Commemorative Legislation in Congress: Trends and Observations, 93rd Through 115th Congresses

Commemorative Legislation in Congress:
December 18, 2020
Trends and Observations, 93rd Through 115th
Jacob R. Straus
Congresses
Specialist on the Congress

In 1783, the Continental Congress authorized the nation’s first commemoration, an equestrian
Jared C. Nagel
statue to George Washington. Since that time, Congress has used commemoratives to honor a
Senior Research Librarian
myriad of people, groups, and events that it deemed important to American collective memory.

Today, Members of Congress introduce, and the House and Senate consider, six primary types of
commemorative legislation. These measures

 name federal facilities, including post offices, federal buildings, courthouses, and Veterans Affairs facilities
and hospitals;
 direct the United States Postal Service (USPS) to issue commemorative and semipostal stamps;
 instruct the U.S. Mint to issue commemorative coins;
 award Congressional Gold Medals;
 authorize and recognize national memorials in the District of Columbia and around the country; and
 create permanent commemorative observances by authorizing federal holidays and patriotic and national
observances, and create temporary observances through the adoption of House and Senate resolutions or
concurrent resolutions.
Using research conducted by the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University’s capstone class
over the 2019-2020 academic year, this report presents data on these six types of commemoratives introduced and considered
from the 93rd Congress (1973-1974) through the 115th Congress (2017-2018). The data show that the introduction of
commemorative legislation has varied over time, with different types of commemoratives more popular at different times.
Overall, the total number of commemorative measures introduced varied by Congress from the 93rd Congress until the
adoption of a House rule in the 104th Congress (1995-1996) to limit the introduction or consideration of date-specific
commemorative legislation (House Rule XII, clause 5). Following the rule change, the overall number of date-specific
commemorative measures introduced and considered decreased, before returning to or exceeding the pre-rules change level.
Patterns also exist for non-date-specific commemorative legislation, each subject to specific conditions that permitted or
restricted the consideration of measures to honor individuals, groups, and events.
This report concludes with observations about commemorations in Congress since the 93rd Congress. Specifically, the data
show that placing limits on the introduction and consideration of various types of commemorative legislation can be an
effective means of reducing the time spent on commemorative measures, especially in the House of Representatives. Further,
congressional endorsement of a commemoration can have lasting impact for individuals and groups and increase the
prominence of recognized events.
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Contents
Commemoration as Representation .................................................................................... 1
Methodology .................................................................................................................. 2
Commemorative Legislation Overview............................................................................... 3
Types of Commemorations ............................................................................................... 5
Naming Federal Buildings .......................................................................................... 5
Post Offices ......................................................................................................... 7
Other Federal Buildings ........................................................................................ 8
Postage Stamps ......................................................................................................... 9
Commemorative Coins ............................................................................................. 12
Congressional Gold Medals ...................................................................................... 15
Commemorative Works ............................................................................................ 17
Commemorative Works in the District of Columbia ................................................. 17
Memorials Outside of DC .................................................................................... 19
Commemorative Observances ................................................................................... 20
Federal Holidays ................................................................................................ 20
Patriotic and National Observances ....................................................................... 20
Other Commemorative Time Periods..................................................................... 21
Observations and Conclusions......................................................................................... 24
Limits on Commemoratives ...................................................................................... 25
Committee Rules................................................................................................ 26
Party Protocols................................................................................................... 27
Congress and National Collective Memory .................................................................. 28

Figures
Figure 1. Congress.gov Search Terms for Commemorative Legislation .................................... 3
Figure 2. Commemorative Legislation Introduced and Enacted/Agreed To............................... 4
Figure 3. Commemorative Legislation Introduced by Type .................................................... 5
Figure 4. Examples of Named Federal Buildings.................................................................. 6
Figure 5. Building Naming Legislation Introduced and Enacted ............................................. 7
Figure 6. Naming Federal Buildings by Type....................................................................... 9
Figure 7. Examples of Early and Commemorative Stamps ................................................... 10
Figure 8. Postage Stamp Legislation Introduced and Enacted ............................................... 11
Figure 9. Categorization of Introduced Postage Stamp Legislation ........................................ 12
Figure 10. 2020 Commemorative Coins............................................................................ 13
Figure 11. Commemorative Coin Legislation..................................................................... 14
Figure 12. Commemorative Coin Legislation Themes......................................................... 15
Figure 13. Examples of Congressional Gold Medals ........................................................... 16
Figure 14. Congressional Gold Medal Legislation Introduced and Considered ........................ 16
Figure 15. Examples of Memorials Established by Congress................................................ 17
Figure 16. Memorial Legislation in the District of Columbia................................................ 18
Figure 17. Memorial Legislation Outside the District of Columbia........................................ 19
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Figure 18. Title 36 and Other Time Period Commemorations ............................................... 22
Figure 19. Title 36 and Other Time Period Commemorations in the House ............................. 23
Figure 20. Title 36 and Other Time Period Commemorations in the Senate ............................ 24

Appendixes
Appendix. Detailed Methodology .................................................................................... 30

Contacts
Author Information ....................................................................................................... 31


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ince its founding, the United States has debated how to recognize and memorialize
historical actors and events. In the earliest known act of commemoration, in 1783, the
S Continental Congress authorized the new nation’s first commemorative—an equestrian
statue to George Washington.1 Since that time, opinion on how to commemorate important people
and events has fluctuated. In 1800, for example, the House of Representatives debated a bil to
erect a mausoleum to George Washington “in testimony of the love and gratitude of the citizens
of the United States.”2 The measure’s consideration sparked debate about the form of
commemoration. Some argued that honoring George Washington with a mausoleum was nothing
more than remembering the “memory of that great man [as] … a heap of large inanimate
objects.”3 Others suggested that there were more “rational ways to remember national heroes, by
the simple act of reading history, for instance.”4
Since the 1970s, Congress has primarily utilized six types of commemoratives to honor
individuals, groups, and events: naming public buildings, including post offices; authorizing
postage stamps; issuing commemorative coins; awarding Congressional Gold Medals;
establishing memorials and commemorative works; and recognizing commemorative
observances, including federal holidays. This report evaluates the number of measures introduced
in each category from the 93rd Congress (1973-1974) through the 115th Congress (2017-2018)
using data collected from Congress.gov in partnership with a capstone class at the Bush School of
Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University. The report begins with a discussion of
commemoration as a representational tool for Members of Congress. The report then evaluates
the data for the introduction and consideration of each of the six types of commemorative
legislation during the 93rd through the 115th Congresses. The report concludes with a discussion of
observations from the data.
Commemoration as Representation
Members of Congress strive to meet their constituents’ needs.5 They can accomplish this goal in a
myriad of ways, including introducing legislation and conducting oversight to influence public
policy;6 assisting constituents to access services offered by the executive branch (casework);7 or

