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Congressional Vocabulary

Casework The privilege of sending mail free of charge by members of Congress
Cloture The redrawing of congressional district boundaries within each state, based on the reapportionment from the census
Conference committee A permanent committee in Congress, with a defined legislative jurisdiction
Discharge petition The most powerful position in the Senate; the majortity leader manages the legislative process and schedules debate on legislation
Earmark personal work by a member of Congress on behalf of a constituent or group of constituents, typically aimed at getting the government to do something the constituent wants done
Filibuster The practice of members of Congress agreeing to vote for a bill in exchange for their colleague’s vote on another bill
Franking a procedural move in which a supermajority of 60 senators agrees to end a filibuster
Gerrymandering The leader of the minority party in the Senate, who works with the majority leader in negotiating legislation
Joint committee A designation within a spending bill that provides for a specific expenditure
Logrolling The process by which the legislative branch “checks” the executive branch to ensure that the laws Congress has passed are being administered in keeping with legislators’ intent
Majority whip A bicameral committee composed of members both chambers of Congress
Minority whip  A bicameral, bipartisan committee composed of legislators whose job is to reconcile two versions of a bill
Oversite/Oversight The drawing of legislative district boundaries to benefit an incumbent, a political party, or another group
Pocket veto Reallocation of seats in the House of Representatives to each state based on changes in state populations since the last census
Pork barrel A congressional committee created to consider specific policy issues or address a specific concern
President pro tempore The go-between with the majority leadership and party members in the House of Representatives
Reapportionment Legislators’ appropriations of funds for special projects located within their congressional districts
Redistricting A subordinate committee in Congress that typically handles specific areas of a standing committee’s jurisdiction
Rules committee  A special presidential veto of a bill passed at the conclusion of a legislative session, whereby the president waits 10 days without signing the bill, and the bill dies
Select committee One of the most important committees in the House, which decided the length of debate and the scope of amendments that will be allowed on a bill
Senate majority leader A model of representation in which a member of the House or the Senate follows his or her own conscience when deciding issue positions
Senate minority leader The leader of the House of Representatives, chosen by the majority party
Speaker of the House A special tactic used to extract a bill from a committee to have it considered by the entire House
Standing committee Also called “president pro tem”; theoretically, the chair of the Senate in the vice president’s absence; in reality, an honorary title, with the senator of the majority party having the longest record of continuous service being elected to the position
Subcommittee A procedural move by a member of the Senate to attempt to halt passage of a bill, during which the senator can speak for unlimited time on the Senate floor
Trustee model The go-between with the minority leadership, whose job mirrors that of the majority whip but without the power that comes from holding a majority in the House of Representatives

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