The Committee Markup Process in the House of Representatives
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
The process of marking up bills and resolutions in committees of the House of Representatives
generally resembles, but does not perfectly replicate, the process of amending measures on the
At the beginning of a markup, committee members often make opening statements, usually not
exceeding five minutes apiece. The first reading of the text of the bill to be marked up can be
waived, either by unanimous consent or by adopting a nondebatable motion. The bill then is read
for amendment, one section at a time, with committee members offering their amendments to
each section after it is read but before the next section is read. By unanimous consent only, the
committee may agree to dispense with the reading of each section, or to consider a bill for
amendment by titles or chapters instead of by sections. Also by unanimous consent, the
committee may consider the entire bill as having been read and open to amendment at any point.
Each amendment must be read in full unless the committee waives that reading by unanimous
consent. Committees debate amendments under the five-minute rule. A committee can end the
debate on an amendment by ordering the previous question on it, or by agreeing to a motion to
close debate on it. A committee also can order the previous question or close debate on the entire
bill, once it has been read or that reading has been waived by unanimous consent. However, the
committee can only close debate, not order the previous question, on individual sections (titles,
chapters) of the bill. The various kinds of amendments, as well as most of the other motions, that
are in order on the House floor are in order in committee as well.
Committees do not actually change the texts of the bills they mark up. Instead, committees vote
on amendments that their members want to recommend that the House adopt when it considers
the bill on the floor. The committee concludes a markup not by voting on the bill as a whole, but
by voting on a motion to order the bill reported to the House with whatever amendments the
committee has approved. A majority of the committee must be present when this final vote
occurs. For all other stages of markups, committees may set their own quorum requirements, so
long as that quorum is at least one-third of the committee’s membership.
Like the Speaker of the House, committee chairs are responsible for maintaining order and for
enforcing proper procedure, either at their own initiative or by ruling on points of order that other
committee members make. Chairs also frequently respond to questions about procedure in the
form of parliamentary inquiries.
A committee may report a bill back to the House without amendment, with several amendments,
or with an amendment in the nature of a substitute that proposes an entirely different text for the
bill. Alternatively, a committee may report a new or “clean” bill on the same subject as the bill (or
other text) that it has marked up.
Introduc tion ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Applicability of House Rules....................................................................................................1
Variations Among Committees.................................................................................................1
Selecting the Text............................................................................................................................2
The Chair’s Authority in Practice..............................................................................................3
Recourse of Committee Members.............................................................................................3
The Markup Process in General......................................................................................................5
Beginning the Markup.....................................................................................................................6
Offering and Debating Amendments...............................................................................................7
Reading Bills for Amendment...................................................................................................7
Two Motions to Conclude a Debate..............................................................................................10
Ordering the Previous Question...............................................................................................11
Moving to Close the Debate.....................................................................................................11
Majority Powers and Minority Rights.....................................................................................12
Motions, Quorums, and Votes.......................................................................................................13
Moti ons ........................................................................................................................ ........... 13
Quorums .................................................................................................................................. 14
Voti ng ......................................................................................................................... ............. 14
Points of Order and Parliamentary Inquiries.................................................................................15
Points of Order and Appeals...................................................................................................15
Reserving Points of Order.......................................................................................................16
Challenging Committee Procedures........................................................................................17
Motions to Conclude Markups......................................................................................................17
Ordering the Bill Reported......................................................................................................18
The Committee’s Reporting Options.......................................................................................18
Preparing for Conference........................................................................................................19
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................20
The primary legislative function of standing committees in the House of Representatives is to
evaluate the thousands of bills and resolutions that Members introduce during each Congress.
This evaluation process typically begins with an initial screening by which the majority party
leaders and staff of each committee identify the relatively small percentage of measures referred
to it that may merit more consideration. The committee or one of its subcommittees then usually
conducts one or more days of public hearings to receive testimony about the issue and the merits
of the legislation proposed to address it. If the committee decides that it may want to recommend
that the House take legislative action, the hearings are followed by markup meetings at which
committee members propose and vote on amendments to a bill (or the draft of a bill). These
meetings are called markups because committee members mark up the legislation before them as
they decide what amendments to propose to the House. Finally, the committee votes to order the
bill reported back to the House for consideration on the floor.
