Congressional Alphalist

Posted: June 19, 2010 in Congressional Alphalist

To better understand what is happening to veteran legislation as it proceeds through Congress it is useful to know the language used by our representatives as they conduct business. Following are some of the words or expressions you will see while reading about or listening to House and Senate sessions:

• BASELINE. This is the standard used to assess how bills, if enacted, would change current budgetary levels. Baselines must assume projected levels of federal spending and revenue, so they are often disputed.
• THE BELTWAY. This is an interstate highway encircling Washington, DC & passing through Maryland and Virginia suburbs. “Inside the Beltway” Asserts that an issue is only of interest to Washington, DC residents and workers.
• BILL. A Bill is a legislative proposal which would make law if it passes both the House and Senate and if it receives Presidential approval. Bills are introduced as “H.R.” in the House, and as “S.” in the Senate. Besides bills, joint resolutions are the only other type of legislation which makes law [H.J.Res. or S.J.Res.]
• BLOCK GRANTS. These are funds given states by the federal government to run programs within defined guidelines.
• BLUE DOG DEMOCRAT. One of 51 conservative Democratic Members of the House of Representatives who have banded together to support a more centrist position on economic issues than that held by their party’s leadership.
• BUDGET ACT. Refers to the 1974 Congressional Budget Act. It created the current budget process. It also created the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the House and Senate Budget Committees. The annual budget resolution and reconciliation bills are processed under the terms of the 1974 Budget Act.
• BUDGET RESOLUTION. This is the annual decision made by Congress to set spending and revenue levels. It provides a voluntary framework within which Congress agrees to limit subsequent money bills. The Budget Resolution may also instruct committees to change current law in order to save money.
• BULLY PULPIT. This term stems from President Theodore Roosevelt’s reference to the White House as a “bully pulpit,” meaning a terrific platform from which to persuasively advocate an agenda. Roosevelt often used the word “bully” as an adjective meaning superb/wonderful. Roosevelt also had political affiliation with the Progressive Party, nicknamed the “Bull Moose” party. It got the moniker when Roosevelt ran for President as its candidate in 1912, after declaring himself as “fit as a bull moose.”
• BYRD RULE. This is used on the Senate floor to challenge certain language added to a reconciliation bill. The purpose of reconciliation bills is to reconcile spending levels with revenue levels. If proposed language steps outside of this primary purpose, it can be challenged on a point of order. The Byrd rule can be set aside by a 3/5 vote. It is named after its author, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV).
[Source: C-SPAN Congressional Glossary Jun 2010 ++]

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