1 Arthur Lee (Virginia) introduced a resolution on May 6, 1783, to erect an equestrian statue to George Washington.
Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774 -1789, (May 6, 1783), ed. Worthington C. Ford, et al. (Washington: GPO,
1922), vol. 25, p. 963. T he Continental Congress unanimously agreed to the resolution on August 7, 1783, and
authorized a bronze statue of Washington “ represented in Roman dress, holding a truncheon in his right hand [and his
head encircled with a laurel wreath].” T he “ best artist” in Europe was to construct the statute. Journals of the
Continental Congress, 1774-1789
, (August 7, 1783), ed. Worthington C. Ford, et al. (Washington: GPO, 1922), vol. 24,
pp. 494-495. In 1853, Congress appropriated $50,000 and commissioned Clark Mills to build the statue (10 Stat. 153).
In 1860, t he statue’s dedication occurred at Washington Circle (James M. Goode, Washington Sculpture: A Cultural
History of Outdoor Sculpture in the Nation ’s Capital
[Baltimore, MD: T he Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008], p.
480).
2 “Mausoleum to Washington,” Annals of Congress, vol. 10 (December 5, 1800), pp. 799-800.
3 Rep. John Nicholas (VA), “Mausoleum to Washington,” Annals of Congress, vol. 10 (December 5, 1800), p. 800.
4 Kirk Savage, Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial
Landscape
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005), p. 4. See also Rep. Nathaniel Macon (NC),
“Mausoleum to Washington,” Annals of Congress, vol. 10 (December 5, 1800), p. 803.
5 David Mayhew, Congress: The Electoral Connection (New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, 1974); Douglas
Arnold, The Logic of Congressional Action (New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, 1990).
6 Eric Schickler, Disjointed Pluralism: Institutional Innovation and the Development of the U.S. Congress (Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).
7 Lee Hamilton, “Constituent Service and Representation,” The Public Manager, vol. 21, no. 2 (Summer 1992). For
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publicly recognizing people, places, and events that are important for their districts or states.8
Members of Congress most frequently recognize people, places, and events through speeches on
the House or Senate floor or through the introduction of commemorative legislation.9
Each Member of Congress interprets representation differently.10 Scholars have identified the
introduction of commemorative measures as one way that Members of Congress can fulfil their
representational responsibilities and connect with their constituents.11 While some of these
commemorative measures may be narrowly tailored to a Member’s geographic constituency and
may not receive much attention outside of the district or state,12 other measures may have a more
durable effect. For example, Members of Congress can refer back to measures they or other
Members introduced, even if the House of Representatives or Senate did not consider those
measures.13
Also, some commemorative measures do have a national appeal and can serve as a broader form
of representation by supporting constituent interests that cross district boundaries. These might
include commemorative measures to recognize wars (e.g., the World War I Memorial in
Washington, DC, the World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO, or the World War II Memorial
Commemorative Coin); military units (e.g., the Monument Men or the 65th Infantry Regiments—
nicknamed the Borinqueneers); or historic American achievements (Apollo 11 Congressional
Gold Medal and 50th Anniversary commemorative coin). In these instances, commemorative
legislation can help fulfil a broader representational duty while also providing congressional
recognition to particular events, groups, or individuals.
Methodology
In each Congress, many Members introduce commemorative legislation and the House and
Senate debate and pass a number of commemorative measures. To understand how the
introduction and consideration of commemorative legislation has evolved, the Congressional
Research Service (CRS) partnered with graduate students at the Bush School of Government and
Public Service at Texas A&M University during the 2019-2020 academic year (September 2019
to May 2020) to collect and analyze data on commemorative measures. Data were collected from
Congress.gov for six types of commemoratives—naming federal buildings, authorizing postage
stamps, issuing commemorative coins, awarding Congressional Gold Medals, establishing

more information on casework, see CRS Report RL33209, Casework in a Congressional Office: Background, Rules,
Laws, and Resources
, by R. Eric Petersen and Sarah J. Eckman ; and CRS Report R44696, Casework in Congressional
Offices: Frequently Asked Questions
, by Sarah J. Eckman and R. Eric Petersen .
8 For example, see Colleen J. Shogan and Matthew E. Glassman, “Longitudinal Analysis of One -Minute Speeches in
the House of Representatives,” in Party and Procedures in the United States Congress, ed. Jacob R. Straus and
Matthew E. Glassman, 2nd ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), pp. 131 -150.
9 For example, see Zach Bergson, “Congress Recognizes Wide-Ranging Issues in ‘Day of,’ ‘Week of,’ ‘Month of’
Resolutions,’” The Hill, June 20, 2012, at https://thehill.com/capital-living/cover-stories/233687-congress-recognizes-
wide-ranging-issues-in-day-of-week-of-month-of-resolutions.
10 J. T obin Grant and T homas J. Rudolph, “T he Job of Representation in Congress: Public Expectations and
Representative Approval,” Legislative Studies Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 3 (August 2004), p. 432.
11 Roger H. Davidson et al., Congress and Its Members, 15th edition (Washington: CQ Press, 2016), p. 456.
12 J. T obin Grant and T homas J. Rudolph, “T he Job of Representation in Congress: Public Expectations and
Representative Approval,” Legislative Studies Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 3 (August 2004), p. 435.
13 James. L. Payne, “Show Horses & Work Horses in the United States House of Representatives,” Polity, vol. 12, no. 3
(Spring 1980), pp. 428-456.
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memorials and commemorative works, and recognizing time periods—that were introduced from
the 93rd Congress (1973-1974) through the 115th Congress (2017-2018).
One limitation for the data collection was that Congress.gov includes full text search capabilities
beginning in the 101st Congress (1989-1990). Prior to that, the Congress.gov search engine does
not al ow for full text legislative searches, but does al ow searches of measures’ legislative
summaries (including the titles). As a result of this limitation, it is possible that some relevant
commemorative measures were excluded.
Another limitation was that some legislative measures included multiple commemorations; in
these cases each of the commemorations was counted and categorized, so that a single bil could
appear more than once in the dataset of commemorative categories. Similarly, legislative actions,
such as introduction and enactment, may also have been counted more than once if a legislative
measure included commemorations across different categories. Figure 1 reports the Congress.gov
search terms for each type of commemorative legislation. For a detailed explanation of search
terms for each type of commemorative legislation, see the Appendix.
Figure 1. Congress.gov Search Terms for Commemorative Legislation

