Legislation is not only comprised of lengthy, confusing language, it is graced with titles and official classifications that can be just as confusing. There is rhyme and reason on the abbreviations and numbers to legislation, however. It actually gives the designation of the type and numerical order of introduction to a chamber of Congress.
The first type of legislation is the one that we most often think of, the bill. I bet that as soon as you read that, you got at least a flash of the Schoolhouse Rock video about Bill on Capitol Hill. Ahh, nostalgia. Perhaps that video is why we really only think of bills but it could also be because they have a wide variety of uses. They can create new laws, amend an existing one, or even nix one that is already on the books. Bills can be introduced in either house of Congress but must be passed by both in order to move on to be signed (hopefully) by the President. Bills can also be public or private. Public bills apply to everyone in the United States. Private bills only pertain to a group, person, or business. Bills are denoted by an “H.R.” or an “S.” before the number.
The next three types of proposed legislation are resolutions but they are obviously all a little different. I pretty much have a hate relationship with most resolutions, but that is another post entirely.
First, you have the “Simple Resolution.” It is denoted as in the picture above but the abbreviations are “H. Res.” or “S. Res.” They essentially just express an opinion or sentiment of the House of Representatives or the Senate. The other chamber does not have to approve the simple resolution.
On the rare occasion that both chambers of Congress agree on an opinion, we will see the “Concurrent Resolution” which carries “H. Con. Res.” or “S. Con. Res” before the number.
Finally, the fourth type of legislation is a “Joint Resolution” and is denoted by “H. J. Res.” or “S. J. Res” depending on which chamber introduced the resolution. This type of resolution is similar to a bill because it will be passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President. The only exception is when it is used to propose a constitutional amendment and then each chamber must pass it with at least a two-thirds vote with no need to be signed by the President. Joint resolutions can also be used to allocate money for specific types of spending, appoint persons to certain positions, or even to disapprove rules that have been submitted by government agencies.
Knowing the differences between the four types of legislation may not seem important, but it is for anyone who wishes to understand what is being attempted and accomplished in Congress. On a side note, I mainly refer to Congress.gov for research on current legislative activity and I encourage you to browse the site as well if you find the time.