is signed first by the Speaker of the House and
second by the President of the Senate. On the back is an attestation by the Clerk of the House or
the Secretary of the Senate, as the case may be, indicating the House of origin. The enrolled bill
is presented to the President for his approval or disapproval. Some enrolled bills that were
vetoed are among the records of the House of Representatives or Senate. Approved bills are in
the General Records of the U.S. Government in the National Archives, those approved before
May 24, 1950, having been received from the Secretary of State. Those after that date were
received from the Office of the Federal Register. See also Veto.
- Committee calendar: A chronological listing that is used by a
committee to record bills and resolutions referred to the committee and to indicate the status of
matters the committee is considering. Committees sometimes include additional information in
their published calendar. See also docket.
- Consent calendar: A calendar that is used by Members to speed
consideration of measures that are considered non-controversial. Bills are called up for
consideration regularly twice a month.
- Discharge calendar: The calendar to which motions to discharge
are referred when the discharge motion has the required 218 Members' signatures. A motion to
discharge a committee is an action to relieve a committee from jurisdiction over a measure before
it. This is attempted more often in the House than in the Senate, and is rarely successful. Any
Member may file a discharge motion 30 days after a bill is referred to committee. Such a motion
requires 218 signatures in the House and is delayed seven days after the signatures have been
obtained. On the second and fourth Mondays of each month a signing Member may be
recognized to move that the committee be discharged. This seldom-used calendar forces debate
on discharge motions on the House floor because a bill or resolution has been bottled up in
committee for more than 30 days, and a majority of the House wants to consider that measure.
See also Quorum.
- House Calendar: A calendar or scheduling for action by the
House on which are placed all public bills or joint resolutions not raising revenue or directly or
indirectly appropriating money or property.
- Private Calendar: A calendar of the Committee of the Whole
House on which all bills or joint resolutions of a private character are placed. See also Private
- Union Calendar: A calendar of the Committee of the Whole
House on the State of the Union, on which are placed revenue bills, general appropriation bills,
and bills of a public character directly or indirectly appropriating money or
Chronological file: See Reading file.
Clerk of the House: The chief administrative officer of the House. The Clerk acts as presiding officer pending the election of the Speaker; makes up the roll of House Members from certificates of election; makes up and publishes a list of reports that are, by law, to be submitted to Congress; prepares and prints the Journal; certifies the passage of bills and resolutions; attests and seals warrants and subpoenas; keeps contingent and stationery accounts; acts as custodian of property; pays the salaries of all House personnel except those of Members and Delegates; is custodian of all noncurrent records; and supervises the House Library. See also Delegate.
Committee: A body of Members, usually limited in number, appointed under House rules or by resolution, to consider some matter of business (e.g., investigations or legislation) and to report thereon to the House for further action. Only a full committee can report legislation for action by the House or Senate.
- Committee of the Whole House: A committee that is formed by
the House resolving itself into a committee. The Committee of the Whole House can act with a
quorum of only 100 Members instead of the 218 required for action by the House itself. It does
not originate resolutions or bills but receives those devised by standing or select committees and
referred to it. Any legislation favorably acted on by the Committee of the Whole House must be
reported to the House for further action. Such measures, however, must first have passed
through the regular legislative or appropriation committees and be placed on the appropriate
calendar. When the Committee of the Whole House reports, the House usually acts at
once on the report without referring the matter again to select or other
- Conference committee: A committee appointed by the Speaker
and the President of the Senate to resolve disagreements on a bill passed in different versions in
each House. It is composed usually of the ranking Members of the committees of each House
that originally considered the legislation.
- Select or special committee: A committee appointed to perform
a special function that is beyond the authority or capacity of a standing committee. A select
committee is usually created by a simple resolution, which outlines its duties and powers, and its
Members are appointed under the rules of their respective Houses. A select committee expires
on completion of its assigned duties. Most special committees are investigative in nature rather
- Joint committee: A committee consisting of Members of both
Houses and having jurisdiction over matters of joint interest. Most joint committees are standing
committees, but special joint committees are created at times.