Commemorative Legislation Overview
Each Congress, hundreds of commemorative measures are introduced in the House and Senate.
Figure 2 reports the aggregate number of commemorative measures introduced and enacted or
agreed to for each Congress in this study.
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Figure 2. Commemorative Legislation Introduced and Enacted/Agreed To
93rd through 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government and Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov.
Note: This figure represents a count of commemorations and not a count of individual legislative vehicles. For
example, sometimes one legislative vehicle contained more than one commemoration. In these cases, CRS
counted the individual commemorations.
As Figure 2 shows, the number of commemorative measures introduced in Congresses from the
93rd through the 115th varied widely, as did the number of measures enacted (S., H.R., S.J.Res.,
and H.J. Res) or agreed to (H.Res., S.Res., H.Con.Res., and S.Con.Res).14 Of note is the House’s
1995 adoption of House Rule XII, clause 5, which prohibits the introduction or consideration of
date-specific commemorative legislation.15 The House rule, which was readopted as part of the
House Rules in each succeeding Congress, appears to have reduced the number of measures
introduced and considered in the 104th through 106th Congresses before the number of measures
returned to prerule levels (or higher).
Broadly, commemorative legislation can be divided into six categories: naming federal buildings,
authorizing postage stamps, issuing commemorative coins, awarding Congressional Gold Medals,
establishing memorials and commemorative works, and recognizing commemorative time
periods. In total, more than 18,000 commemorative measures were introduced during the 93rd

14 For more information on legislation types and characteristics, see CRS Report R46603, Bills, Resolutions,
Nom inations, and Treaties: Characteristics and Exam ples of Use
, by Jane A. Hudiburg.
15 U.S. Congress, House, Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives of the United
States One Hundred Sixteenth Congress
, prepared by T homas J. Wickham, 115 th Cong., 2nd sess., H.Doc. 115-177
(Washington: GPO, 2019), at https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/HouseRulesManual116/
rule12.xml. For more information on House Rule XII, clause 5, see CRS Report R44431, Com m em orative Days,
Weeks, and Months: Background and Current Practice
, by Jacob R. Straus and Jared C. Nagel. Prior to the adoption of
the House rule in the 104th Congress, in the 103rd Congress (1993-1994) the House Committee on the Post Office and
Civil Service had a rule that restricted the committee’s consideration of commemorative legislation under its
jurisdiction, including postage stamps, holidays, and celebrations. U.S. Congress. House Committee on Post Office and
Civil Service, Rules of the House Com m ittee on Post Office and Civil Service Together with Pertinent House Rules,
103rd Cong., 1st sess. (Washington: GPO, 1993), pp. 11-12.
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through the 115th Congresses. Figure 3 shows a breakdown in the percentage of measures
introduced for each type of commemorative legislation.
Figure 3. Commemorative Legislation Introduced by Type
93rd through 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government & Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov data on
commemorative legislation.
Note: Percentages add up to more than 100% due to rounding.
As shown in Figure 3, commemorative time period legislation constitutes nearly three-fourths of
al commemorative measures introduced. This is followed by building namings, memorials,
postage stamps and congressional gold medals, and commemorative coins. A more detailed
discussion of each category of commemorative legislation and of the trends found within the
introduction and consideration data for each category can be found below.
Types of Commemorations
As mentioned previously, historical y, many Members of Congress have introduced and the
House and Senate have debated legislation on six types of commemoratives—naming federal
buildings, authorizing postage stamps, issuing commemorative coins, awarding Congressional
Gold Medals, establishing memorials and commemorative works, and recognizing time periods.
Using the data outlined above and collected in coordination with the Bush School of Government
and Public Service at Texas A&M University, this report analyzes the introduction and
consideration of these six types of commemoratives during the 93rd through the 115th Congresses.
Naming Federal Buildings
Federal buildings and facilities are located throughout the United States. Their basic purpose is to
house government offices and functions, but they also “symbolize the power and stability of the
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federal government.”16 Naming federal buildings is one way to honor, celebrate, and remember
esteemed individuals, deceased elected officials, fal en military personnel, and other people of
local and national importance. Figure 4 shows an example of a named courthouse and a named
federal building.
Figure 4. Examples of Named Federal Buildings

Source: General Services Administration, “Dan M. Russel , Jr., United States Courthouse,” Mississippi Federal
Buildings, at https://www.gsa.gov/about-us/regions/welcome-to-the-southeast-sunbelt-region-4/buildings-and-
facilities/mississippi-federal-buildings; and National Capital Planning Commission, Dana Marks, “Why are There
so Many Brutalist Federal Buildings in Washington?” July 25, 2018, at https://www.ncpc.gov/news/item/52.
An act of Congress is general y required to name a federal building.17 From the 93rd through the
115th Congresses, 2,301 building naming bil s were introduced proposing to name 2,556
buildings. Of the introduced bil s, 1,094 were enacted to name 1,201 buildings. Figure 5 shows
the total number of measures introduced and enacted during the 93rd through 115th Congresses,
for al types of federal buildings.

