"It is our job to pass resolutions saying things that student groups want," Speaker Mark Townsend said Thursday.
"It would be trampling on our ability to do that if they could just go straight to the student body (with a referendum)."
Townsend said the decision was essential to prevent Congress from heading down a "dangerous slope."
"If we allowed one student group to go and hold a referendum on something, then every group could," he said.
"Every group who had an interest could then go and hold an impromptu poll on election day and see what the student body thinks."
But Gregory Wahl, student affairs committee chairman, favored placing the referendum on the ballot. "It's in the (Student) Code that students can have a referendum on the ballot," he said.
While the Student Code allows students to ask for a referendum, it should be for a tangible, on-campus policy, rather than a broad national issue, Townsend said. Congressional resolutions are the preferred means of showing support for an idea or philosophy, he said.
But Congress did not just spend their time on issues of student code interpretation -- they also rejected an appropriations request that would have allowed the hiring of a second UNC lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender coordinator.
Finance Committee Chair Tony Larson said the decision to reject the request was based the Student Code's distinction between clerical and non-clerical positions. "One of the things we can't (use fees for) is paying salaries for people to do things that are non-clerical," Larson said. "We can't pay a salary from student fees for a leadership role or a planner."