- Standing committee: A committee permanently authorized by
House and Senate rules. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 greatly reduced
the number of committees. The powers and duties of each committee are set forth in the rules of
the House and Senate, and the membership is elected on motion or resolution from the floor at
the beginning of each Congress.
- Subcommittee: A subdivision of a standing committee that
considers specified matters and reports back to the full committee.
Committee jurisdiction: Subjects each committee is expected to cover as specified in rules published in House and Senate manuals. Jurisdictions can never be drawn to cover all contingencies and intercommittee cooperation is essential.
Committee meeting minutes: See Minute book.
Committee papers: A series of documents created or received by a committee in the course of considering proposed legislation or in conducting investigations that may assist in formulating legislation. The series may consist of correspondence, hearings, reports, minutes of meetings, dockets, calendars, and miscellaneous work papers. The content of this series varies considerably through time. Papers that relate to private bills and some papers that relate to public bills were filed as accompanying papers from the 39th Congress through the 57th Congress.
Committee print: A general term used for a variety of publications issued by congressional committees on subjects related to their legislative or research activities. These publications are generally viewed as internal background information publications, and some are not announced for public distribution. Committee prints are of two kinds: (1) reports related to legislative activities such as investigative and oversight hearings, and (2) reports of results of research activities. Some committees have their own research staffs; others use outside consultants, and most use the staff of the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress to produce situation studies, statistical or historical information reports, or legislative analyses.
Concurrent resolution: See Resolution.
Conference: A meeting of representatives of the two Houses for the purpose of reaching agreement on conflicting versions of a bill or joint resolution or parts thereof passed in each House in order to have an agreed-upon version to send to the President. The conference version of the bill approved by a majority of the members appointed by each chamber to this ad hoe committee must be passed by both Houses before being sent to the President. See Committee, thereunder Conference committee; see also Report, thereunder Conference report.
Congress: (1) The national legislature as a whole, including both the House and the Senate. (2) The united body of senators and representatives for any term of two years for which the whole body is chosen. A Congress lasts for a period of two years and usually has two sessions, but it may consist of three or more sessions. Before the adoption of the 20th amendment to the Constitution in 1933, a session of Congress began on the first Monday in December of each year, each odd-numbered year marking the beginning of a new Congress. Now a regular session of Congress begins on January 3 of each year and a new Congress begins January 3 of every odd-numbered year.
Congressional Record: The daily, printed account of the proceedings in both the House and Senate Chambers, recording floor debates, statements, and floor actions. Highlights of legislative and committee action are embodied in a "Daily Digest" section of the Record, and Members are entitled to have their extraneous remarks printed in an appendix known as "Extension of Remarks." Members may edit and revise remarks made on the floor during debate, and quotations from debate reported by the press are not always found in the Record. The Congressional Record is printed for the convenience of the Members. The only official record kept of the proceedings of the Senate or House is the Journal of each body.
Congressional Serial Set: A special edition of publications of the U.S. House and Senate and such other publications as Congress orders to be printed in it, also known as the Congressional Edition, the Congressional Set, and the United States Serial Set. The reports and documents of the House or Senate that comprise the set are assigned numbers within each Congress and category. The volumes of the set are numbered serially beginning in 1817 and continuing in an unbroken sequence to the present. The Serial Set is available at designated depository libraries throughout the United States. Each publication is entered and identified in the Monthly Catalog. Since 1969, items in the Congressional Serial Set are cited in the following manner: H. Doc. 91-1, etc. See also Document and Report.
Contingent fund: A sum appropriated for lawful but miscellaneous expenses of each House. The Clerk of the House maintains that body's account which includes purchase of stationery, newspapers, and other incidental expenses.