16 National Park Service, “Federal Courthouses and Post Offices: Symbols of Pride and Permanence in American
Communities (T eaching with Historic Places),” at https://www.nps.gov/articles/federal-courthouses-and-post -offices-
symbols-of-pride-and-permanence-in-american-communities-teaching-with-historic-places.htm.
17 In some instances, the General Services Administration (GSA) can renam e buildings without specific congressional
authorization. Pursuant to 40 U.S.C. §3102, “ T he Administrator of General Services may name or otherwise designate
any building under the custody and control of the General Services Administration, regardless of whether it was
previously named by statute.” P.L. 107-217, 116 Stat. 1143, August 21, 2002. T he Administrator of GSA also has a
policy on naming interior spaces. General Services Administration, “ Naming of Interior Space Policy,” at
https://www.gsa.gov/cdnstatic/Naming_of_Interior_Space_Policy.pdf.
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Figure 5. Building Naming Legislation Introduced and Enacted
93rd through 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government and Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov.
As shown in Figure 5, the total number of bil s introduced to name post offices, federal buildings,
courthouses, and Veterans’ Affairs facilities has general y increased over time, with a decline in
the number of measures introduced beginning in the 111th Congress (2009-2010). The number of
measures enacted into law follows the same general pattern as bil introduction, but with
somewhat less consistency, especial y during the time period spanning the 96th Congress (1979-
1980) through the 107th Congress (2001-2002), when the number of measures enacted often
increased one Congress and then decreased the next. Further, beginning in the 114th Congress, the
number of measures enacted has increased along with the number of introduced measures.
Additional y, as shown in Figure 6, trends in the introduction and consideration of post office
naming bil s mirror the trends in the larger building naming dataset. This suggests that post office
naming bil introduction and consideration largely drives the overal trends in building naming.
Post Offices
Each Congress, numerous bil s are introduced to rename U.S. Post Office facilities. Many of the
measures would rename facilities for either a prominent local individual (e.g., the Juanita
Mil ender-McDonald Post Office in Long Beach, CA, for the former U.S. Representative)18 or a
servicemember who died while serving (e.g., the Sergeant First Class Robert Lee “Bobby” Hollar,
Jr. Post Office in Thomaston, GA).19 The U.S. Post Office Department, the predecessor to the
U.S. Postal Service, did not official y address the naming of post offices until 1891.20 Before then,
postal buildings derived names from a number of sources, including town names, crossroads, and

18 P.L. 113-268, 128 Stat. 2946, December 18, 2014.
19 P.L. 109-413, 120 Stat. 2765, December 18, 2006.
20 Standardized written instructions on naming post offices did not exist in that period. For more information, see U.S.
National Archives and Records Administration , “ Post Office Names,” Post Office Records, at
https://www.archives.gov/research/post -offices.
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other places of interest.21 Congress first honored an individual by naming a post office through
freestanding legislation in 1967.22 Since 1967, the introduction and consideration of legislation
naming post offices for persons has become common practice.
From the 93rd through the 115th Congresses, bil s were introduced to name 1,399 postal facilities,
and 794 postal facilities were named in enacted legislation. The most post office namings
occurred in the 110th Congress, when 109 facilities were renamed. The fewest occurred in the 93rd
Congress, when one post office was renamed. The upper left quadrant of Figure 6 shows the total
number of proposed and enacted post office building namings for each Congress from the 93rd
Congress through the 115th Congress.
For more information on naming post office facilities, including congressional rules and
practices, and sample legislation, see CRS Report RS21562, Naming Post Offices Through
Legislation, by Michel e D. Christensen.
Other Federal Buildings
Although legislation to name post offices is the most common type of legislation to name federal
buildings,23 Members of Congress also introduce legislation to name other federal structures.
These include federal buildings (e.g., the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center in Atlanta, GA),24
court houses (e.g., the Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Rapid
City, SD),25 and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) buildings and hospital facilities (e.g., the
Robert J. Dole Department of Veterans Affairs Medical and Regional Office Center in Wichita,
KS).26
From the 93rd through the 115th Congresses, Members introduced legislation that proposed to
name 1,157 nonpostal federal facilities. Figure 6 shows the total number of proposed and enacted
building namings for federal buildings (upper right quadrant), courthouses (lower left quadrant),
and VA buildings and hospitals (lower right quadrant) from the 93rd through the 115th Congresses.

21 For more information on the history of post office naming, see CRS Report RS21562, Naming Post Offices Through
Legislation
, by Michelle D. Christensen.
22 P.L. 90-232 (81 Stat. 751, December 29, 1967) named a combined post office and federal office building in Bronx,
NY, as the “ Charles A. Buckley Post Office and Federal Office Building.”
23 For more information about naming federal buildings, see CRS Report R43539, Commemorations in Congress:
Options for Honoring Individuals, Groups, and Events
, coordinated by Jacob R. Straus.
24 P.L. 105-165, 112 Stat. 37, March 20, 1998.
25 P.L. 111-298, 124 Stat. 3268, December 14, 2010.
26 P.L. 107-184, 116 Stat. 586, May 29, 2002.
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Figure 6. Naming Federal Buildings by Type
93rd through 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government and Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov.
As Figure 6 shows, when building-naming data were examined by type of building, the overal
patterns in the number of commemorative measures that appear in Figure 5 were general y no
longer present, except for post office namings, which largely mirror the overal data. As such,
Figure 6 shows that the numbers of proposed and enacted post office namings general y
increased over the dataset (with a peak in the 110th Congress), while the numbers of namings for
federal buildings, courthouses, and Veterans’ Affairs facilities and hospitals were general y
variable, with no definitive pattern for the introduction or enactment of legislation.
Postage Stamps
In 1847, Congress authorized the first U.S. postage stamps,27 following Senator Daniel Webster’s
advocacy of adopting a standardized postage stamp system similar to what the United Kingdom
adopted in 1840.28 Early designs featured Presidents and founding fathers such as George
Washington and Benjamin Franklin.29 The first series of commemorative postage stamps was
issued to mark the Columbian Exposition of 1893, which was held in Chicago to celebrate the
400th anniversary of Columbus landing in America.30 Since their introduction, commemorative
stamps have been popular with both collectors and the public.

27 9 Stat. 201. See Smithsonian National Postal Museum, “Postal Reform Goes Global,” at https://postalmuseum.si.edu/
exhibition/the-queen%E2%80%99s-own-postal-reforms-that-transformed-the-mail/reform-goes-global.
28 United States Postal Service, “History of Postage Stamps” About, at https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-
history/stamps-postcards.htm#history.
29 Ibid.
30 Smithsonian Institution, National Postal Museum, “ T he Nation’s First Commemorative Stamps,” at
https://postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibition/the-nation%E2%80%99s-first-commemorative-stamps.
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Beginning with the Columbian Exposition stamp, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has issued
commemorative stamps to celebrate persons, anniversaries, and historical and cultural
phenomena. Typical y, USPS issues stamps, including commemorative stamps, under its own
statutory discretion and operates the program as a revenue-generating enterprise. Recent
examples of commemorative stamps include Lena Horne, Ruth Asawa, the Chinese Lunar New
Year, and Star Trek. Relatedly, the post office also issues semipostal stamps, which general y
commemorate a cause and attempt to raise money for a designated organization. Figure 7
includes examples of the first stamps issued in the mid-1800s, an 1893 Columbian Exposition
stamp (first commemorative), and two modern semipostal stamps.
Figure 7. Examples of Early and Commemorative Stamps

Source: Postage Stamps: Smithsonian Institution, National Postal Museum, “1847-1851 Issues,” at
https://postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibition/about-us-stamps-classic-period-1847-1893-rawdon-wright-hatch-edson-
1847-1851/1847-1851; Commemorative Stamp: Smithsonian Institution, National Postal Museum, “Columbian
Exposition Issues (1893),” at https://postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibition/about-us-stamps-classic-period-1847-1893-
american-bank-note-company-1879-1893/columbian; and U.S. Postal Service, “Semipostal Stamps,” Community
Activities
, at https://about.usps.com/what/corporate-social-responsibility/activities/semipostals.htm.
Some Members of Congress often introduce legislation to direct USPS to issue a stamp to
commemorate specific people or events. From the 93rd through the 115th Congresses, Members
introduced 603 measures to request a stamp design, but less than 1% were enacted or agreed to.
The enacted or agreed-to legislation general y requested the creation of or created a semipostal
stamp—a stamp sold at a premium to raise money for a designated cause (e.g., the Save the
Vanishing Species Semipostal; P.L. 111-241).31 Additional y, the number of measures introduced
across Congresses varied somewhat over time. Figure 8 shows postage stamp legislation
introduced and enacted between the 93rd and 115th Congresses.

31 U.S. Postal Service, “Semipostal Stamps,” Community Activities, at https://about.usps.com/what/corporate-social-
responsibility/activities/semipostals.htm.
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Figure 8. Postage Stamp Legislation Introduced and Enacted
93rd through 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government and Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov.
Commemorative postage stamp legislation was coded into five thematic categories. These were
stamps commemorating causes, individuals, the military, anniversaries, organizations and groups
of people, and sports. Figure 9 shows a breakdown in the different categories of commemorative
stamps. The largest category was stamps commemorating individuals, with a total of 235 bil s
introduced (38%). The smal est category was postage stamps commemorating sporting events,
with a total of 4 bil s (~1%).
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Figure 9. Categorization of Introduced Postage Stamp Legislation
93rd through 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government and Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov.
For more information about postage stamps, see CRS Report RS22611, Common Questions
About Postage and Stamps, by Michel e D. Christensen; and CRS Report RS20221,
Commemorative Postage Stamps: History, Selection Criteria, and Revenue Potential, by Michel e
D. Christensen.
Commemorative Coins
Commemorative coins are “produced with the primary intention of creating a special souvenir to
be sold (at a premium above face value) to observe or memorialize an anniversary, special
occasion, or other event.”32 Designed and struck by the U.S. Mint pursuant to an act of Congress,
these coins celebrate and honor American people, places, events, and institutions. Although they
are considered legal tender, they are not minted for general circulation. Instead, they are designed
to be collected and to help designated groups raise money to support group activities.33 Each
calendar year, the U.S. Mint is statutorily limited to minting two commemorative coin

32 Q. David Bowers, A Guide Book of United States Commemorative Coins: History, Rarity, Values, Grading, Varieties
(Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing Company, 2008), p. 1. T he first commemorative coin was a half dollar minted in
1892, to recognize the Columbian Exposition in Chicago (27 Stat 389). From 1954 through 1981, Congress did not
authorize any new commemorative coins. In 1982, Congress restarted the commemorative coin program when it
authorized a commemorative half dollar to recognize George Washington’s 250 th birthday. From 1982 through 1996—
when Congress limited the Mint to issuing two coins per year, for coins minted after January 1, 1999, in an effort to
restrict the number of coins minted each year—the number of commemorative coins minted was as high as six per year
(1994). For more information on commemorative coins, see CRS Report R44623, Com m emorative Coins: Background,
Legislative Process, and Issues for Congress
, by Jacob R. Straus.
33 T ed Schwarz, A History of United States Coinage (San Diego, CA: A.S. Barnes & Company, Inc., 1980), pp. 319-
320. T oday, Members of Congress introduce commemorative coin legislation to celebrate individual or events and to
raise money for a designated group. For example, the 2019 Apollo 11 50 th Anniversary commemorative coin’s
proceeds were to benefit the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, the Astronauts Memorial Foundation,
and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (P.L. 114-282, 130 Stat. 1441, December 16, 2016).
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programs.34 Figure 10 shows the full range of commemorative coins minted in 2020 for the two
authorized programs—the Naismith Memorial Basketbal Hal of Fame and the Women’s
Suffrage Centennial.35
Figure 10. 2020 Commemorative Coins

