Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do you vote against items you support?

A: Good question. On occasion, I sometimes have to vote against legislative items that I support. In those cases, I vote no for procedural reasons so that I can retain the right to bring that legislation up for another vote in the future. For an explanation of this rather odd Senate rule, please read this article: Washington Post: Why is Harry Reid Always Voting Against His Own Plans?

 

Glossary of Terms

Amendment

A proposal to alter the text of a pending bill or other measure by striking out some of it, by inserting new language, or both. Before an amendment becomes part of the measure, the Senate must agree to it.

Cloture

The only procedure by which the Senate can vote to place a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter, and thereby overcome a filibuster. Under the cloture rule (Rule XXII), the Senate may limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours, but only by vote of three-fifths of the full Senate, normally 60 votes.

Concurrent resolution

A legislative measure, designated “S. Con. Res.” and numbered consecutively upon introduction, generally employed to address the sentiments of both chambers, to deal with issues or matters affecting both houses, such as a concurrent budget resolution, or to create a temporary joint committee. Concurrent resolutions are not submitted to the president and thus do not have the force of law.

Continuing resolution/Continuing appropriations

Legislation in the form of a joint resolution enacted by Congress, when the new fiscal year is about to begin or has begun, to provide budget authority for Federal agencies and programs to continue in operation until the regular appropriations acts are enacted.

Joint resolution

A legislative measure, designated “S. J. Res.” and numbered consecutively upon introduction, which requires the approval of both chambers and, with one exception, is submitted (just as a bill) to the president for possible signature into law. The one exception is that joint resolutions (and not bills) are used to propose constitutional amendments. These resolutions require a two-thirds affirmative vote in each house but are not submitted to the president; they become effective when ratified by three-quarters of the States.

Motion to instruct

After the first three steps of establishing a conference committee are completed, each house may instruct the conferees to take a certain position in the conference. These instructions to the conferees are not binding.

Motion to proceed

A motion, usually offered by the majority leader to bring a bill or other measure up for consideration. The usual way of bringing a measure to the floor when unanimous consent to do so cannot be obtained. For legislative business, the motion is debatable under most circumstances, and therefore may be subject to filibuster.

Motion to table

Used in both the Senate and House, if adopted a motion to table permanently kills a pending matter and ends any further debate on the matter.

Nomination

An appointment by the president to executive or judicial office that is subject to Senate confirmation. More on Nominations

 

Read the full Senate Glossary here.