Amendments in the House: Types and Forms
Amendments in the House:
Types and Forms
Christopher M. Davis
Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
Distinctions Among Amendments
The amending process is central to the consideration of legislation by the House of
Representatives, and the rules, practices, and precedents that underlie this process
frequently depend on distinguishing among amendments based on their type and form.
Simply put, not all amendments are equal in a procedural sense, and the form or type of
amendment frequently determines what further amendments may be offered, and therefore
what alternatives the House may choose among. For more information on legislative
process, see [http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml].
Degrees of Amendments
A fundamental aspect of the amending process in the House is that it is limited to
two degrees. Amendments may be offered to the measure under consideration (first-
degree), and to amendments to the measure (second-degree). A second-degree
amendment may only be offered while the first-degree amendment to which it is offered
is pending, and the House must vote on any second-degree amendments before it votes
on a pending first-degree amendment, as it may have been amended. That is, any second-
degree amendment that is agreed to is incorporated into a first-degree amendment before
that first-degree amendment is voted on.
House Rule XVI, clause 6 provides that “it also shall be in order to offer a further
amendment by way of substitute.” Such a substitute is treated as a first-degree
amendment, presumably because it is offered in the form of an alternative to the original
first-degree amendment rather than an amendment to it. Like the original first-degree
amendment, this one also is subject to second-degree amendments. Rule XVI also
provides that second-degree amendments to the original first-degree amendment must be
voted on before pending second-degree amendments to the first-degree substitute. A first-
degree substitute, as it may have been amended, must be voted on prior to a vote on the
original first-degree amendment, as it may have been amended.
Only one second-degree amendment may be pending at a time to any first-degree
amendment. Additional second-degree amendments, however, may be offered
subsequently if other conditions permit.
The degree of an amendment will have an impact on the application of the
germaneness requirement imposed by Rule XVI, clause 7. Since the definition of
germaneness is dependent on the specific propositions involved, first-degree amendments
must be germane to the measure, while second-degree amendments must be germane to
the first-degree amendment to which they are offered.
Forms of Amendments
Amendments may also be distinguished by whether they are posed in the form of
(1) a motion to strike out some existing text from a measure (or from a first-degree
amendment); (2) a motion solely to insert some new text into a measure (or into a first-
degree amendment); or (3) a motion both to strike out some existing text and insert
something new (in either a measure or a first-degree amendment).
Scope of Amendments
A third way to distinguish among amendments is by their scope. The procedural
scope of an amendment is defined in relation to the text the amendment would effect, and
not indicative of any substantive policy changes that would result from the proposed
amendment. An amendment is a substitute if it would replace all of a pending text.
Generally, a perfecting amendment is one that inserts text or replaces less than a complete
Although they are rarely referred to as such, first-degree amendments that are drafted
to amend some portion of a measure (but less than the entire measure) are perfecting
amendments. Likewise, second-degree amendments that are drafted to amend some
portion of a first-degree amendment are perfecting amendments.
As provided by Rule XVI, clause 6, a substitute for a first-degree amendment is in
order and will likewise be treated as a first-degree amendment. The substitute, as it may
have been amended, will be voted on prior to a vote on the original first-degree
amendment, as it may have been amended.
A special case arises when a substitute is offered in the form of a motion to strike out
everything in a measure after the enacting clause (or the resolving clause, in the case of
a resolution) and insert a different text. This is known as an amendment in the nature of
a substitute, and is rarely offered without protection under a special rule reported by the
Rules Committee. Because committees frequently report their recommendations to the
House in this form, Members typically focus their consideration on the substitute and
special rules typically provide that the substitute be treated as “an original bill for the
purpose of amendment.” This language means that the amendment in the nature of a
substitute will not be treated as a first-degree amendment; instead two degrees of
amendment will be allowed as though the amendment in the nature of a substitute were
the text of the measure.