Source: U.S. Mint, “Women’s Suffrage Centennial 2020 Proof Silver Dol ar,” at https://catalog.usmint.gov/
womens-suffrage-centennial-2020-proof-silver-dol ar-20CJ.html; U.S. Mint, “Basketbal Hal of Fame 2020 Proof
$5 Gold Coin,” at https://catalog.usmint.gov/basketbal -hal -of-fame-2020-proof-5-gold-coin-20CA.html; U.S.
Mint, “Basketbal Hal of Fame 2020 Proof Silver Dol ar,” at https://catalog.usmint.gov/basketbal -hal -of-fame-
2020-proof-silver-dol ar-20CC.html; and U.S. Mint, “Basketbal Hal of Fame 2020 Colorized Half Dol ar,” at
https://catalog.usmint.gov/basketbal -hal -of-fame-2020-colorized-half-dol ar-20CP.html.
Legislation to authorize commemorative coins has been introduced in every Congress since the
97th (1981-1982), when Congress restarted the issuance of commemorative coins.36 Figure 11
shows the number of commemorative coin measures introduced and enacted from the 97th
Congress (1981-1982) through the 115th Congress (2017-2018).

34 31 U.S.C. §5112(m)(1). A commemorative coin program is the subject matter statutorily authorized to be depicted on
a commemorative coin. Within each commemorative coin program, multiple denominations of coins might be
authorized. For example, P.L. 112-201 (§3, 126 Stat. 1480, December 4, 2012) authorized a commemorative coin
program for Mark T wain. T he statute authorized the mintin g of both $5 gold coins and $1 silver coins.
35 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: P.L. 115-343, 132 Stat. 5043, December 21, 2018; and Women’s
Suffrage Centennial: P.L. 116-71, 133 Stat. 1147, November 25, 2019 .
36 T he moratorium on new commemorative coins was in part because public interest in the coins had waned, and the
Department of t he T reasury was concerned that “ multiplicity of designs on United States coins would tend to create
confusion among the public, and to facilitate counterfeiting.” U.S. Congress, Senate, The City of New York
Tercentennial Com m em orative Coin—Veto Message
, 83rd Cong., 2nd sess., February 3, 1954, S.Doc. 94 (Washington:
GPO, 1954), p. 1.
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Figure 11. Commemorative Coin Legislation
97th to 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government and Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov.
As Figure 11 shows, the number of commemorative coin measures introduced ranged from a low
of 3 in the 98th Congress to a high of 43 in the 103rd Congress. Commemorative coin laws enacted
ranged from zero in the 98th and 107th Congresses to six each in the 108th, 109th, 110th, and 112th
Congresses.
Some Members introduce commemorative coin measures to honor or memorialize groups,
individuals, and events. Data on the introduction of commemorative coin measures were coded
into seven categories based on who or what was being honored. These categories are
 causes, such as the March of Dimes Commemorative Coin;37
 individuals, such as Chief Justice John Marshal ;38
 military units or events, such as the Black Revolutionary War Patriots;39
 anniversaries, such as the United States Marshals Service 225th Anniversary;40
 sports organizations and groups, such as the National Basebal Hal of Fame;41
 general organizations and groups, such as the Girl Scouts;42 and
 national symbols, such as Yel owstone National Park.43
Figure 12 shows the number of measures introduced in each category by Congress.

37 P.L. 112-209, 126 Stat. 1510, December 18, 2012.
38 P.L. 108-290, 118 Stat. 1021, August 6, 2004.
39 P.L. 104-329, §101(3), 110 Stat. 4007, October 20, 1996.
40 P.L. 112-104, 126 Stat. 286, April 2, 2012.
41 P.L. 112-152, 126 Stat. 1155, August 3, 2012.
42 P.L. 111-86, 123 Stat. 2881, October 29, 2009.
43 P.L. 104-329, §101(5), 110 Stat. 4008, October 20, 1996.
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Figure 12. Commemorative Coin Legislation Themes
97th to 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government and Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov.
As Figure 12 shows, the largest percentage of commemorative coin measures were introduced to
honor anniversaries and individuals. This was followed by military-themed coins, organizations
and groups, and national symbols. Sports and other causes made up the smal est percentages of
introduced measures.
For more information on commemorative coins, see CRS In Focus IF10262, Commemorative
Coins: An Overview
, by Jacob R. Straus; and CRS Report R44623, Commemorative Coins:
Background, Legislative Process, and Issues for Congress, by Jacob R. Straus.
Congressional Gold Medals
The Congressional Gold Medal is the “highest expression of national appreciation for
distinguished achievements and contributions that the Congress can bestow upon one of our
fel ow citizens.”44 The first Congressional Gold Medal was awarded in 1776 to George
Washington, and most of the early medals recognized military leaders. Today, Congressional
Gold Medals have been awarded to a diverse group of individuals and groups, including
individuals such as Sir Winston Churchil , Bob Hope, George Washington, Robert Frost, Joe
Louis, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta; and groups such as Native American Code Talkers, the
Montford Point Marines, and the Office of Strategic Services. Figure 13 shows two recent
examples of Congressional Gold Medals, one for a group (USS Indianapolis sailors) and one for
an individual (Stephen “Steve” Gleason).45

44 Rep. Randy Hultgren, “Bob Dole Congressional Gold Medal Act,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 142
(September 5, 2017), p. H6639.
45 USS Indianapolis Congressional Gold Medal: P.L. 115-338, 132 Stat. 5033, December 20, 2018; Stephen Michael
Gleason: P.L. 115-415, 132 Stat. 5433, January 3, 2019.
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Figure 13. Examples of Congressional Gold Medals