Delegate: A nonvoting representative of one of the territories or of a district organized by law who receives the compensation, allowances, and benefits of a Member of the House and is entitled to the privileges and immunities of Members. Delegates have a right to vote in committee and otherwise participate in House floor activities. The citizens of Puerto Rico are represented by a Resident Commissioner who has the same rights as a Delegate. At the organization of the House during the opening of the first session, Delegates and the Resident Commissioner are sworn but the Clerk of the House does not put them on the roll for voting.
Depository libraries: Selected libraries that participate in the congressionally established Depository Library Program. The program's plan makes available Government publications to each State's citizens. The object is to make selected Government publications widely available for the free use of the general public. The number of libraries located in each State corresponds to the number of congressional districts. Regional depository libraries (two per state) permanently keep depository material received from the Superintendent of Public Documents.
Discharge a committee: See Calendar, thereunder Discharge calendar.
Docket: A book in which all matters referred to a committee for its consideration are registered numerically, together with the actions taken on them. See also Calendar, thereunder Committee calendar.
Document: (1) A physical entity of any substance on which is recorded all or part of a work or multiple works. Documents include books and booklike materials, printed sheets, graphics, manuscripts, audiorecordings, videorecordings, motion pictures, and machine-readable data files. (2) A general term used to designate official materials issued in the name of the House. (3) Beginning with the 15th Congress, the copy of material that was printed by order of the House or Senate. Printed documents from the 30th through the 53d Congress were identified as either miscellaneous or executive documents, which see below. This distinction has disappeared and House documents are referred to in the following manner: H. Doc. 25, 54th Cong., 1st sess.
- Executive document: A document that originated with an
agency in the executive branch of the Government and was printed by order of the House or
Senate. House executive documents were numbered in each Congress and were designated in the
following manner: H. Ex. Doc. 49, 30th Cong., 1st sess. In 1895 the series was consolidated
with the Miscellaneous Document series, and the resulting series became known as House
- Miscellaneous documents: Petitions, memorials,
communications from non-governmental sources, special reports, reports from independent
agencies, and other miscellaneous items that were ordered printed by the House. These were
numbered in each Congress in the following manner: H. Misc. Doc. 23, 53d Cong., 1st sess. In
1895 this series was consolidated with the Executive Document series, and the resulting series
became known simply as House Documents.
Electoral college: See Electors.
Electoral vote: (1) The vote cast by an elector for the President of the United States. (2) The aggregation of the votes of all electors in a Presidential election.
Electors: Those chosen by vote of the people to the electoral college, the function of which is to elect the President of the United States. Each state has as many electors as it has Members of the House of Representatives plus its two Members of the Senate.
Endorsement: The writing on the outside or cover of a bill, report, petition or memorial, or other document, giving a brief description of the document, by whom submitted or presented, date of referral, and either the name of the committee to which it was referred or other disposition that might have been made.
Executive communications: Texts of various communications to the Congress which are recorded as House Documents. They include Presidential messages proposing new legislation for consideration by the Congress or vetoing legislation passed by the Congress. Also included for a signed bill is the statement by the President that describes the benefits to be derived from the new law and acknowledges the legislators and other interested parties who were closely associated with promoting the legislation. In addition, annual and special reports to Congress from various executive agencies are published as House and, occasionally, Senate Documents. Often these agency reports are transmitted by Presidential message. However, they may come directly from the reporting agency.
Executive department: One of the major functional subdivisions of the executive branch of the Government, the head of which is a member of the President's Cabinet. See also Independent agency.
Executive document: See Document.
Executive hearing: See Hearings.
Federal Register: (1) The daily publication, Federal Register. (2) The office in the National Archives and Records Administration that compiles and publishes the daily Federal Register of rules, regulations, and notices from government agencies; the Code of Federal Regulations; the United States Government Manual; Compilation of Presidential Documents; Public Papers of the Presidents; United States Statutes at Large; and slip laws.
Filibuster: A time-delaying tactic associated with the Senate and used by a minority in an effort to prevent a vote on a bill or amendment that probably would pass if voted on directly. The most common method is to take advantage of the Senate's rules permitting unlimited debate, but other forms of parliamentary maneuvering may be used. The stricter rules used by the House make filibusters more difficult, but delaying tactics are employed occasionally through various procedural devices allowed by House rules.
