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Agenda Setting
Determining which public-policy questions will be debated or considered.
Appropriation
The passage, by Congress, of a spending bill specifying the amount of authorized funds that actually will be allocated for an agency's use.
Authorization
A formal declaration by a legislative committee that a certain amount of funding may be available to an agency. Some authorizations terminate in a year others are renewable automatically without further congressional action.
Bicameralism
The division of a legislature into two separate assemblies.
Casework
Personal work for constituents by members of Congress.
Conference Committee
A special joint committee appointed to reconcile differences when bills pass the two chambers of Congress in different forms.
Conservative Coalition
An alliance of Republicans and southern Democrats that can form in the House or the Senate to oppose liberal legislation and support conservative legislation.
Constituent
One of the persons represented by a legislator or other elected or appointed official.
Direct Primary
An intraparty election in which the voters select the candidates who will run on a party's ticket in the subsequent general election.
Discharge Petition
A procedure by which a bill in the House of Representatives may be forced (discharged) out of a committee that has refused to report it for consideration by the House. The petition must be signed by an absolute majority (218) of representatives and is used only on rare occasions.
Enumerated Power
A power specifically granted to the national government by the Constitution. The first seventeen clauses of Article I, Section 8, specify most of the enumerated powers of the national government.
Executive Budget
The budget prepared and submitted by the president to Congress.
Fall Review
The annual process in which the Office of Management and Budget, after receiving formal federal agency requests for funding for the next fiscal year, reviews the requests, makes changes, and submits its recommendations to the president.
Filibuster
The use of the Senate's tradition of unlimited debate as a delaying tactic to block a bill.
First Budget
Resolution A resolution passed by Congress in May that sets overall revenue and spending goals for the following fiscal year.
Fiscal Year (FY)
A twelve-month period that is used for bookkeeping, or accounting, purposes. Usually, the fiscal year does not coincide with the calendar year. For example, the federal government's fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30.
Franking
A policy that enables members of Congress to send material through the mail by substituting their facsimile signature (frank) for postage.
Gerrymandering
The drawing of legislative district boundary lines for the purpose of obtaining partisan or factional advantage. A district is said to be gerrymandered when its shape is manipulated by the dominant party in the state legislature to maximize electoral strength at the expense of the minority party.
Instructed Delegate
A legislator who is an agent of the voters who elected him or her and who votes according to the views of constituents regardless of personal beliefs.
Joint Committee
A legislative committee composed of members from both chambers of Congress.
Justiciable Question
A question that may be raised and reviewed in court.
Lawmaking
The process of establishing the legal rules that govern society.
Logrolling
An arrangement in which two or more members of Congress agree in advance to support each other's bills.
Majority Leader of the House
legislative position held by an important party member in the House of Representatives. The majority leader is selected by the majority party in caucus or conference to foster cohesion among party members and to act as spokesperson for the majority party in the House.
Minority Leader of the House
The party leader elected by the minority party in the House.
Ombudsperson
A person who hears and investigates complaints by private individuals against public officials or agencies.
Oversight
The process by which Congress follows up on laws it has enacted to ensure that they are being enforced and administered in the way Congress intended.
Party Identifier
A person who identifies with a political party.
President Pro Tempore
The temporary presiding officer of the Senate in the absence of the vice president.
Reapportionment
The allocation of seats in the House of Representatives to each state after each census.
Redistricting
The redrawing of the boundaries of the congressional districts within each state.
Representation
The function of members of Congress as elected officials representing the views of their constituents.
Rules Committee
A standing committee of the House of Representatives that provides special rules under which specific bills can be debated, amended, and considered by the house.
Safe Seat
A district that returns a legislator with 55 percent of the vote or more.
Second Budget Resolution
A resolution passed by Congress in September that sets "binding" limits on taxes and spending for the following fiscal year.
Select Committee
A temporary legislative committee established for a limited time period and for a special purpose.
Senate Majority Leader
The chief spokesperson of the majority party in the Senate, who directs the legislative program and party strategy.
Senate Minority Leader
The party officer in the Senate who commands the minority party's opposition to the policies of the majority party and directs the legislative program and strategy of his or her party.
Seniority System
A custom followed in both chambers of Congress specifying that the member of the majority party with the longest term of continuous service will be given preference when a committee chairperson (or a holder of some other significant post) is selected.
Speaker of the House
The presiding officer in the House of Representatives. The Speaker is always a member of the majority party and is the most powerful and influential member of the House.
Spring Review
The annual process in which the Office of Management and Budget requires federal agencies to review their programs, activities, and goals and submit their requests for funding for the next fiscal year.
Standing Committee
A permanent committee in the House or Senate that considers bills within a certain subject area.
Trustee
A legislator who acts according to her or his conscience and the broad interests of the entire society.
Whip
A member of Congress who aids the majority or minority leader of the House or the Senate.
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