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Enactment of a Law

Forms of Legislative Business

All proposed legislation, and nearly all formal actions by either of the two Houses, take the form of a bill or resolution.

A bill is a legislative proposal of a general nature. A bill may propose either a public or private matter, but both are numbered in the same sequence. Public bills are the most numerous. Private bills are designed to affect or benefit specific individuals or groups of individuals. Together, bills account for a large majority of the total of legislative proposals of each Congress. The Senate numbers bills in sequence starting with number 1, and each number is preceded by the designation "S". House bills are similarly numbered and prefaced by "H.R." Thus, bill number 100 in the Senate is written S. 100, and in the House, H.R. 100.

Joint resolutions, which have the same effect as bills unless they are used to propose amendments to the Constitution, are designated "S.J. Res. ___." Concurrent resolutions, which are designated "S. Con. Res. ___" for Senate concurrent resolutions, are chosen to express the sense of the Congress to the President or other parties; to attend to "housekeeping" matters affecting both Houses, such as the creation of a joint committee; or to carry proposals to correct the language of measures passed by one House (an engrossment) or both Houses (an enrollment). All concurrent resolutions, including corrective resolutions, must be agreed to in both the Senate and House. One House may seek to correct a measure it passed, or both Houses may wish to correct a measure awaiting the President's signature.

The former may be accomplished merely by specifying what changes or additions are to be made and requesting the other House to make them, or requesting the return of the measure to the originating House for that purpose. Correction of measures already sent to the President, however, are made after agreement of both Houses to concurrent resolutions requesting return of the measures from the White House. Such resolutions include a resolve that if and when a measure is returned, the action of the Presiding Officers of the two Houses in signing the measure shall be deemed rescinded, and the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House is authorized and directed in the re-enrollment of the measure to make the necessary corrections. The corrected measure (bill or joint resolution) is then again signed by the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House, the Speaker, and the Vice President and again delivered to the White House.

Finally there is the designation of "S. Res. ___" for Senate resolutions, which are used primarily to express the sense of the Senate only, or to take care of "housekeeping" matters, including changes in rules, that apply only to the Senate.

When the question of agreement to, or formal acceptance of, a resolution is raised, concurrent and simple resolutions are agreed to or adopted, whereas bills and joint resolutions are passed.

In the House of Representatives, measures have the following designations: "H.R. ___," for House bills; "H.J.Res. ___," for House joint resolutions; "H. Con. Res. ___," for House concurrent resolutions; and "H. Res. ___," for House resolutions. Bills and resolutions are numbered ad seriatim, in the chronological order in which they are introduced or submitted.

Senate and House bills and joint resolutions, when passed by both Houses in identical form and approved by the President, become public or private law--public laws affect the Nation as a whole; private laws benefit only an individual or a class thereof. The procedure on each is identical, with the exception of joint resolutions proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which under the Constitution must be passed in each House by a two-thirds vote of the Members present and voting, a quorum being present. They are not sent to the President for his approval but to the Administrator of the General Services Administration, who transmits them to the various States. Constitutional amendments are valid when ratified by at least three-fourths of the States.

Concurrent resolutions have the force of both Houses and must be approved by them in identical form to be effective. However, they are not presented to the White House for the President's signature, because they do not become law. They are not signed by the President nor by the Speaker and the Vice President. Instead, they are attested by the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House and transmitted after approval to the Administrator of the General Services Administration for publication in the Statutes at Large.

A House or Senate resolution (H. Res. ___ or S. Res. ___) only has the force of the House passing it, and action by the one House is all that is necessary.

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