Finding aids: The descriptive matter, published and unpublished, created by an originating office, an archival agency, or a manuscript repository, to establish physical or administrative and intellectual control over records and other holdings.
Fiscal year: The 12-month period used in accounting for the receipt and expenditure of funds from the U.S. Treasury. The Government operated on a calendar fiscal year basis from 1789 through 1842. A separate report was issued for the first six months of 1843. Thereafter, the fiscal year was defined as July 1 to the following June 30 for the years from 1843 through 1975. The 1976 fiscal year began July 1, 1975, but did not end until September 30, 1976. The 1977 fiscal year and all succeeding fiscal years began on October 1 and continued through the following September 30.
Government Printing Office: The agency in the legislative branch that prints and binds, either in-house or on a commercial contract, all congressional publications as well as publications of departments and agencies of the Federal Government. Responsibilities include furnishing inks, paper, and printing supplies to governmental agencies on request; distributing and selling Government publications; cataloging and maintaining a library collection of its publications; and operating an exchange account for publications allotted to Members. See also Congressional Record, Monthly Catalog, United States Code, and Congressional Serial Set.
Hearing: (1) A meeting of a House committee at which interested parties give testimony during the consideration of proposed legislation or during an investigation. (2) The recorded testimony presented at such a hearing. At hearings on legislation, witnesses usually include experts in the matter under consideration, governmental officials, and representatives of persons affected by the bill or bills under study. Hearings related to special investigations bring forth a variety of witnesses. Committees sometimes use their subpoena power to summon reluctant witnesses.
- Executive hearing: (1) Closed hearings that bar the public and
the press. (2) Recorded testimony presented at such a hearing and rarely printed. If not a
separate series, the recorded testimony is typically found among committee
- Public hearing: (1) A hearing that is open to the public and
press. (2) The recorded testimony presented at such a hearing usually printed and distributed by
the committee conducting the hearing.
Housekeeping records: Records of a committee or an officer of Congress that relate to the administrative budget of Congress, including accounting, personnel, supply, and similar administrative or facilitative operations normally common to most organizations, as distinguished from program or substantive records that relate to the organization's primary functions. See Program records.
Impeachment: The bringing of charges against an official of the Government that question his or her right or qualifications to hold office. Maladministration or misconduct while in office is usually the basis of the charges. Impeachment charges are made by the House of Representatives. The trial of an impeached officer is conducted before the Senate. The Chief Justice of the United States presides when the President of the United States is being tried.
Independent agency: An agency of the executive branch of the government that operates independently of any executive department. The head of an independent agency is not a member of the President's Cabinet.
Intrinsic value: In manuscript appraisal, the worth, in monetary terms, of a document, dependent upon some unique factor, such as its age, the circumstances regarding its creation, a signature, or an attached seal. In archival terms, it is those permanently valuable records that have qualities and characteristics that make the records in their original form the only archivally acceptable form for preservation.
Inventory: (1) A basic archival finding aid usually describing the records of a Federal agency or part of an agency. It generally includes a brief history of the organization and functions of the agency whose records are being described; a description of each record series (giving as a minimum such data as title, dates, quantity, and arrangement, and sometimes relationships to other series and description of significant subject content); and, if appropriate, appendices that provide such supplementary information as a filing scheme, a glossary of abbreviations and special terms, lists of folder headings on special subjects, or indexes. (2) In records management, a survey of records prior to development of records disposition schedules.
Investigative case files: See Case files.
Joint resolution: See Resolution.
Journal: The official record (required by the Constitution in Article 1, section 5) of the proceedings on the floor of the House, which is read each day and approved. The Journal records the actions taken, but, unlike the Congressional Record, it does not include the substantially verbatim report of speeches, debates, etc. The Journal is printed, but the manuscript may be available in two forms, rough and finished. The rough journal consists of the first draft of the proceedings that is drafted from minute books. The finished journal is generally prepared from the rough journal after it has been revised and corrected. The finished journal is used as copy for the printer. The manuscript journal, after being edited and proofread by the Public Printer, is bound and returned to the Clerk of the House.