This report focuses on the markup stage of the legislative process in committee. It discusses the
selection of the text to be marked up, the procedures for proposing and debating amendments to
that text, the voting and quorum procedures that govern markups, and the final stages of ordering
the marked-up text reported to the House for its consideration.
In general, the markup process in House committees reflects many of the rules and practices that
govern the amending process on the House floor. Clause 1(a)(1)(A) of House Rule XI states in
part that “the Rules of the House are the rules of its committees and subcommittees so far as
applicable.” As this report will discuss, this clause is somewhat ambiguous in application because
there is more than one House rule governing some aspects of the floor amendment process, such
as the devices available to terminate debate or to preclude additional amendments from being
Clause 2(a)(1) of Rule XI also empowers each standing committee to supplement and implement
clause 1(a)(1)(A) by adopting its own written rules, which each committee does at one of its first
meetings at the beginning of each Congress. According to clause 2(a)(1), these committee rules
“may not be inconsistent with the Rules of the House or with those provisions of law having the
force and effect of Rules of the House....” This statement also is ambiguous in that a committee
rule governing debate on amendments, for example, may be consistent with one House rule but
inconsistent with another. As this report also will discuss, the House parliamentarian has given
committees some helpful guidance about how these provisions should be understood and applied
during the conduct of markups and other committee meetings.
The combined effect of these two clauses, therefore, is to give the House’s standing committees
some clear direction about how to proceed during markups, but also to give them some discretion
in setting their own committee rules, procedures, and customary practices.
Committee markups tend to be less formal than the corresponding amending process on the
House floor. Committees are much smaller bodies, so they do not always need elaborate rules that
are strictly enforced in order for them to conduct their business. In fact, a more informal process
sometimes contributes to efficient and collegial decision making in committee. Furthermore, most
committee markups are somewhat less constrained by rules than House floor sessions because the
House parliamentarian and his assistants do not attend committee markups to advise chairs and
other committee members on procedural questions. Although many committees designate a
majority party staff member to provide procedural advice, committee chairs tend to rely much
more on their own knowledge and judgment in conducting committee meetings than do the
Speaker and other Representatives who preside over House floor sessions.
The rules of the House give its committees some discretion in how each of them conducts its
markup meetings, and committees exercise this discretion in somewhat different ways—both in
the formal rules they adopt to govern their meetings, and even more in the informal (and
unrecorded) practices that different committees typically follow.
This report concentrates on the markup procedures that House committees are expected to
employ, although not all committees follow these procedures in all respects and at all times. The
report also discusses some informal practices and certain tactical alternatives that committee
chairs and members sometimes employ. However, the discussion here could not possibly
encompass every variation in markup procedure that may be observed in committee practices.
Readers of this report should not be surprised if it does not accord in every respect with what they
may have observed at certain markup meetings of the committees with which they are most
familiar. References to committees in what follows should be understood to refer to
subcommittees as well, unless the text specifically distinguishes between them.
A key initial decision that can shape the course and outcome of a markup is the selection of the
text that the committee considers. Essentially, there are two choices. First, the committee may
mark up the text of one of the bills that Members had introduced and that the House
parliamentarian, acting for the Speaker, had referred to the committee.
Second, the committee may mark up the draft of a bill that has not yet been formally introduced
and referred to the committee. The chair can direct the committee’s staff to prepare the draft of a
bill, usually written with the assistance of attorneys in the House’s Office of Legislative Counsel,
that reflects the chair’s policy preferences. The committee then may mark up this draft bill which,
in its printed form, may be called a “discussion draft” or a “staff draft.” Such a draft is now often
known informally as a “chair’s mark.” This phrase originated in committee consideration of
budget resolutions, but now is commonly used to denote any draft that constitutes the legislative
starting point from which a committee chair thinks a markup should begin.
