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bicameral legislature

A lawmaking body made up of two chambers or parts. The US Congress is a bicameral legislature composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate.


A prolonged speech or series of speeches made to delay action in a legislative assembly.


The person who holds office.

safe district

Districts where incumbents win by a wide margin.

conservative coalition

An alliance between Republicans and conservative Democrats.

majority leader

The legislative leader elected by party members holding the majority of seats in the House of Representatives or the Senate.

minority leader

The legislative leader elected by party members holding a minority

majority-minority district

Congressional districts designed to make it easier for citizens of a racial or ethnic minority to elect representatives.


A senator or representative who helps the party leader stay informed about what party members are thinking, rounds up members when important votes are to be taken, and attempts to keep a nose count on how the voting on controversial issues is likely to go.

party polarization

a vote in which a majority of voting Democrats oppose a majority of voting Republicans.


an association of members of Congress created to advocate a political ideology or a regional or economic interest.

standing committees

more or less permanent bodies with specified legislative responsibilities.

select committees

groups appointed for a limited purpose and usually lasting for only a few congresses.

joint committees

a committee on which both senators and representatives serve.

conference committee

a committee made up of representatives and senators appointed to resolve differences in the Senate and House versions of the same piece of legislation.

voice vote

Members shout "Yea" or "Nay" to vote.


minimum number of members who must be present for business to be conducted.


a motion or process to move debate to a quick end in order to vote on a bill or amendment. A three fifths majority is needed to invoke clouture.

roll call vote

a vote in which each member answers "yea" or "nay to their name.

quorum call

a calling of the roll to find out if enough members are present.

pork barrel legislation

bills that give tangible benefits to constituents in the hope of winning their votes.


a provision added to a piece of legislation that is not pertinent to the bill's purpose.

Christmas tree bill

a bill that has many riders attached to it.

simple resolution

These are used for matters such as establishing the rules under which each body will operate. These are not signed by the President and do NOT have the force of law

concurrent resolution

These settle housekeeping and procedural matters that affect both houses. These are not signed by the President and do NOT have the force of law

joint resolution

These require the approval of both houses and the signature of the president. Joint resolutions are essentially the same as laws.

public bill

Bills pertaining to public affairs. The majority of bills fall into this category.

private bill

Bills pertaining to a particular individual.

multiple referral

When a bill is sent to multiple committees that consider it simultaneously in whole or in part.

sequential referral

When a bill is sent to second committee after the first is finished acting on it.

discharge petition

A procedure that allows the full House or Senate to consider a bill even the bill has been stalled in committee.

closed rule

Setting a strict time limit on debate and forbidding the introduction of any amendments to a bill unless they are offered by the bills sponsoring committee.

open rule

Permits amendments from the floor.

restrictive rule

permits some amendments but not others.

division vote

members stand and are counted in the voting procedure.

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