Jurisdiction: The sphere or limits of authority of a House standing committee. A House rule defines each committee's jurisdiction. The Speaker must refer public bills and Members' private bills to the appropriate committee, but the House itself may refer a bill to any committee without regard to jurisdiction. A committee may not report a bill if the subject matter has not been referred to the committee by the House establishing jurisdiction by precedent. See also Committee and Refer.
Law: See Private law and Public law.
Lay on the table: See Table.
Legislative case file: See Case file.
Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946: An act (60 Stat. 812), under which the 44 House committees of the 79th Congress were consolidated into 19, effective January 2, 1947. The jurisdiction of each new committee was specified, and committees were required to exercise continuous oversight over the agencies under their jurisdiction. All official committee records were to be kept separate from the congressional office records of the Member serving as chairman.
Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970: The act (84 Stat. 1140) that removed much of the secrecy surrounding Members' actions and positions on issues and legislation. All roll-call votes taken in committees were required to be made public. House Members' positions on floor amendments were individually recorded and printed in the Congressional Record.
Majority Leader: The officer who is elected by his party colleagues as the majority party's legislative strategist and second ranking leader after the Speaker.
Majority Whip: In effect, the assistant majority leader, in either House. His job is to help marshal majority forces in support of party strategy and legislation.
Manual: The official handbook in each House prescribing in detail its organization, procedures, and operations. (See Chapter 1, para. l.90).
Memorial: See Petition.
Minority Leader: Floor leader for the minority party in each Chamber.
Minority Whip: The assistant leader for the minority party.
Minute book: (1) A record of the proceedings of either House that contains a brief outline of proceedings as they occur. The minute book is used to prepare the Journal. (2) A committee record in the form of notes or brief summary of the committee's proceedings.
Miscellaneous document: See Document.
Monthly Catalog: The Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications which is issued by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office. Subjects are derived from Library of Congress subject headings. The catalog consists of an entry for each new publication and seven indexes-author, title, subject, series/report number, contract number, stock number, and title keyword. The catalog was first issued in 1895.
Motion: A proposal made to a deliberative body for its approval or disapproval. A motion may be made orally. However, in the House, the Speaker may require a motion to be put in writing. The precedence of motions, and whether they are debatable, is set forth in the House and Senate manuals.
Motion to discharge: See Committee.
Nonrecord: Material not usually included within the definition of records, such as unofficial copies of documents kept only for convenience or reference, stocks of publications and processed documents, and library or museum material intended solely for reference or exhibition.
Office of record: An office designated as the official custodian of records for specified programs, activities, or transactions of the House or Senate. For example, the House Administration Committee maintains permanent records of the hiring of consultants by committees and the Senate Disbursing Office keeps official Senate personnel records.
Order: A direction to carry out an action that has already been agreed to by the House. Orders can be addressed to committees, or individual Members, or officials of the House. When the House commands, it is by an "order," but fact, principles, and the Members' own opinions and purposes are expressed in the form of resolutions.
Overriding of a Veto: Enacting a bill without the President's signature after the President has disapproved it and returned it to Congress with his objections. To override a veto the Constitution (Article 1, section 7) requires a two-thirds majority recorded vote in each chamber. The question put to each House is: "Shall the bill pass, the objections of the President to the contrary notwithstanding?" See also Veto. Papers: (1) A natural accumulation of personal and family materials, as distinct from records. (2) A general term used to designate more than one type of manuscript material. See also Personal papers (of a Member).
Parliamentarian: The officer who is responsible for advising presiding officers and Members on parliamentary procedures; for preparing and maintaining compilations of the precedents of the House; and for referral of bills, resolutions, and other communications to the appropriate committees at the direction of the Speaker.