In either case, the text that a committee marks up already may have been marked up by one or
more of the committee’s subcommittees. If there has been a subcommittee markup, the
subcommittee then makes its legislative recommendations to its parent committee. In turn, the
committee most often uses the product of the subcommittee’s markup as the starting point for its
The selection of the text—or the “base text” or the “vehicle,” as Members sometimes call it—that
the committee will mark up is important because it sets the framework within which the markup,
and the policy debates it inspires, will take place. Each provision of the selected text will survive
the markup and be recommended to the House for passage unless a committee member takes the
initiative to propose an amendment to it that the committee adopts. The burden is on those who
would change the provisions of the base text; it is up to them to devise alternatives to that text and
convince a majority of their committee colleagues to vote for those alternatives. Clearly, then, it is
advantageous to be able to select the vehicle from among the bills that were referred to the
committee, or to devise the vehicle by drafting a new text that very well may draw on selected
provisions of the introduced bills on which the committee held hearings.
Almost invariably, it is the committee chair who selects the text to be marked up. Yet there is
nothing in the rules of the House that explicitly gives chairs this authority. Instead, this power
would seem to derive from the authority of committee chairs to schedule committee meetings and
set the agenda for them.
Clause 2(b) of House Rule XI directs each committee to establish regular monthly meeting days
to conduct business, which can include marking up legislation. Committees interpret this rule as
giving the chair the authority to decide what, if anything, the committee should consider at each
of its regular meetings. Many committees also exercise the authority derived from clause 2(b) to
allow their chairs to cancel regular meetings when the chair considers it appropriate to do so.
Clause 2(c)(1) of the same rule authorizes each standing committee chair to call “additional and
special” committee meetings “for the consideration of a bill or resolution pending before the
committee or for the conduct of other committee business, subject to such rules as the committee
may adopt.” Again, this clause is understood to allow the chair to decide what measure or what
other committee business will be on the agenda of each such meeting. A committee may adopt a
rule that requires the chair to give prior notice to, or even consult with, the ranking minority
member before scheduling a meeting. A committee’s rules also may require that the chair give all
committee members advance notice of when the committee will meet and what matters will be on
its agenda for that meeting. Still, the authority to schedule committee meetings, including
markups, and to select matters for consideration at those meetings, rests effectively with the
Committee members have two different mechanisms they can use when they disagree with their
chair’s decisions about what legislation the committee will meet to mark up, and when. However,
members very rarely resort to either of these devices.
If a committee member objects to the committee marking up a matter that the chair has placed on
the agenda for a regular or additional committee meeting, the member may ask the committee to
vote on whether it wants to consider that matter. To secure this vote, a member raises what is
known as the question of consideration. Under clause 3 of House Rule XVI (which Rule XI,
clause 1(a)(1)(A), makes applicable to committees),
When a motion or proposition is entertained, the question, “Will the House now consider it?”
may not be put unless demanded by a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner.
Put differently, whenever a bill or resolution, or the draft text of a measure, is called up for
markup at a committee meeting (but before debate on it actually begins), any member may
compel a vote on the question of consideration. If a majority of the committee votes “no” on this
question of consideration, the committee does not proceed to act on the matter in question. In this
way, a majority of a committee can prevent its chair from compelling them to mark up legislation
that they prefer not to consider, at least at that time. However, the question of consideration rarely
is raised, and, if raised, it is very unlikely that the committee will block consideration of a
measure that the chair wishes the committee to mark up.
There are two primary, and related, reasons. First, in setting the committee’s markup agenda, the
chair usually is acting in support of the majority party’s policy and political interests. Except in
the most unusual cases, therefore, the chair’s agenda decisions can be expected to enjoy the
support of all, or almost all, of his or her fellow party members on the committee. Second,
whether in committee or on the floor, control of the agenda is at the very heart of the powers and
prerogatives of the majority party in the House. Therefore, majority party members in committee
are inclined to (and normally are expected to) support their chair on procedural votes, such as
votes on questions of consideration, when control of the committee’s agenda is at stake.
