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The desk

The desk is another name for the rostrum where the presiding officer and various clerks of the chamber sit.

According to recent practices, most bills, resolutions, and committee reports are delivered to the clerks at the presiding officer’s desk for …

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impeachment

An impeachment is a formal charge of criminality raised against an elected official in the first step to remove them from office. In the federal government, only the House of Representatives may bring an impeachment while only the Senate may …

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aisle

The aisle refers to the space which divides the majority side from the minority on the House and Senate floor. When debating, members frequently refer to their party affiliation as “my side of the aisle.”

When facing the front of …

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pocket veto

A pocket veto is a legislative tactic that allows the president to indirectly veto a bill.

The U.S. Constitution requires the President to sign a bill within the 10 days if Congress is in session. If Congress is in session …

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demagogue

A politician whose rhetoric appeals to raw emotions such as fear and hatred in order to gain power.

Former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) is often cited as a classic demagogue for his practice in the 1950s of smearing prominent Americans …

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hardball

“Hardball” is a no-nonsense attitude or approach to getting what you want in politics.

From the introduction to Hardball by Chris Matthews: “Let me define terms: hardball is clean, aggressive Machiavellian politics. It is the discipline of gaining and holding …

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pork barrel projects

Wasteful government expeditures that lawmakers secure for their local districts in an attempt to gain favor with voters.

The term first came into use as a political term just after the Civil War. It’s derived from the practice of plantations …

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pro forma session

A brief meeting (sometimes only several seconds) in which no business is conducted. It is held usually to satisfy the constitutional obligation that neither chamber can adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other.

Pro forma

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yeas and nays

The yeas and nays is a recorded roll call vote of members of the House or Senate.

The U.S. Constitution directs that “the yeas and nays of the members of either house, on any question, shall, at the desire of …

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Swiftboating

“Swiftboating” is an untrue or unfair political attack or smear campaign. It’s similar in meaning to mudslinging.

The term comes from the 2004 presidential campaign when the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth produced a series of television ads and …

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witch hunt

A witch hunt is a politically-motivated, often vindictive investigation that feeds on public fears.

The term refers to the witch hunts in 17th-century Salem, Massachusetts, where many innocent women accused of witchcraft were burned at the stake or drowned.

Sen. …

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bill

A bill is a proposed law introduced in either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.

A bill originating in the House is designated by the letters “H.R.” followed by a number and bills introduced in the Senate …

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rubber chicken circuit

In politics, a “rubber chicken circuit’ is the nickname given to the endless parade of dinners that political candidates must attend during a campaign for office in order to meet donors and raise money.

The term refers to the pre-cooked, …

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live pair

A “live pair” is an informal voluntary agreement between lawmakers which is not specifically recognized by House or Senate rules.

Live pairs are agreements which Members employ to nullify the effect of absences on the outcome of recorded votes. If …

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lame duck session

When the House or Senate reconvenes in an even-numbered year following the November general elections to consider various items of business. Some lawmakers who return for this session will not be in the next Congress. Hence, they are informally called

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gerrymander

Redistricting by the party in power to insure maximum votes for their candidates or make it more difficult for an opposition party to defend their seats.

The Library of Congress notes the term originated in 1811, when Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge …

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trial balloon

An idea suggested by a politician in order to observe the reaction. If public reaction is favorable, the politician pursues the idea and takes full credit.

The term originates with the testing of the first hot air balloons in the …

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caucus

An informal meeting of local party members to discuss candidates and choose delegates to their party’s convention.

The term can also refer to informal groups of Members of the House of Representatives or the Senate used to discuss common issues …

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advice and consent

Under Article II of the United States Constitution, presidential nominations for executive and judicial posts take effect only when confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In addition, international treaties become effective only when the U.S. Senate approves them by a two-thirds

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Astroturfing

Astroturfing is an artificially-manufactured political movement designed to give the appearance of grassroots activism.

Campaigns & Elections magazine defined astroturf as a “grassroots program that involves the instant manufacturing of public support for a point of view in which either …

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cloture

“Cloture” is legislative procedural term that refers to a motion or process by which debate is brought to a quick end.

From the French word meaning “the act of terminating something,” cloture is “basically a vote to go ahead on …

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Congressional Record

The official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session. At the back of each daily issue is the “Daily Digest,” which summarizes the day’s floor and committee

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filibuster

An informal term for any attempt to block or delay U.S. Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.

From the Senate

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dog whistle politics

“Dog whistle politics” refers to the practice of sending out coded political messages, which are designed to be understood only by a narrow target audience.

In their literal form, dog whistles are instruments that emit high-pitched frequencies which only dogs …

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sine die

Without any future date being designated for resumption from the Latin term meaning “without a day.” An adjournment sine die signifies the end of an annual or special legislative session.…

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