Amendments in Disagreement
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Conditions for Reporting Amendments in Disagreement.........................................................1
Consideration of Amendments in Disagreement.......................................................................2
Author Contact Information............................................................................................................2
he House and Senate must approve an identical version of a measure before it may be
presented for the President’s approval or veto. If the House and Senate approve differing
versions of a measure, the differences must first be resolved. When the differences T
between the House and Senate are complex or controversial, the two chambers typically attempt
to resolve those differences by going to conference.
Not all differences between the House and Senate versions of a measure, however, might be
resolved through the conference process. When conferees are unable to resolve differences, they
may report back to their respective chambers “in disagreement,” so that the House and Senate
may then use an exchange of amendments and motions between the houses to resolve outstanding
issues. Amendments may be reported back either in true or technical disagreement. If the
conferees are unable to reach agreement they may report back in true disagreement, but this is
rare in modern practice. If the conferees are able to reach agreement on their substantive
differences, but not within the procedural constraints posed by the conference process, reporting
back an amendment in technical disagreement may allow them to avoid exposing a conference
report to certain potential points of order.
Neither the House or the Senate makes any procedural distinction between amendments in true
disagreement and those in technical disagreement. Any procedural option available for disposing
of an amendment in true disagreement would also be available for disposing of an amendment in
technical disagreement. In most instances, Congress chooses to adopt the agreement negotiated
by the conferees rather than to resolve complex disagreements between the House and Senate on
the floor. For more on options for considering amendments in disagreement, see CRS Report 98-
696, Resolving Legislative Differences in Congress: Conference Committees and Amendments
Between the Houses. See http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml for more
information on legislative process.
When a conference concerns a bill from one house with a single amendment in the nature of a
substitute from the other, conferees must report back in complete agreement or disagreement.
However, when a bill from one house is sent to conference with a series of separate and discrete
amendments from the other house, the conferees may report each of these separate matters as part
of the conference report or as amendments in either true or technical disagreement. In modern
practice, amendments in disagreement arise almost exclusively from consideration of
appropriations measures, although this has been less frequent in recent years.
The rules of the House and Senate impose varying degrees of restrictions on the authority of their
conferees and the contents of conference reports. Especially in the House, conferees are limited
by the scope of the differences between the House and Senate positions on a matter, and are
limited to consideration only of those matters in the two versions that are in disagreement.
Because these and other restrictions apply to conference reports, but not to amendments between
the houses, conferees may be able to take advantage of this distinction and avoid potential points
of order. As a result, provisions which could potentially subject a conference report to a point of
order may be more easily dealt with separately as amendments between the houses.
In addition, House Rule XXII, clause 5 prohibits conferees from including in conference reports
unauthorized appropriations or legislation in general appropriations bills as prohibited under
House Rule XXI unless “specific authority to agree to the amendment first is given by the House
by a separate vote.” Conferees have historically operated without this authority, instead reporting
back amendments in technical or true disagreement, which could then be disposed of by a
The House is typically the first chamber to act when conferees report a partial conference report
accompanied by amendments in disagreement. This occurs because amendments in disagreement
are most likely to arise from consideration of appropriations measures. Under longstanding
practice, appropriations bills originate in the House, and may include separate Senate
amendments to the House bill (although this practice has been less frequent in recent years).
After the first house agrees to the partial conference report, any amendments in technical
disagreement are disposed of individually. For each amendment, the majority floor manager
offers a motion that reflects the agreement negotiated by the conferees. This motion may provide
for the first chamber to recede from disagreement with the second chamber and concur in its
amendment (accepting the position of the second chamber) or concur with a further amendment
of their own (as negotiated by the conferees). In the House, any further House amendment must
be germane. The majority manager in the House will sometimes ask unanimous consent to recede
and concur with two or more Senate amendments en bloc when they are noncontroversial.
Once the first chamber has disposed of all amendments in disagreement, the conference papers
are messaged to the second chamber for their consideration. The second chamber likewise first
acts on the partial conference report, and then on any amendments on which action is required.
Because any action in the first chamber to recede and concur in the amendment of the second
chamber accepts the position of the second chamber, no further action on these amendments is
necessary. When the Senate considers amendments in technical disagreement they typically
dispose of them en bloc. If the second chamber agrees to the further amendments adopted by the
first chamber (as negotiated by the conferees) the measure is cleared for the President.
James V. Saturno
Specialist on the Congress and Legislative Process