Committee members have a different recourse if a committee chair fails to schedule a meeting to
mark up legislation that a majority of the committee wants to consider. Under clause 2(c)(2) of
Rule XI, any three committee members can request in writing that their chair call a special
meeting for a specific purpose, such as to mark up a measure that is identified in the written
request. If the chair fails to call the meeting within three days, and if the meeting does not take
place within seven days, a majority of the committee may require that the committee meet for that
purpose (and only that purpose) at a designated date and time.
In this way, a majority of committee members may take control of the agenda away from their
chair and require the committee to mark up a measure that the chair has failed to schedule for
consideration. However, this rule has rarely, if ever, been formally invoked since the House first
adopted it as part of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970. The reasons are not surprising.
In the contemporary House, we would rarely expect to encounter serious and open conflicts
between a committee chair and many committee members of his or her own party. Therefore, we
would expect this rule to be invoked by the committee’s minority, joined by at least a few
majority party members of the committee, who would have to be willing to undermine their
party’s control over the committee’s agenda. On the other hand, the threat of invoking the clause
2(c)(2) procedure for calling a special meeting may have convinced chairs to schedule matters for
markup that they would have preferred not to bring up, at least at that time.
The combined effect of these rules, and the political and institutional conditions affecting their
use, generally is to give committee chairs effective control over what matters their committees
mark up, when these markups take place, and precisely what text the committee considers.
However, chairs exercise this control within limits imposed by their knowledge that a chair’s
decisions can be overridden if he or she thwarts the will of the committee’s majority party
members, and that the continuance of each chair in that office depends on retaining the support of
the entire majority party’s conference or caucus. In practice, the minority party members of a
committee usually have little effective recourse when they object to what their chair has or has
not scheduled for the committee to mark up.
A general discussion of the markup process in House committees will provide a context for
subsequent sections of this report that discuss the individual stages of the process.
As mentioned above, the rules of the House of Representatives are ambiguous with respect to the
procedures that standing committees are to follow at markup meetings. Clause 1(a)(1)(A) of Rule
XI generally provides that “the Rules of the House are the rules of its committees and
subcommittees so far as applicable...” (italics added). And clause 2(a)(1) of the same rule directs
each standing committee to adopt written rules governing its procedures that “may not be
inconsistent with the Rules of the House....” (italics added).
Two problems arise in interpreting these rules. First, they do not provide criteria to judge whether
committee rules are not inconsistent with House rules. Second, they do not define which House
rules are applicable to committees and subcommittees. The House’s rules make available different
sets of procedures that the House uses under different circumstances to consider various bills and
resolutions on the floor. It would not be possible for all of these procedures to be applicable to
committees at the same time. By the same token, it would not be possible for committees to adopt
rules that avoid being inconsistent with any of these procedures.
The House parliamentarian provides important guidance when he notes in the commentary
accompanying Sec. XXX of Jefferson’s Manual that “[t]he procedures applicable in the House as
in the Committee of the Whole generally apply to proceedings in committees of the House of
Representatives.” He also points out several exceptions to this general statement that are
The phrase “the House as in Committee of the Whole” refers to a distinctive set of procedures
that the House may, but rarely does, use to consider measures on the floor. These procedures are
not stated in the House’s standing rules, but they are a matter of well-established precedent. As its
name suggests, the procedures applicable in the House as in Committee of the Whole combine
elements of the procedures that apply in the House and those that are followed in Committee of
To summarize what is discussed in more detail below, when a standing committee begins a
markup, the text to be considered first is to be read in full, although this reading usually can be
waived by majority vote. The text then is considered for amendment, section by section. Each
section is read, unless the reading of one or all sections is waived by unanimous consent.
Committee members may offer amendments to each section after it is read but before the next
section is read. Each amendment must be in writing and is to be read before debate on it begins.
