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A Guide to Legislative Votes

Deciphering the thousands of votes cast each year can be confusing.  Here are some tips to assist you in navigating the votes taken by Members of Congress.

BILL TYPES

There are two main types of legislation that originate from each house of Congress: bills and resolutions.  Bills, if passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President, become binding law and part of the United States Code.  Resolutions are not laws; rather, they are expressions of the “sentiments” of either the House or Senate.

H.R. stands for the U.S. House of Representatives, and any legislation with this prefix indicates that the bill originated from the House.  If passed by the House, the bill moves on to the Senate for consideration.

H.Res. stands for a resolution of the House of Representatives.  House resolutions are not binding law, but rather express the collective sentiment of the House on a particular issue, person, or event.  House committees may also be formed through the passage of a House resolution.

S. stands for the Senate, and any legislation with this prefix indicates that the bill has originated from the United States Senate.  If passed by the Senate, the bill then moves on to the House for consideration.

S.Res. stands for a resolution of the United States Senate. Senate resolutions are not binding law; rather, they express the collective sentiment of the Senate on a particular issue, person, or event. Senate committees may also be formed through the passage of a Senate resolution.

H.Con.Res. and S.Con.Res. stand for concurrent resolutions, which are taken up simultaneously by both the House and Senate.  These resolutions do not become law, but must be passed by both chambers of Congress.

H.J.Res. and S.J.Res. stand for joint resolutions which are taken up simultaneously by both the House and Senate.  These resolutions also require the approval of both chambers, but upon passage, they are submitted to the President for approval.

OTHER

A Rule is a resolution brought forward by the Rules Committee that asks the House to consider a certain bill or bills.  A rule will also often put forth the guidelines for debate between Members and governs the ability to bring forward amendments on the specific legislation.

A Motion to Recommit is a legislative tool used for two distinct purposes.  It is introduced by the party who has not introduced the current bill on the floor and is used to send a bill back to the committee of jurisdiction. This indefinitely stalls the legislation.  It can also be used as a last opportunity to amend the legislation being considered on the House floor.