Joint Resolution

A joint resolution is a legislative measure that is very similar in function to a bill. It is generally used for special purposes. For example, usually continuing resolutions are introduced and considered as Joint Resolutions, though this is not always the case. Invariably, however, amendments to the U.S. Constitution take the form of Joint Resolutions. In terms of budget law, beyond their use as continuing appropriations and the method by which Balanced Budget Amendments to the Constitution are proposed, the proposal to turn the Congressional budget from a concurrent resolution, and hence an internal enforcement document to Congress, to a joint budget resolution, and thereby give it the force of a statute.  

In the drafting of legislative measures, it is standard to make reference to a “bill or joint resolution, amendments thereto or conference reports thereon …” In the Senate, “motions” are usually added to the phraseology. See section 306 (CBA) as an example.

See Deschler’s Precedents (Volume 7); §4 of Chapter 24

House Practice

§ 1. In General; Resolutions Distinguished

Bills are used for purposes of general legislation. Joint resolutions are used to propose constitutional amendments and for special or subordinate legislative purposes. Simple or concurrent resolutions are used primarily to regulate the administrative or internal business of the House (or Houses), to express facts or opinions, or to dispose of some other nonlegislative matter. [See also Deschler Chapter 24,  §4. Joint Resolutions] However, unlike simple or concurrent resolutions, a joint resolution is a bill so far as the rules of the House are concerned. [See also 4 Hinds § 3375]

House Practice (2017), p. 166

Deschler’s — §4 of Chapter 24 of Volume  7

Page 332

The joint resolution is another legislative instrument employed by the Congress in the exercise of its power under article I, section 1 of the Constitution. It is the type of measure that requires an affirmative vote by both Houses and submission to the President for approval under article I, section 7. When a joint resolution is approved by the President, or when he fails to return it to the Congress within the prescribed time, or when he vetoes it and his veto is overridden it becomes public law and it is published in the statutes-at-large as such.[12]

Thus, the joint resolution is considered in the same manner as a bill, with one important exception: where a joint resolution is used to bring about a constitutional amendment,[13] the resolution, after approval thereof by both Houses by two-thirds vote, is submitted to the states for ratification. It is not submitted to the President.[14]

There are no established rules requiring the use of a joint resolution rather than of a public bill, or vice versa, in the consideration and enactment of legislation. However, in practice joint resolutions are not now used for purposes of general legislation. They are used for special purposes and for such incidental matters as changing or fixing effective dates,[15] to establish joint committees or provide a commission with subpena power,[16] or to provide continuing appropriations.[17] The joint resolution, because it permits the use of a preamble (which is not appropriate in a bill), is also used where it is necessary to set forth in the legislation the events or state of facts which prompt the measure. For this reason, declarations of war have been made by joint resolution.[18]

Chapter 2 of title I of the United States Code contains the following provision regarding the enacting clause of a joint resolution:

§102. The resolving clause of all joint resolutions shall be in the following form: ‘‘Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled.’’

12. 1 USC §§ 106, 106a, 112.

13. Since 1936 the following amendments to the Constitution have been adopted pursuant to joint resolutions: 22d amendment, H.J. Res. 27. 93 Cong. Rec. 2392, 80th Cong. 1st Sess., Mar. 21, 1947; 23d amendment, S.J. Res. 39. 106 Cong. Rec. 12858, 86th Cong. 2d Sess., June 16, 1960; 24th amendment, S.J. Res. 29. 108 Cong. Rec. 17670, 87th Cong. 2d Sess., Sept. 14, 1962; 25th amendment, S.J. Res. 1. 111 Cong. Rec. 15593, 89th Cong. 1st Sess., July 6, 1965; and 26th amendment, S.J. Res. 7. 117 Cong. Rec. 7570, 92d Cong. 1st Sess., Mar. 23, 1971.

14. U.S. Const. art. 5.

4 Hinds §§ 3266-3297, 3364-3390

§3375. A joint resolution is a bill within the meaning of the rules.—On March 2, 1843,5 Mr. Cuthbert Powell, of Virginia, from the Committee for the District of Columbia, reported a joint resolution to continue the charter of certain banks in the District of Columbia. The same having been read, Mr. Francis W. Pickens, of South Carolina, inquired whether this was an original bill of the House or a bill from the Senate. The Speaker having replied that it was an original joint resolution reported from a committee, Mr. Pickens observed that a joint resolution was in the nature of a bill and could not without a suspension of the sixteenth joint rule 1 be sent to the Senate.

5 Third session Twenty-seventh Congress, Globe, p. 384.
1 Joint Rule 16 was: ‘‘No bill that shall have passed one House shall be sent for concurrence to the other on either of the last three days of the session.’’ The joint rules no longer exist. 

GAO Glossary of Terms and Definition (September 2005)

Joint Resolution

A form of legislation (designated with S.J. Res. or H.J. Res.) that is either:

(1) A congressional action typically used in dealing with matters such as a single appropriation for a specific purpose, increasing the statutory limit on the public debt, or continuing appropriatio There is no real difference between a bill and a joint resolution; both require a majority vote and become law in the same manner, that is, by bicameral enactment and signature of the President.

(2) A congressional action used to propose amendments to the Adoption of a joint resolution to propose a constitutional amendment requires a two- thirds majority vote by both the Senate and the House and is not presented to the President for approval. A proposed amendment becomes effective only when ratified by three-fourths of the states.

(See also Continuing Appropriation/Continuing Resolution. For a distinction, see Concurrent Resolution on the Budget.)

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Joint Committee on the Legislative Budget


Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction