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Part 4: Sponsors and Co-sponsors

After diligently searching THOMAS, you have found the bill/resolution that you were looking for. Looking at the text of the bill - either online or a hardcopy - you will see under the bill number and the description of the bill a list of names. Sometimes this list is very short, with only one or two names, or the list may have 10 or more names listed. Just who are these people, and what is their connection to your bill?

In our continuing effort to help members of The American Legion family in their efforts to follow congressional actions, below is a brief summary of the difference between a bill's sponsor and co-sponsors.

In the U.S. Congress, a sponsor is a senator or representative - or even a delegate from a U.S. territory - who introduces a bill or an amendment to a bill. Occasionally, a committee is identified as the sponsor of a bill, but this is rare.

It should not be assumed that a bill's sponsor actually wrote it. More likely, the bill may have been drafted by a staff member, by an interest group or by others. As an example, for the last 20 years The American Legion and the Citizens Flag Alliance have approached various members of the House and Senate, requesting these members to introduce the flag-protection constitutional amendment.

When a sponsor for legislation has been located, he or she becomes the chief advocate for this bill in the member's respective chamber. Sometimes this member is called the "primary sponsor." Under the rules of the U.S. Senate, multiple sponsorship of a piece of legislation is permitted.

As part of his job as sponsor of a bill, this representative or senator will solicit his colleagues to become co-sponsors of his bill. A co-sponsor is a senator or representative who adds his or her name as a supporter to the sponsor's bill. An "initial co-sponsor" or "original co-sponsor" is a senator or representative who is listed in the actual text of the bill as a co-sponsor at the time of a bill's introduction.

After a bill has been dropped, or published and printed, the sponsor of the bill will usually continue to contact his colleagues - either formally or informally - to become additional co-sponsors. An additional co-sponsor is a senator or representative whose name is added to the list of co-sponsors. A member's constituents may also contact his or her office, asking them to become co-sponsors of a particular measure. As a bill goes through the legislative process, it is usually amended and reprinted. When a reprint is made, these additional co-sponsors will be included in the subsequent text of the bill.

There is a reason that a listing of the number of co-sponsors is kept. When a bill is first introduced, it is assigned to a committee (or sometimes multiple committees) with jurisdiction over the subject of the bill. For example, when any bill seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution, that bill is assigned to the Judiciary Committee of its respective chamber.

During the time a bill is in a committee, co-sponsors can still sign onto the measure. When a measure has a number of co-sponsors equal to half the membership of its chamber, plus one member, it is usually a good indication that a particular measure should be brought to the floor of the House or Senate for action, with a reasonable chance that the bill will be passed by that chamber. The "magic co-sponsorship number" in the House is 218, while in the Senate it is 51.

It should be pointed out that if a member dies or resigns from the House or Senate, his name is still carried on the co-sponsorship rolls. Also, a senator or representative can request that his or her name be removed from a list of co-sponsors, though this does not happen very often.

You can find the full list of co-sponsors for a particular measure easily. Once you have a bill number and go to the measure's page, you will see just under the description of the bill the headings "Sponsor" and "Co-sponsor." Each of these headings has a hyperlink. You will see a number in parenthesis next to the "Co-sponsor" heading; that is the up-to-date number of co-sponsor for this bill.

If you click on the link for "Co-sponsor" you will be taken to a page which shows the full, alphabetical listing of the current co-sponsors, the state and district they represent, and the date on which the co-sponsor added his or her name to the list of co-sponsors. Just above the alphabetical listing you will see a subheading, "Sort: by date." If you click on the "by date" link, you will be taken to another listing of co-sponsors containing the same information as the previous page. This second page shows the list of co-sponsors by the date which the co-sponsor was added.

 

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