The Banking Industry and U.S. Congress

The Federal Legislative Branch

The federal legislative branch is made up of the House and Senate, known collectively as the Congress. Among other powers, the legislative branch makes all laws, declares war, regulates interstate and foreign commerce, and controls taxing and spending policies. A new Congress begins at noon January 3 of each odd-numbered year following a general election, unless it designates a different day by law. A Congress lasts for two years, with each year constituting a separate session. A congressional calendar is an agenda or list of business awaiting possible action by the House or Senate.

Forms of Congressional Action

The work of Congress is initiated by the introduction of a proposal in one of four principal forms: the bill, the joint resolution, the concurrent resolution and the simple resolution.

Bills

A bill is the form used for most legislation, whether permanent or temporary, general or special, public or private. A bill originating in the House of Representatives is designated by the letters “H.R.,” signifying “House of Representatives," followed by a number that it retains throughout all its parliamentary stages. Bills are presented to the President for action when approved in identical form by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Joint Resolutions

Joint resolutions may originate either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. There is little practical difference between a bill and a joint resolution. Both are subject to the same procedure, except for a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution. On approval of such a resolution by two-thirds of both the House and Senate, it is sent directly to the Administrator of General Services for submission to the individual states for ratification. It is not presented to the President for approval. A joint resolution originating in the House of Representatives is designated “H.J.Res.,” followed by its individual number. Joint resolutions become law in the same manner as bills.

Concurrent Resolutions

Matters affecting the operations of both the House of Representatives and Senate are usually initiated by means of concurrent resolutions. A concurrent resolution originating in the House of Representatives is designated “H.Con.Res.,” followed by its individual number. On approval by both the House of Representatives and Senate, they are signed by the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate. They are not presented to the President for action.

Simple Resolutions

A matter concerning the operation of either the House of Representatives or Senate alone is initiated by a simple resolution. A resolution affecting the House of Representatives is designated “H.Res.,” followed by its number. They are not presented to the President for action.

For more information on bills and resolutions see, Forms of Congressional Action in How Our Laws Are Made.

How Do Laws Originate?

Laws originate from many sources – often as ideas submitted by constituents or interest groups such as trade associations. Elected representatives thus need to hear from their constituents and others interested in legislation. Click here to locate your U.S. Representative. Click here to locate your Senators. If you would like information on the banking industry’s positions on federal legislative issues, please click here.