Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Speaking the Code: What do all those Congressional terms mean?

For those grassroots advocates who have been taking their message to Congress for any amount of time will quickly come to understand that Capitol Hill is a subculture of the Washington political world. As with any subculture, Congress his it’s own terms and lingo. To be a better grassroots advocate, it is sometimes helpful to have an understanding of what these terms mean and how to best use them when speaking with legislators. Below is a list of a few Congressional terms that maybe helpful to grassroots advocates. Information is taken from senate.gov and for a more in-depth glossary of Congressional terms, please click here.

Appropriations: A bill that provides funding for federal programs.  Must be passed every year.

Authorization: Legislation that establishes federal programs or policy. Does not fund established programs.

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): Is the codes and rules of the federal government. Published in the Federal Register.

Committees: Subsections of the Congress that works on assigned issues of jurisdiction.

Companion bills: Similar legislation that is introduced in by the House and Senate often in a coordinated effort to gain support.

Conference: Selected Members of the House and Senate who meet to resolve differences between two versions of a bill that have passed their respective chambers.

Continuing Resolution (CR): Legislation that funds the federal government for a short amount of time when a full year appropriations bill has not been passed. A CR will fund the federal government at the previous fiscal year level unless otherwise stated.

Dear Colleague Letter: A letter sent between Members of Congress. Dear Colleague Letters are often used to ask for support of an issue or to share information on an issue.  

Discretionary spending: Spending in which Congress can determine the direction of the funds. Discretionary spending is split up between defense discretionary spending and non-defense discretionary spending.

Entitlement spending: Federal spending that Congress does not annually determine. Examples of entitlement spending are Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.

Executive Orders: Is an order issued by the President that has the force of law.

Markup: When Congressional committees or subcommittees meet to consider legislation.

Political Action Committee (PAC): An organization regulated by the Federal Election Commission that raises and contributes to Congressional and Presidential candidates.

Written by Jeff Kratz, Guest Contributor, Sower Advocacy Group

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