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Senate Glossary Terms O - R

off-budget entities - The budget authority, outlays, and receipts of certain Federal entities that have been excluded from budget totals under provisions of law. At present, off-budget entities include the Social Security trust funds and the Postal Service.

outlays - Outlays are payments made (generally through the issuance of checks or disbursement of cash) to liquidate obligations. Outlays during a fiscal year may be for payment of obligations incurred in prior years or in the same year.

oversight - Committee review of the activities of a Federal agency or program.

parliamentary inquiry - A question from the floor to the Presiding Officer by a Senator requesting a clarification of the procedural situation on the floor. Responses to parliamentary inquiries are not rulings of the Presiding Officer, but may lead the Senator posing the inquiry or another to raise a point of order.

permanent appropriation - Budget authority that becomes available as the result of previously enacted legislation (substantive legislation or prior appropriations act) and does not require current action by Congress. Budget authority is considered to be "current" if provided in the current session of Congress and "permanent" if provided in prior sessions.

point of order - A claim made by a Senator from the floor that a rule of the Senate is being violated. If the Chair sustains the point of order, the action in violation of the rule is not permitted.

president of the senate - See Vice President.

presidential signature - A proposed law passed by Congress must be presented to the President, who then has 10 days to approve or disapprove it. The President signs bills he supports, making them law. He vetoes a bill by returning it to the house in which it began, usually with a written message. Normally, bills he neither signs nor vetoes within 10 days become law without his signature.

private law - A private bill enacted into law. Private laws have restricted applicability, often addressing immigration and naturalization issues affecting individuals.

proxy voting - The practice of allowing a Senator to cast a vote in committee for an absent Senator. Senate Rule XXVI provides that proxies may not be voted when the absent Senator has not been informed of the matter on which he is being recorded and has not requested that he be so recorded.

public debt - Cumulative amounts borrowed by the Treasury Department or the Federal Financing Bank from the public or from another fund or account. The public debt does not include agency debt (amounts borrowed by other agencies of the Federal Government). The total public debt is subject to a statutory limit.

question - Any matter on which the Senate is to vote, such as passage of a bill, adoption of an amendment, agreement to a motion, or an appeal.

quorum call - A call of the roll to establish whether a quorum is present. If any Senator "suggests the absence of a quorum," the Presiding Officer must direct the roll to be called. Often, a quorum call is terminated by unanimous consent before completion, which permits the Senate to use the quorum call to obtain a brief delay to work out some difficulty or await a Senator's arrival.

receipts - Collections from the public and from payments by participants in certain social insurance and other Federal programs. These collections consist primarily of tax revenues and social insurance premiums, but also include receipts from court fines, certain fees, and deposits of earnings by the Federal Reserve System. Total receipts are compared with total outlays in calculating the budget surplus or deficit.

recognize - The Chair permits a Senator to speak by recognizing him or her; the Senator then "has the floor." When time is controlled, a Senator must have time yielded to him or her before he or she can be recognized.

reconciliation instruction - A provision in a budget resolution directing one or more committees to report (or submit to the Budget Committee) legislation changing existing law in order to bring spending, revenues, or the debt-limit into conformity with the budget resolution. The instructions specify the committees to which they apply, indicate the appropriate dollar changes to be achieved, and usually provide a deadline by which the legislation is to be reported or submitted.

reconciliation process - A process established in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 by which Congress changes existing laws to conform tax and spending levels to the levels set in a budget resolution. Changes recommended by committees pursuant to a reconciliation instruction are incorporated into a reconciliation measure.

reconsider - Senate rules permit one motion to reconsider any question decided by vote, if offered by a Senator who voted on the winning side. Normally a supporter of the outcome immediately moves to reconsider the vote, and the same Senator or another immediately moves to table this motion, thus securing the outcome of the vote.

report - Senate committees usually publish a committee report to accompany the legislation they have voted out. These reports are numbered consecutively in the order in which they are filed in the Senate. Committee reports discuss and explain the purpose of measures and contain other, related information. The term may also refer to the action taken by a committee ("report the legislation") to submit its recommendations to the Senate.

riddick's senate procedure - Named after Senate Parliamentarian Emeritus Floyd M. Riddick, this Senate document contains the contemporary precedents and practices of the Senate. It is updated periodically by the Senate Parliamentarian.

roll call vote - A vote in which each Senator votes "yea" or "nay" as his or her name is called by the Clerk, so that the names of Senators voting on each side are recorded. Under the Constitution, a roll call vote must be held if demanded by one-fifth of a quorum of Senators present, a minimum of 11.

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