A Quick Note on Current Congressional Legislation

The essential changes needed to remove the legal barriers to the safety of Native women typically need Congressional action. For many who work in the field, the different types of Congressional legislation moving through Congress, though often spoken of, can be somewhat of a mystery. Restoration offers the following short guide on the types of current and recent passed legislation to help understand the national conversation.

In 2018, two types of legislation impacting the safety of Native women were introduced on the hill. The first category are bills introduced in the House and Senate; the second, a Senate resolution that passed in April. Bills are what we most commonly think of when we think of Congress drafting and voting on national legislation. Generally, bills are legislative proposals that, if enacted, carry the force of law, whereas resolutions typically do not. This is an important distinction because it helps the field strategize on what types of Congressional reforms are needed for particular issues.

A bill starts either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. Bills that start in the House are designated “H.R.” plus a number (for example H.R. 4485). Note that H.R. stands for House of Representatives, not House Resolution. These are bills proposed by congressmen/ women and considered first by the House and later by the Senate. Bills can also originate in the Senate, when they are proposed by Senators — these bills are considered first by the Senate and then by the House. Those are designated “S.” plus a number (for example S. 1942). The numbering is done independently, so there is both a H.R. 1 and an S. 1.

The difference between “H.R.” and “S.” is entirely procedural. It has no bearing on law. However, it is important to note that the Constitution requires for appropriations bills, or those that direct spending, to originate in the House. So, all appropriations bills are “H.R.” bills like the FY 2018 omnibus spending bill (H.R. 1625 Consolidated Appropriations Act 2018).

In contrast to bills, resolutions are typically not used to enact law. There are three types of resolutions: simple resolutions, joint resolutions, and concurrent resolutions. The National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls was a simple Senate Resolution. Simple resolutions are usually used for each chamber to set their own rules or to express the sentiment of a chamber like the national day of awareness denounced violence against MMIWG. They are voted on only in their originating chamber and do not have the force of law. Each type of resolution comes in a House form and a Senate form: H.Res and S.Res. for House and Senate simple resolutions.