Source: U.S. Mint, “USS Indianapolis Congressional Gold Medal”, at https://www.usmint.gov/coins/coin-medal-
programs/medals/uss-indianapolis; and U.S. Mint, “Steve Gleason Congressional Gold Medal,” at
https://catalog.usmint.gov/steve-gleason-bronze-medal-3-inch-19MB.html.
In most Congresses, some Members introduce legislation to award Congressional Gold Medals
and a few measures are enacted into law. Figure 14 shows the number of Congressional Gold
Medal bil s introduced and enacted from the 93rd through the 115th Congresses.
Figure 14. Congressional Gold Medal Legislation Introduced and Considered
93rd through 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government and Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov.
As shown in Figure 14, the number of Congressional Gold Medal measures introduced has
varied since 1973, with as many as 56 measures introduced (115th Congress) and as few as zero
(93rd Congress). The number of Congressional Gold Medal bil s enacted per Congress has also
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varied, with a low of zero in the 93rd and 94th Congresses and a high of nine in the 113th Congress.
In total, 8% (48) of Congressional Gold Medal bil s introduced were enacted into law.
For more information about Congressional Gold Medals, see CRS Report R45101, Congressional
Gold Medals: Background, Legislative Process, and Issues for Congress, by Jacob R. Straus.
Commemorative Works
Commemorative works—memorials, monuments, and statues—honor important people, groups,
and events. For much of American history, monuments and memorials were authorized in a
piecemeal fashion, with no specific definition of what constituted a memorial or specified rules
for the selection of site locations or memorial designs. In recent Congresses, legislation has been
introduced to authorize commemorative works both inside and outside of the nation’s capital.
Figure 15 shows an example of a memorial in the District of Columbia (the Eisenhower
Memorial) and a memorial outside of Washington, DC (the National Memorial to Fal en
Educators in Emporia, KS).46
Figure 15. Examples of Memorials Established by Congress

Source: Eisenhower Memorial Commission, “Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial,” August 28, 2020, at
https://eisenhowermemorial.gov/sites/all/themes/emc/img/memoria l/banner_photo.jpg; and National Teachers
Hal of Fame, “National Memorial to Fal en Educators,” at https://nthfmemorial.org.
Commemorative Works in the District of Columbia
Within the District of Columbia and its environs,47 the Commemorative Works Act of 1986
(CWA) statutorily defines memorials and provides specific standards for the consideration, siting,
design, and building of memorials in areas administered by the National Park Service (NPS) and

46 Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial: P.L. 107-117, §8120, 115 Stat. 2273, January 10, 2002; and National Memorial to
Fallen Educators: P.L. 115-186, 132 Stat. 1285, April 30, 2018.
47 “T he term ‘the District of Columbia and its environs’ means those lands and properties administered by the National
Park Service and the General Services Administration located in the Reserve, Area I, and Area II a s depicted on the
map entitled “ Commemorative Areas Washington, DC and Environs”, numbered 869/86501 B, and dated June 24,
2003.” For a map of the commemorative areas of Washington, DC, and environs, see CRS Report R41658,
Com m em orative Works in the District of Colum bia: Background and Practice , by Jacob R. Straus. Memorials to be
located on land under the Jurisdiction of the District of Columbia are governed by D.C. Law 13 -275, the
Commemorative Works on Public Space Amendment Act of 2000. 40 U.S.C. §8902(a)(2).
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the General Services Administration (GSA).48 Additional y, some Members of Congress have
frequently introduced legislation to authorize memorials on Department of Defense (DOD)
controlled property. These can include Arlington National Cemetery, which is under the
jurisdiction of the Department of the Army, and other properties such as the Pentagon or the
Washington Navy Yard. DOD memorials are not covered by the CWA, but they are included in
the dataset of memorials because legislation often authorizes their placement in the National
Capital Region.49
Legislation to establish a commemorative work in the District of Columbia, or on adjacent
military controlled property is introduced nearly every Congress, but it is infrequently enacted.
The greatest numbers of measures were introduced in the 95th and 99th Congresses (35 each), and
the largest numbers of measures enacted were six in the 99th Congress, and five each in the 102nd,
103rd, and 113th Congresses. Figure 16 shows the numbers of introduced and enacted measures to
authorize a commemorative work in the District of Columbia from the 93rd through the 115th
Congresses.
Figure 16. Memorial Legislation in the District of Columbia
93rd through 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government and Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov.
As shown in Figure 16, the number of measures introduced to create a new memorial in the
National Capital region has ranged from 35 in the 95th and 99th Congresses to 11 in the 104th

48 40 U.S.C. §§8901-8909. For more information on the role of NCPC and CFA, see CRS Report R41658,
Com m em orative Works in the District of Colum bia: Background and Practice , by Jacob R. Straus. For more
information on memorial completed under the CWA, see CRS Report R43743, Monum ents and Mem orials Authorized
and Com pleted Under the Com m em orative Works Act in the District of Colum bia
, by Jacob R. Straus. For more
information on memorials currently in-progress or that have lapsed authorizations, see CRS Report R43744,
Monum ents and Mem orials Authorized Under the Com m em orative Works Act in the District of Colum bia: Current
Developm ent of In-Progress and Lapsed Works
, by Jacob R. Straus.
49 T he National Capital Region includes “the District of Columbia; Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties in
Maryland; Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties in Virginia; and all cities in Maryland and
Virginia in the geographic area bounded by the outer boundaries of the combined area of the counties listed
[above]….” 40 U.S.C. §8702.
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Congress. The number of enacted measures has ranged from six in the 99th Congress to zero in
the 104th and the 110th Congresses. Additional y, the CWA’s enactment does not appear to have
had an effect on the number of measures introduced or enacted.
For more information on the CWA and memorials in the District of Columbia, see CRS Report
R41658, Commemorative Works in the District of Columbia: Background and Practice, by Jacob
R. Straus; CRS Report R43743, Monuments and Memorials Authorized and Completed Under the
Commemorative Works Act in the District of Columbia
, by Jacob R. Straus; and CRS Report
R43744, Monuments and Memorials Authorized Under the Commemorative Works Act in the
District of Columbia: Current Development of In-Progress and Lapsed Works, by Jacob R.
Straus.
Memorials Outside of DC
The CWA does not govern congressional involvement in memorials outside of the District of
Columbia. Instead, the process for creating or authorizing such memorials is largely based on
whether the works are located on existing federal land and whether federal resources are utilized.
Recently, Congress has handled the creation of memorials outside the District of Columbia in two
ways: by directly authorizing a new commemorative or by making an existing commemorative a
“national” memorial. Figure 17 shows the number of introduced and enacted measures to
authorize or designate a memorial outside the District of Columbia.
Figure 17. Memorial Legislation Outside the District of Columbia
93rd through 115th Congresses (1973-2018)