Permanent records: Records of an office or committee of the legislative branch appraised by the National Archives as having enduring value because they document the organization and functions of the committee or office that created or received them and/or because they contain significant information on persons, things, problems, and conditions with which the committee or office dealt
Personal papers (of a Member): An accumulation of private documents of an individual, belonging to him or her and subject to his or her disposition.
Petition: A type of document, similar to a memorial, submitted to the Congress asking that some action be taken by the Government or taking a positive stand on an issue. Generally speaking, in the late 18th and 19th centuries a petition, unlike a memorial, included a prayer (e.g., petition of John Smith praying that his claim be granted). Memorials also express opposition to ("remonstrate against") some pending action. In modern usage, there is no apparent difference between a memorial and a petition, and petition has become the commonly accepted generic term. A similar document transmitted to Congress by a legislative body such as a State legislature takes the form of a resolution and is sometimes termed a memorial. See also Refer.
Petition book: A register in which the receipt of petitions and subsequent actions on them are recorded. It is kept in the office of the Clerk of the House. See also Refer.
Pocket veto: See Veto. Precedent: A preceding instance or case that serves as an example for subsequent cases. The Speaker gives precedent its proper influence and is directed to prepare an updated compilation of House precedents every two years. Several publications of compiled precedents prepared by the House Parliamentarian have been issued and are known variously by the compiler's name, Hinds, Cannon, and Deschler. (See Chapter 1, para 1.91). Compiled while Thomas Jefferson was Vice President, Jefferson's Manual is published with each revised edition of Rules of the House.
Preliminary inventory: See Inventory.
Preservation (archival): (1) Adequate protection, care, and maintenance of archives and manuscripts. (2) Specific measures, individual and collective, undertaken for the repair, maintenance, restoration, or protection of documents. (3) A basic responsibility of an archival repository.
Presidential messages: Communications to Congress delivered by the President in person or in writing as provided for under the Constitution (Article 2, section 3). Those in writing are usually communicated on the same day to both Houses. Only messages of great importance are delivered in person. See Executive communications.
Private law: An act granting a pension, authorizing payment of a claim, or affording another form of relief to a private individual or legal entity. See Calendar, thereunder Private calendar.
Program records: Records created or received and maintained by a committee in the conduct of the substantive functions (legislative and oversight) for which it is responsible. A program correspondence file may include correspondence on a number of subjects, as distinguished from a case file that contains correspondence about specific legislation or a specific investigation.
Public hearings: See Hearings.
Public law: A act that is of universal application, that is clothed with any public interest, or that applies to a class of persons as opposed to a private law that applies only to a specified individual or legal entity.
Quorum: The number of Members whose presence is necessary for the transaction of business. In the Senate and House, it is a majority of the membership. When there are no vacancies, this is 51 in the Senate and 218 in the House. A quorum is 100 in the Committee of the Whole House. If a point of order is made that a quorum is not present, the only business that is in order is a motion to adjourn or a motion to direct the Sergeant at Arms to request the attendance of absentees. See also Calendar, thereunder Discharge calendar.
Reading file: A folder containing copies of documents, frequently letters sent, arranged in chronological order, sometimes known as a chronological or "chron" file or a day file. A reading file may be circulated to other persons for reference; chronological files are usually retained by the author for his or her reference.
Record group: In Federal archives, a body of organizationally related records established on the basis of provenance with particular regard for the administrative history, the complexity, and the volume of the records and archives of the institution or organization involved. See also Series.
Record series: See Series.
Records: In Federal archives, all books, papers, maps, photographs, motion pictures, sound or video recordings, machine-readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by agencies of the U.S. Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or deemed appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of the data in them.
Refer: To assign a bill, communication, or other document to a committee for its consideration. The House or Senate Journal indicates the committee to which any bill or document was referred. The Speaker or presiding officer of the Senate may refer measures to several committees because of the jurisdictional complexities of modern legislation. There are three types of multiple referral: joint referral of a bill concurrently to two or more committees; sequential referral of a bill successively to one committee, then a second, and so on; and split referral of various parts of a bill to different committees for consideration.
