Joint Resolutions


A joint resolution is a kind of proposal that Congress uses to make important decisions that have the power of law, as long as the President agrees. Think of it like this: Imagine you and your friends need to agree on a set of rules for a game you’re playing. You write down the rules, everyone discusses them, and if you all agree, you sign off on them and start playing. A joint resolution is kind of like those game rules, but for the United States. It can start big changes like amending the Constitution (the ultimate rule book for the country), officially stating America’s position on big issues like wars, or dealing with money matters for a short time.

How to Guide

Here’s step-by-step what happens for a joint resolution to become something powerful like a law:

  • Introduction: Someone in the House or Senate comes up with a joint resolution and presents it.
  • Committee Action: The joint resolution then goes to a group of Congress members focused on the topic who look it over and might talk about it more deeply.
  • Report: If this group likes it, they tell their side of Congress it’s a good idea.
  • Debate and Vote: Everyone in that part of Congress talks about it and decides if they agree. If yes, the other side of Congress gets to look at it.
  • Same Process in the Other Chamber: The next step is the same discussion and voting in the other part of Congress.
  • Reconciliation: If both parts of Congress made different versions, they have to come up with one final set of rules they both like.
  • Presidential Signature: When they agree on one version, they send it to the President. If the President signs it, it becomes just as strong as a law.
  • Veto Override: But if the President doesn’t agree and says no, Congress can still turn it into law if enough of them – two thirds – say they still want it to happen.


Although they are powerful, joint resolutions are usually saved for special times or needs and have a few common types:

  • Constitutional amendments: They can suggest edits or additions to the U.S. Constitution. These need a super strong agreement in Congress and with the states to actually happen.
  • Foreign policy and war: When the U.S. deals with issues with other countries or decides to use the military, joint resolutions are sometimes used.
  • Temporary measures: For things like deciding how to spend money for a short while or how much the country can owe, joint resolutions can be the temporary fix.

Examples of Joint Resolutions

  • Declaration of War: For example, Congress used a joint resolution to declare war on Japan after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. This is a joint resolution example because Congress made a formal decision to respond to a major event.
  • Constitutional Amendments: The change that ended Prohibition in 1933, known as the 21st Amendment, started with a joint resolution. This shows how a joint resolution can create lasting change in the country’s most important rules.
  • Annual Budget: Joint resolutions can be used to keep government services running when Congress can’t decide on the full budget in time. This type of resolution acts as a placeholder to prevent shutdowns.

Why It Is Important

Joint resolutions are vital because they let Congress make big decisions that impact everyone. They hold as much power as laws when passed, so they can really shape history. Think about it like this: When women got the right to vote with the 19th Amendment, that started from a joint resolution. It changed who could participate in elections which affects votes, laws, and everything else that comes from our government. So, a joint resolution isn’t just a piece of paper; it’s a tool that has helped introduce major shifts in society and continues to play a role in how the country runs.


The idea of using joint resolutions comes from the early days of America. It was created as a way for both parts of Congress to agree and make decisions, influenced by what the British Parliament did and what American colonies did before becoming a country.


Joint resolutions aren’t always easy and sometimes cause big arguments. Here are some examples:

  • Declarations of War: Deciding to fight in wars, like the Gulf War in 1991 and Iraq in 2002, came with a lot of arguing and different opinions in Congress.
  • Executive Powers: There are also times when Congress uses joint resolutions to check on the President’s power, which can lead to a bit of a tug-of-war between the leaders of the country.
  • National Emergencies: When a President says there’s a national emergency, Congress can use a joint resolution to agree or disagree. In 2019, Congress disagreed with a national emergency about the southern border but the President vetoed their decision.

Related Topics

When you’re thinking about joint resolutions, a couple of related ideas and terms might pop up:

  • Concurrent Resolutions: These are agreed upon by both the House and Senate but they don’t need to be signed by the President and they don’t make new laws. They’re more about making statements or setting the rules within Congress itself.
  • Simple Resolutions: These are decisions by just one part of Congress – either the House or the Senate – and are about that part’s own rules or opinions, not for the whole country.
  • Veto and Veto Override: The President can veto, or reject, a joint resolution, but Congress can still make it a law if two-thirds of them disagree with the President and vote to override the veto.

These related items help show how joint resolutions fit with other tools Congress uses to run the country. It’s like having different kinds of meetings or decisions, whether it’s just you and a friend or the whole classroom needing to agree.


To wrap it all up, joint resolutions are a big deal in the U.S. government. They can make huge changes, whether it’s changing the Constitution or saying how we interact with the rest of the world. They’ve been a part of America’s story, influencing events that reach every one of us. Understanding them helps you see the way our leaders make decisions and the processes they have to follow to make sure the rules they set are fair and agreed upon by most.