Joint Resolution

Definition of Joint Resolution

A joint resolution is an official statement issued by both chambers of the United States Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives – that either proposes a change to the law or suggests an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For a joint resolution to become law or to amend the Constitution, it must be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

To put it simply, imagine that a joint resolution is like a written agreement between two teams working together. If the two teams are the Senate and the House, they both have to agree on the same idea and write it down as a joint resolution. Once they agree, this document has special power: if it’s a normal change in the law, the President has to sign it. But if they want to change the Constitution, they skip the President. Instead, they ask states across the country to agree, and if enough of them say yes, its job is done.

The process for making a joint resolution is similar to the one for passing a regular law. It starts with someone in Congress putting forward the idea. Then, it goes through discussions and votes in committees and the full Congress. If it’s a typical change and not about the Constitution, the President must sign it to confirm the change. But if it’s about the Constitution, it goes to the states, and three-fourths of them must agree for the change to take place.

Types of Joint Resolutions

Joint resolutions come in different flavors, even though they all follow a similar path in how they are made:

  • A joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment doesn’t require the President’s nod but needs a thumbs-up from many states.
  • A joint resolution that isn’t for tweaking the Constitution is more like a common law change and needs the President’s signature to take effect.

Examples of Joint Resolution

It helps to look at actual instances where joint resolutions made a splash in history:

  • Thirteenth Amendment: This joint resolution led to a monumental change, striking down slavery in the nation, showing how a joint resolution can redefine societal norms.
  • War Powers Resolution: Congress put a leash on the President’s ability to send troops into battle with this joint resolution, demonstrating its power to shape military policy.
  • Gulf War Authorization: This is an example of Congress using a joint resolution to OK the use of military force abroad—showing that joint resolutions can have global consequences.

Why Is It Important?

Joint resolutions carry weight for several reasons. They’re a way for Congress to propose serious changes to the guiding principles of the land, the Constitution. This is crucial because tweaks to the Constitution shape the lives of every American. They are also a tool for action on critical matters like waging war or addressing sudden concerns that need legal backing.

To understand how vital this is, think of the Constitution as the instruction manual for the game all Americans are playing. A joint resolution is like suggesting a rule change in the game that needs careful consideration. It has to be a group decision with many voices saying yes to ensure the change is the right move.


The option to use joint resolutions has been around since the early steps of the U.S. Suggested in the Constitution itself, it’s a means for Congress to suggest updates to our country’s core rules. As time went by, its use has grown beyond altering the Constitution to making unified decisions on weighty matters.

The founders made sure the process for a joint resolution was no walk in the park. They didn’t want large shifts in how the country runs to be made on a whim. They preferred a solid consensus that it was the right thing to do.


Joint resolutions can stir up a storm. Sometimes they’re used for decisions where there might be better alternatives, like when there’s talk of war without a formal declaration. Strife also arises over constitutional changes since amendments can shift the societal landscape, and people feel strongly about these changes. The back-and-forth over how states should ratify amendments – and how long they have to do it – adds fuel to the fires of debate, given that every decision impacts countless lives.

Related Topics

Connected to the concept of joint resolutions are a few notable subjects:

  • Bills: Regular bills are the common way laws are made, and understanding them helps to contrast them with joint resolutions.
  • Executive Orders: The President can make decisions without Congress using executive orders, but these orders can’t change the Constitution like joint resolutions can.
  • Ratification Process: This is the next step after a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment is passed by Congress. It refers to states agreeing to the amendment.
  • Legislative Process: The overarching system for how laws are made, including joint resolutions, bills, and other measures.
  • Constitutional Amendments: Learning about previous amendments to the Constitution can provide context on the magnitude of changes joint resolutions can initiate.

Other Important Information

Beyond making laws and proposing amendments, joint resolutions sometimes play ceremonial roles, acknowledging special occasions or dignitaries. They don’t result in new laws but express Congress’s unified sentiment. This reminds us that joint resolutions aren’t solely for dense legal maneuvering; they can also reflect national unity and recognition.

Joint resolutions aren’t just technicalities in the game of politics. They are pivotal instruments that can shift history’s direction, dissolve outdated practices, or unite a nation for a common cause. Their worth is intertwined with the big choices and changes that we, as a nation, decide together.

In closing, joint resolutions represent a fundamental mechanism within U.S. governance. They harness the collective voice of the nation to make pivotal decisions – changing foundational principles, responding to international conflicts, or celebrating important moments and people. Grasping their role helps us understand how American democracy functions and adjusts to the nation’s evolving challenges.