Our Government
Full Text of The Federalist Papers
How a Bill Becomes a Law


    An alteration or addition to a motion or bill.
    To divide and assign according to a rule of proportional distribution.
Bicameral Legislature
    A lawmaking body with two branches or chambers. The United States Congress has a bicameral legislature, comprised of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
    A form or draft of a proposed statute presented to legislature but not yet passed into law.
    Consisting of, or supported by, members of two parties, particularly two major political parties.
    An advisory board to the President, consisting of the heads of the thirteen executive departments of the federal government.
    The Washington, D.C. building used by the U.S. Congress for its sessions.
    A group of officials with shared affinities or ethnicities who often, but not always, advocate and vote collectively on policy.
    The presiding officer of a group or committee.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
    Legislation within the United States that outlawed racial segregation in schools, public spaces, and work places.
Cold War
    Conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR) from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s. The conflict arose because both countries wanted to be the most powerful in the world.
    A group of Representatives or Senators established by the rules of its respective chamber, where issues are considered and legislation prepared.
Conference Committee
    A group of members from both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate tasked with resolving differences in similar legislation passed by both chambers.
Congressional District
    A portion of a state containing approximately 600,000 people represented by one Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressional Record
    The daily record of House Floor debate and votes.
    The residents of a district represented by a Member of Congress.
Dean of the House
    Title given to the longest serving Member in the U.S. House of Representatives at any given time.
    A representative of a United States territory elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Delegates do not participate in votes but do serve on committees. There are delegates from five territories—the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands—in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Democratic Caucus
    The internal organization of the Democratic Party in Congress.
Electoral College
    A group of people who represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the election of the President of the United States.
Electronic Voting System
    The electronic system that is used to record roll call votes by Members in the U.S. House of Representatives.
    The final version of proposed legislation passed by one chamber of Congress.
    The final version of legislation that has passed by both chambers of Congress, been signed by their presiding officers, and sent to the President for his signature.
Federal Government
    The central government of the United States established by the U.S. Constitution, composed of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
Great Depression
    The worldwide economic downturn that began in 1929 and ended in the late 1930s. It started in the United States and is often associated with the stock market crash on October 29, 1929.
    A meeting or session of a committee of Congress, usually open to the public, in which testimony and arguments regarding legislation are presented.
    A box into which a proposed legislative bill is dropped. Once the bill has been dropped in the hopper it is officially introduced to the House.
House Journal
    The official log of House Floor action. The Constitution requires that both chambers maintain a journal of their proceedings.
House Leadership
    The Speaker of the House and House Majority and Minority leaders.
House Officers
    The Clerk of the House, Sergeant at Arms, Chief Administrative Officer, and the Chaplain of the House.
House Rules
    The rules adopted by the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, which enumerate the duties of its various officers, and the rules which govern Members and employees of the House.
House Rules Committee
    The committee responsible for setting the rules to govern consideration of a bill on the House Floor. It is often referred to as the "traffic cop" of Congress.
    To accuse someone of misconduct. The Constitution grants the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment.
Incorporated Territories
    Regions or districts of the United States not admitted as states but that have their own legislatures and the potential to become a state.
    Current holder of a public office.
Jim Crow
    State and local laws in the United States between 1876 and 1965 that called for segregation of schools, public places, public transportation, restrooms, and restaurants.
Joint Session of Congress
    A meeting of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. These meetings occur in the House Chamber, typically for addresses from the President or foreign dignitaries.
    To change the language of a bill. House or Senate committees will frequently hold markup sessions to amend legislation before it is reported to the House.
    People elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives who have not yet been administered the Oath of Office.
Oath of Office
    The oath each Member-elect must take to officially become a Member of the House.
    A particular section or clause in legislation or law.
Public Policy
    The set of policies that form the foundation of public laws.
    The number of Members required to be present in order for Congress to conduct official business. The Constitution defines a quorum as a majority of each chamber, which is 218 in the House and 51 in the Senate with no vacancies. House Rules also state that 100 Members constitutes a quorum in the Committee of the Whole.
Republican Conference
    The internal organization of the Republican Party within Congress.
Resident Commissioner
    A representative from Puerto Rico, elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for a four year term. The Resident Commissioner does not participate in votes, but does serve on committees.
    A measure expressing opinions on policies or issues or dealing with the internal affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.
Roll Call Votes
    A call of the roll in the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate to determine whether a quorum is present or to vote on a question.
    A platform for public speaking. In the House, this is the place from which the Speaker of the House, the Speaker Pro Tempore, or the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole presides.
    The period during which Congress assembles to conduct business.
    A subgroup of Members of a committee in either the House of Representatives or the Senate that meets to hold hearings or consider legislation.
    A motion to stop further action on a bill or a point of order.
Unincorporated Territories
    Regions or districts of the United States that are not admitted as states but that have their own legislature and no potential to become a state.
    The President’s ability, as allowed by the Constitution, to prevent a bill or joint resolution from becoming a law. It can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in each chamber of Congress.
Viva Voce Roll Call
    A roll call taken verbally.
Voting Card
    A card, unique to each Member, used to vote with the Electronic Voting System.