Bills and Resolutions
In Congress, legislation can be introduced in one of four forms. These forms are the bill, the simple resolution, the joint resolution, and the concurrent resolution. But how are we to know what the differences are between these forms and how each is unique?! Never fear, Informed Voter. Project Vote Smart is here to assist you.
Let's start with a bill. Bills are the most common type of legislation. Bills that originate in the House have a prefix of "HR" and then a number, for instance HR 4250. The HR stands for House of Representatives (not House Resolution as some may assume). A bill that originates in the Senate has a prefix of "S" and a number, for instance S 2352. Bills, when enacted, become laws.
Another form of Congressional legislation is the joint resolution. The name here is a little misleading. Joint resolutions are not introduced and considered in the two chambers of Congress simultaneously. A joint resolution may be introduced in the House or in the Senate, and must first pass that chamber before it is considered in the other chamber, just like a bill. Joint resolutions also carry the weight of law when enacted. In many ways, the joint resolution form of legislation and the bill form are interchangeable. The prefix for a joint resolution introduced in the House is H J Res, for example H J Res 52. The prefix for a joint resolution introduced in the Senate is S J Res, for example S J Res 68. Joint resolutions proposing a change to the U.S. constitution are handled a little differently. In order to pass, they must be approved by two-thirds of the Representatives and Senators present and voting. Also, once passed in identical form by both chambers, bills and most joint resolutions are presented to the president for approval, but joint resolutions proposing a constitutional amendment are not presented to the president. They are instead submitted to all fifty states for ratification by the state legislatures. Three-fourths (currently, 38) of the state legislatures must ratify the constitutional amendment in order for it to take effect.
Next up, concurrent resolutions. Again, this name is a little misleading. Concurrent resolutions also are introduced into and considered by only one chamber at a time. A concurrent resolution that originates in the House has a prefix of H Con Res, for instance H Con Res 58. In the Senate, it is S Con Res, for instance S Con Res 45. Concurrent resolutions are not presented to the president after they are passed by both chambers of Congress, and so do not become laws. Concurrent resolutions are used for purposes such as expressing the sense or opinion of the Congress.
Finally, simple resolutions. Simple resolutions introduced in the House have a prefix of H Res and the ones introduced in the Senate have a prefix of S Res, for instance H Res 41 and S Res 87. Simple resolutions are considered by one chamber only. They never leave the chamber in which they were introduced to be considered by the other, and do not become laws. Simple resolutions are used to express the opinion of one chamber on an issue or to establish rules or procedures for one chamber of Congress.
If you have any other questions about these types of legislation, please call our hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART (1-888-868-3762). Another source of information on types of legislation can be found at this URL:
That web page also includes much more information on the general legislative process.
Thank you for further educating yourself, Informed Voter, and for your support.
Your friends at Project Vote Smart
17 August 2007
Written by Key Votes