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bicameral legislature

a lawmaking body made up of two chambers or parts


an attempt to defeat a bill in the Senate by talking indefinitely, thus preventing the Senate from taking action on the bill

marginal districts

Political districts in which candidates elected to the House of Representatives win in close elections, typically by less than 55 percent of the votes.

safe districts

districts in which incumbents win by margins of 55 percent or more

conservative coalition

an alliance between Republican and conservative Democrats

majority leader

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

minority leader

the legislative leader elected by party members holding a minority of seats in the House or Senate


a senator or representative who helps the party leader stay informed about what party members are thinking

party polarization

a vote in which a majority of Democratic legislators oppose a majority of Republican legislators


an association of congress members created to advance a political ideology or a regional, ethnic, or economic interest

standing committees

permanently established legislative committees that consider and are responsible for legislation within a certain subject area

select committees

Congressional committees appointed for a limited time and purpose

joint committees

committees on which both senators and representatives serve

conference committees

a joint committee appointed to resolve differences in the senate and house versions of the same bill

public bill

a legislative bill that deals with matters of general concern

private bill

a legislative bill that deals only with specific, private, personal, or local matters

simple resolution

an expression of opinion either in the House or Senate to settle procedural matters in either body

concurrent resolution

an expression of opinion without the force of law that requires the approval of both the House and the Senate, but not the president

joint resolution

a formal expression of congressional opinion that must be approved by both houses of congress and by the president; constitutional amendments need not be signed by the president

divided government

One party controls the White House and another party controls one or both houses of Congress

unified government

the same party controls the White House and both houses of Congress


"hidden" congressional provisions that direct the federal government to fund specific projects or that exempt specific persons or groups from paying specific federal taxes or fees

multiple referral

a congressional process whereby a bill may be referred to several committees

sequential referral

a congressional process by which a speaker may send a bill to a second committee after the first is finished acting

discharge petition

a device by which any member of the House, after a committee has had the bill for thirty days, may petition to have it brought to the floor

closed rule

an order from the House Rules Committee that sets a time limit on debate; forbids a bill from being amended on the floor

open rule

an order from the House Rules Committee that permits a bill to be amended on the floor

restrictive rule

an order from the House Rules Committee that permits certain kinds of amendments but not others to be made into a bill on the floor


The minimum number of members who must be present to permit a legislative body to take official action

quorum call

a roll call in either house of Congress to see whether the minimum number of representatives required to conduct business is present

cloture rule

a rule used by the senate to end or limit debate


A procedure to keep the Senate going during a filibuster in which the disputed bill is shelved temporarily so that the Senate can get on with other business

voice vote

a congressional voting procedure in which members shout "yea" in approval or "nay" in disapproval, permitting members to vote quickly or anonymously on bills

division vote

a congressional voting procedure in which members stand and are counted

teller vote

A congressional voting procedure in which members pass between two tellers, the "yeas" first and the "nays" second.

roll-call vote

A congressional voting procedure that consists of members answering "yea" or "nay" to their names.

pork-barrel legislation

legislation that gives tangible benefits to constituents in several districts or states in the hope of winning their votes in return

franking privilege

the ability of members to mail letters to their constituents free of charge by substituting their facsimile signature for postage

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