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Part 3: Kinds of Bills

When looking for bills or legislation on THOMAS, many people have problems finding the measure they are seeking for a variety of reasons. One of the first and foremost problems is that they don't have the correct bill number.

In an effort to help The American Legion family to follow congressional actions, here is a brief summary of the major types of legislation introduced daily in both chambers of Congress:

Bills

H.R. - House Bill (House of Representatives)S. - Senate Bill (Senate)A bill is a legislative proposal before Congress. Bills from each chamber are assigned a number in the order in which they are introduced, starting at the beginning of each Congress (first and second sessions). Often, a member of Congress introduces a particular bill annually and will arrange with the chamber's leadership to reserve a certain bill number.

Public bills pertain to matters that affect the general public or classes of citizens, while private bills pertain to individual matters that affect individuals and organizations, such as claims against the federal government (private bills are not as prevalent as they once were). Once the House or Senate pass a bill, it is then sent to the other chamber for action. When a bill passes both congressional chambers, it is sent to the White House for the President's signature, thereby making a bill the "law of the land."

Joint Resolutions

H.J. Res. - House Joint ResolutionS.J. Res. - Senate Joint ResolutionA joint resolution is a legislative proposal that requires the approval of both chambers and the signature of the president, just as a bill does. Resolutions from each chamber are assigned a number in the order in which they are introduced, starting at the beginning of each Congress (first and second sessions).

There is no real difference between a bill and a joint resolution, which is generally used for limited matters, such as a single appropriation for a specific purpose. They are also used to propose amendments to the Constitution, such as The American Legion's proposal for a flag-protection amendment. A joint resolution has the force of law, if approved. Joint resolutions become a part of the Constitution when three-quarters of the states have ratified them; they do not require the President's signature.

Concurrent Resolutions

H. Con. Res. - House Concurrent Resolution S. Con. Res. - Senate Concurrent ResolutionA concurrent resolution is a legislative proposal that requires the approval of both chambers, but does not require the signature of the president and does not have the force of law. Concurrent resolutions generally are used to make or amend rules that apply to both chambers. They are also used to express the sentiments of both chambers.

For example, a concurrent resolution is used to set the time of Congress' adjournment. It may also be used by Congress to convey congratulations to another country on the anniversary of its independence. In addition, any bills seeking recognition for "National [fill-in-the-blank] Week/Month" are invariably concurrent resolutions.

Simple Resolutions

H. Res. - House ResolutionS. Res. - Senate ResolutionA simple resolution is a legislative proposal that addresses matters entirely within the prerogative of one chamber or the other. It requires no approval from the other chamber, or the signature of the president. It does not have the force of law.

Most simple resolutions concern the rules or sentiments of one chamber. For example, a simple resolution may offer condolences to the family of a deceased member of Congress, or it may offer advice on foreign policy or other executive business.

 

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