Source: Bush School of Government and Public Service and CRS data analysis of Congress.gov.
As shown in Figure 17, with the exception of the 105th Congress, legislation to recognize a
national memorial outside of Washington, DC, has been introduced in every Congress from the
93rd through the 115th, with the most introduced in the 93rd Congress (29) and the fewest in the
110th Congress (5). Most Congresses also see legislation enacted to recognize or authorize a
memorial outside of the District of Columbia, with the most enacted in the 100th Congress (eight)
and the fewest in the 93rd, 105th, and the 110th Congress (zero each).
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For more information on memorials outside the District of Columbia, see CRS Report R45741,
Memorials and Commemorative Works Outside Washington, DC: Background, Federal Role, and
Options for Congress, by Jacob R. Straus and Laura B. Comay.
Commemorative Observances
Each Congress, measures are introduced to recognize, support, honor, or acknowledge
individuals, groups, and events (including anniversaries) with a national day, week, or month.
This type of legislation can be divided into three categories: federal holidays; patriotic and
national observances; and recognition of a specific day, week, or month for a specific individual,
group, or event (including anniversaries).
Federal Holidays
The United States has 11 permanent federal holidays.50 These federal holidays are codified at 5
U.S.C. §6103 and are New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Inauguration Day
(every four years, following a presidential election), George Washington’s Birthday, Memorial
Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and
Christmas Day. Although frequently cal ed public or national days, these celebrations are only
legal y applicable to the federal government and the District of Columbia, as the states
individual y decide their own legal holidays.51 Recent proposed federal holidays include
Juneteenth and Election Day.52
The introduction and enactment of federal holiday measures is a relatively rare occasion in more
recent Congresses. From the 93rd Congress through the 115th Congress, 128 bil s were introduced
to create a federal holiday. Of these bil s, one was enacted—creating Martin Luther King Jr. Day
in 1983.53
For more information on federal holidays, see CRS Report R41990, Federal Holidays: Evolution
and Current Practices, by Jacob R. Straus.
Patriotic and National Observances
Since 1914, Congress has authorized 45 perpetual patriotic and national observances. The first of
these observances recognized Mother’s Day and requested that the President issue an annual
proclamation “on the second Sunday in May, as a public express of our love and reverence for the
mothers of our country.”54

50 5 U.S.C. §6103.
51 For more information on federal holidays and their history, see CRS Report R41990, Federal Holidays: Evolution
and Current Practices
, by Jacob R. Straus.
52 For Juneteenth, see S. 4019 (116th Congress), introduced June 22, 2020; and H.R. 7232 (116th Congress), introduced
June 18, 2020. For Election Day, see H.R. 7820 (116th Congress), introduced, July 29, 2020.
53 P.L. 98-144, 97 Stat. 917, November 2, 1983.
54 38 Stat. 771, May 8, 1914.
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Codified in Title 36, United States Code, these patriotic and national observances include days for
individuals,55 groups,56 events,57 and other commemorations.58 The creation of new patriotic and
national observances requires the enactment of a law. In recent Congresses, for example,
legislation has been introduced to designate March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day to honor and
recognize “the contributions of veterans who served in the United States Armed Forces in
Vietnam during war and during peace.”59
Other Commemorative Time Periods
In addition to statutory federal holidays and patriotic and national observances, Congress has
historical y considered legislation that recognizes, supports, honors, or acknowledges certain
days, weeks, months, and anniversaries. For example, in the 115th Congress, the Senate agreed to
a resolution “recognizing the month of October 2017 as Filipino American History Month.”60
Usual y introduced as simple resolutions (H.Res. or S.Res.), these commemorative measures
provide recognition by one congressional chamber of individuals, groups, and events without
creating a new federal holiday or permanent patriotic and national observance.61
Figure 18 shows the number of commemorative time period measures introduced and agreed to
in both chambers. A total of 12,980 measures were introduced from the 93rd through the 115th
Congresses, and 1,325 were agreed to in both chambers (H.Con.Res., S.Con.Res). Since the 104th
Congress, House Rule XII, clause 5, has prohibited the introduction and consideration of date-
specific commemorative legislation in the House (see “Commemorative Time Period Legislation
in the House” below for more information). This rule only applies to the introduction and
consideration of date-specific commemorative legislation in the House. Therefore, the rule might
explain why the numbers of introduced and considered commemorative time period resolutions
decline in Figure 18. The rule does not apply to the Senate. The rule’s adoption is indicated in
Figure 18 with the dotted line.

55 Patriotic and national observances that celebrate individuals include, for example, the Wright Brothers (§143), Leif
Erikson (§114), and Stephen Foster (§140).
56 Patriotic and national observances that celebrate groups include, for example, Mother’s Day ( §117) and Peace
Officers (§136).
57 Patriotic and national observances that celebrate events include, for example, Patriot Day (9/11) (§144), Korean War
Veterans Armistice Day (§127), and the signing of the Constitution (§106 and §108).
58 Patriotic and national observances that celebrate items include, for example, Flag Day (§110), Poison Prevention
Week (§130), and Heart Month (§101).
59 S. 409 (113th Congress), introduced February 28, 2013.
60 S.Res. 305 (115th Congress), agreed to on October 25, 2017.
61 Simple resolutions can only be considered in the chamber in which they were introduced. T herefore, the Senate
cannot act on a House resolution (H.Res.) and the House cannot act on a Senate resolution (S.Res.).
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