Register: A list of events, letters sent and received, actions taken, etc., usually in simple sequence, as by date or number, and often serving as a finding aid to the records, such as a register of letters sent or a register of visitors.
Report: (1) To bring back to the House or Senate, with recommendations, a bill or other matter that was referred to a committee or that originated in the committee. (2) A document presenting a committee's findings, or the findings of a conference committee or an executive agency that is required by law to submit them. Beginning with the 16th Congress (1819-21), committee reports were printed in a separate series. They are usually numbered and indicate the bills or other matters to which they refer; they are identified in the following manner: H. Rept. 240, 70th Cong., 2d sess. Reports from executive agencies or other sources frequently are printed as House Documents. See also Document.
- Committee report: A document explaining a committee's
position on legislation when a bill is discharged from a committee. When expressed, minority
views will also be included in such a report.
- Conference committee report: A two-part presentation that
includes: (1) a bill, called the conference version, which has been approved by a majority of the
managers appointed by each chamber to an ad hoc committee, the conference
committee, and which reconciles the differences in form and provisions of bills passed on
the same subject by the two Houses. The conference version of the bill sent to both Chambers
for approval contains the language agreed to and recommended by the managers. Approval of
the conference version will ensure passage of legislation in identical language by both Chambers
as required to complete legislative action on a bill; and (2) a descriptive statement of the
provisions of the conference version. A conference committee report is numbered and
designated in the same way as a regular committee report. See Committee, thereunder
- Simple resolution: A measure that deals with matters entirely
within the prerogatives of one House or the other. It does not contain legislation and does not
require concurrence of the other House or Presidential approval. Its authority extends only to the
House in which it originates. It is designated H. Res. if it originates in the House of
Representatives and S. Res. if it originates in the Senate. Such a resolution is used to amend the
rules or procedures of one chamber; to express the will or sentiments of the House originating it;
to create select or special committees; to authorize the printing of special reports or additional
copies of reports or hearings; to give advice on foreign policy or other executive business; to
authorize funds to conduct investigations, either select or special, or to fund an investigative
subcommittee; and to request information from administrative agencies.
- Concurrent resolution: A measure that is used as a vehicle for
expressing the sense of Congress on various foreign policy and domestic issues. It is similar to a
simple resolution except that it indicates joint action and requires the concurrence of both
Houses. It contains no legislation and its authority does not extend beyond Congress. Also, it is
used, for example, to set the time for an adjournment sine die, to correct enrolled bills,
to express the will of Congress, and to create special joint committees. It does not require
Presidential approval. Concurrent resolutions are usually printed and are assigned numbers by
the House of origin. They are referred to in the following manner: H. Con. Res. 25, 70th Cong.,
- Joint resolution: (1) A form of proposed legislation similar to a
bill, which in former usage served a limited purpose or was temporary in its effect. In present
usage, however, a joint resolution is almost identical to a bill. A joint resolution (except a joint
resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution) requires the signature of the President or
passage over his veto before it becomes law. It is designated in the following manner: H.J. Res.
25, 70th Cong., 1st sess. There may also be original joint resolutions; reported, calendar, and
desk copies of joint resolutions; engrossed joint resolutions, and enrolled joint resolutions. (2)
The approved measure which is treated as an act and which, since 1941, has been numbered in
the same series as acts that originated as bills. Joint resolutions are generally used in dealing
with limited matters, such as a single appropriation for a special purpose.
Rough: Pertaining to a first draft from which a finished or "smooth" copy is transcribed or printed, as in the rough journal.
