Policy and Advocacy Glossary


Common Policy & Advocacy Terms

Many of these definitions and more can be found at Congress.gov



Legislation (a bill or joint resolution) which has passed both chambers of Congress (or a state legislature) in identical form, been signed into law by the President (or the Governor), or pass over his veto, thus becoming law.


The provision of funds, through an annual appropriations act or a permanent law, for federal agencies to make payments out of the Treasury for specified purposes. Authorization: A statutory provision that obligates funding for a program or agency. The formal federal spending process consists of two sequential steps: authorization and appropriation.


The act or process of advocating or supporting a cause or proposal.

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

A bill that was signed into law in 2010 by President Obama and consists of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. It reformed the American health care system to expand insurance coverage, reduce the cost of care, and increase the quality of care.


A proposed change to a pending legislative text (e.g., a bill, resolution, treat or other amendment).


A statutory provision that obligates funding for a program or agency. The formal federal spending process consists of two sequential steps: authorization and appropriation.

Ballot Measure

Ballot measures allow voters to propose and enact laws. They include ballot initiatives, constitutional amendments, bond measures, and referenda.


Literally, “two chambers” in a legislative body having two houses (as in the House of Representatives and the Senate comprising the U.S. Congress or a state legislature).


The primary form of legislative measure used to propose law. Depending on the chamber of origin, bills begin with a designation of either H.R. or S. Cloture: The method by which a supermajority (typically, three-fifths) of the Senate may agree to limit further debate and consideration of a question (e.g. a bill, amendment, or other matters).


A panel (or subpanel) with members from the House or Senate (or both) tasked with conducting hearings, examining and developing legislation, conducting oversight, and/or helping manage chamber business and activities.

Concurrent Resolution

A form of legislative measure used for the regulation of business within both chambers of Congress, not for proposing changes in law. Depending on the chamber of origin, they begin with a designation of either H.Con.Res. or S.Con.Res.

Conference Committee

Temporary joint committee created to resolve differences between House-passed and Senate passed versions of a measure.


Representatives or Senators who formally sign on to support a measure. Only the first-named Member is the sponsor, all other are co-sponsors, even those whose names appeared on the measure at the time it was submitted.


A member of a community or organization within an elected official's district and has the power to appoint or elect.

Committee Chair

The member of the majority party on a committee who has formal responsibility over the panel’s agenda and resources, presides at its meetings, and can, in some circumstances, act on the committee’s behalf.

Executive Order

An order issued by the president, governor, or mayor that is not legislation but has the force and effect of law.


In the Senate, the use of dilatory or obstructive tactics to delay or block passage of a measure by preventing it from coming to a vote.

Grassroots Lobbying

A communication with the general public that reflects a view on specific legislation and includes a call to action that encourages people to contact their legislative representatives or staff in order influence that legislation.


A formal meeting of a congressional or state legislative committee (or subcommittee) to gather information from witnesses for use in its activities (that is, the development of legislation, oversight of executive agencies, investigations into matters of public policy, or Senate consideration of presidential nominations).

Joint Resolution

A form of legislative measure used to propose changes in law, or to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Depending on the chamber of origin, they begin with a designation of either H.J. Res. Or S.J. Res.


Laws, considered collectively. For example, a group of laws about taxes can be called "Tax Legislation"


Meeting by a committee or subcommittee during which committee members offer, debate, and vote on amendments to a measure.


A legislative vehicle: a bill, joint resolution, concurrent resolution, or simple resolution.


A system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action, and funding priorities concerning a given topic promulgated by a governmental entity or its representatives.

Public Law

A public law or joint resolution that has passed both chambers and has been enacted into law. Public laws have general applicability nationwide.


Minimum number of members a chamber (or committee) requires for the transaction of certain types of business.

Ranking Member

The most senior (though not necessarily the longest-serving) member of the minority party on a committee (or subcommittee).


A temporary interruption of the House or Senate’s proceedings.

A Representative or Senator who introduces or submits a bill or other measure.


Presidential disapproval of a bill or joint resolution presented to him for enactment into law. If a President vetoes a bill, it can become law only if the House and Senate separately vote (by two-thirds) to override the veto.