Rule: (1) A standing order governing the conduct of House or Senate business. The permanent rules of either Chamber deal with duties of officers, the order of business, admission to the floor, parliamentary procedures on handling amendments and voting, jurisdictions of committees, and other procedures. (2) In the House, a resolution reported by the Rules Committee to govern the handling of a particular bill on the floor. The committee may report a "rule," also called a "special order," in the form of a simple resolution. If the resolution is adopted by the House, the temporary rule becomes as valid as any standing rule and lapses only after action has been completed on the measure to which it pertains. A rule may set the time limit on general debate. It also may waive points of order against provisions, such as non-germane language of the bill in question or against certain amendments intended to be proposed to the bill from the floor. A rule may even forbid all amendments or all amendments except those proposed by the legislative committee that handled the bill. In this instance, the rule is known as a "closed" or "gag" rule as opposed to an "open" rule, which puts no limitation on floor amendments, thus leaving the bill completely open to alteration by the adoption of germane amendments.
Secret journal: A journal of proceedings that were ordered to be kept secret.
Sergeant at Arms: A House officer whose duties include enforcing attendance at sessions of the House; enforcing House Rules and maintaining decorum; keeping the Mace, the symbol of legislative power and authority; operating the House bank for Members; maintaining a check cashing facility for House employees; providing for the security of the building, visitors, and all foreign delegations visiting the House; and serving on a rotational basis as chairman of the Capitol Police Board and Capitol Guide Board.
Series: In archives, file units or documents arranged in accordance with a filing system or maintained as a unit because they relate to a particular subject or function, result from the same activity, or have a particular form.
Session: A meeting of the Congress that continues from day to day until adjournment sine die. Two or more sessions may occur within the 2-year period covered by a Congress.
Slip law: The first official publication of a bill that has been enacted and signed into law. Each is published separately in unbound single-sheet or pamphlet form.
Speaker: The permanent presiding officer of the House, selected by the caucus of the majority party and formally elected by the whole House. The Speaker can vote on all matters, but normally does not do so except in case of a tie vote.
Speaker pro tempore: Member appointed by the Speaker to perform the duties of the chair in the Speaker's absence. Such appointments do not extend beyond three legislative days. In case of illness, the Speaker may, with the approval of the House, appoint a Speaker pro tempore for a period of 10 days. Under certain circumstances, the House may elect a Speaker pro tempore for the period of the Speaker's absence.
Special committee: A select committee. See Committee, thereunder Select committee.
Special session: A session of Congress held after it has adjourned sine die, completing its regular session. Special sessions are convened by the President of the United States under his constitutional powers.
Statute: A law enacted by a legislative body. The laws enacted by Congress are published in a series of volumes entitled Statutes at Large.
Statutes at Large: A chronological arrangement of the laws enacted in each session of Congress. Though indexed, the laws are not arranged by subject, nor is there an indication of how they affect previously enacted laws. See also United States Code.
Transcription: A copy or verbatim written record of a committee hearing.
Table: To dispose of a matter finally and adversely without debate. A motion to "lay on the table" is not debatable in either House. In the Senate different language is sometimes used, and a motion may be worded to let a bill "lie on the table," perhaps for subsequent "picking up." This motion is more flexible, merely keeping the bill pending for later action, if desired. Tabling motions on amendments are effective debate-ending devices in the Senate.
United States Code: An official Government publication that consolidates and codifies the general and permanent laws of the United States arranged by subject under 50 titles, the first six dealing with general or political subjects, and the other 44 alphabetically arranged from "agriculture" to "war and national defense.'' The code is revised every 6 years, and a supplement is published after each session of Congress by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the House of Representatives. This office is conducting a project to codify all laws of the United States and eventually at the project's completion it will be unnecessary for researchers to refer to Statutes at Large for any current law text.
United States Serial Set: See Congressional Serial Set.
Veto: (1) Presidential disapproval of a bill by returning it without signing it within 10 days (Sunday excepted) after it is presented to the President. Such a bill is usually accompanied by a veto message stating the President's reasons for disapproval. It is returned to the House of origin and becomes a question of high privilege in the relative priority of motions and actions to be made in the chamber. (2) Presidential disapproval of a bill by failing to sign it (pocket veto) less than 10 days before the adjournment of Congress. Joint resolutions may be vetoed in the same ways. See Bill.
Yeas and nays: The record of the vote on a matter by the Members of the House. See also Roll call.
Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.