An amendment may be withdrawn without the need for unanimous consent (on the floor
unanimous consent is needed) unless the committee has acted on it. Committee members may
speak on the bill and amendments under a five-minute rule, meaning that each member may
speak for five minutes on each amendment unless the committee votes to bring the debate to an
There are two motions available to end debate. Members may vote either to close the debate or to
order the previous question on (1) a pending amendment or (2) the entire bill after the last section
of the bill has been read or considered as read. However, members may move only to close the
debate, not to order the previous question, on the pending section of the bill (and all amendments
to it). Both motions are decided by simple majority vote. The difference lies in the fact that
ordering the previous question ends the debate and precludes additional amendments, while the
motion to close debate does only that—it ends the debate, but it does not prevent members from
offering additional, nondebatable amendments that otherwise are in order.
It should be emphasized that the rules of the House do not specifically describe these procedures
and require committees to follow them. However, the House’s standing committees typically
follow these procedures during markups, unless the committee agrees otherwise by unanimous
A committee markup meeting usually begins by the chair calling the committee to order and
announcing the matters that the committee is expected to consider at that meeting. The chair also
may announce that the requisite quorum of members is present. The chair begins the markup
itself by announcing that the committee will proceed to the consideration of the bill, resolution, or
draft that is scheduled for consideration. The chair also may note that whatever requirements for
prior notification the committee’s rules impose have been satisfied.
The committee clerk then is to read the entire text of the bill (or whatever text is being 1
considered). However, this reading usually is waived by unanimous consent when all committee
members already have had an opportunity to become familiar with the text. If unanimous consent
cannot be obtained, a committee member may move to waive the first reading of a bill or
resolution. Clause 1(a)(1)(B) of House Rule XI provides for a privileged and nondebatable
motion to waive this first reading in committee or subcommittee if printed copies of the measure
Either before or after the chair formally presents the bill to the committee for consideration, he or
she may entertain opening statements on the bill and the issues it raises. The chair typically
makes the first statement and next recognizes the ranking minority party member. The chair then
recognizes other members to speak, alternating between the parties. Members usually are
recognized in the order of their seniority on the committee (to the extent that the party ratio
permits). However, chairs sometimes recognize members in the order in which they arrived at the
committee meeting, just as chairs sometimes follow this practice in recognizing members to
question witnesses at committee hearings.
Members normally are recognized for no more than five minutes each to make their opening
statements, though chairs may allot more time to themselves and to their ranking minority
members. In principle, members who have been recognized may yield to colleagues or request
1 In what follows, “bill” is used to refer to whatever text the committee is marking up, until the discussion turns to the
final stages of the markup and the committee’s reporting options.
unanimous consent for additional time, but they are much less likely to do so while making
opening statements than when debating amendments.
House rules do not provide for opening statements (although they are somewhat akin to the
period for general debate in Committee of the Whole on the House floor), nor do the rules of
many House committees. In the absence of a committee rule guaranteeing members’ rights to
make opening statements, committee chairs typically reserve the right to limit the number or
length of these statements. In the interest of time, for example, it is not unusual for a chair to
recognize only himself or herself and the ranking minority member, and then to announce that
other committee members may submit their opening statements in writing and have them
included in the formal record of the committee’s proceedings. If some members insist on actually
making their opening statements, the chair may accommodate them. Committees rarely publish
the transcripts of their markup meetings, so opening statements that are simply submitted for the
record may receive little or no attention.
The chair’s authority to permit or restrict opening statements is somewhat clearer when these
statements take place before the chair actually calls up the bill for consideration, which
constitutes the formal beginning of the markup. Before the markup formally begins, there is no
business that is before the committee at that meeting, so the chair can justify exercising more
discretion in recognizing members to speak. After the bill has been presented and its first reading
has taken place or has been waived, opening statements can be construed to be debate on the bill
under the five-minute rule, which the chair is better situated to constrain if he does so with the
implicit consent of the committee.
After opening statements and after the first reading of the bill has been completed or dispensed
with, the committee begins the markup process per se by entertaining, debating, and voting on
amendments. Throughout this process, committee members often talk about how the committee is
or is not amending the bill. In fact, the committee is not amending the bill. Instead, it is voting on
what amendments, if any, the committee will recommend that the House adopt when it considers 2
the bill on the floor. Only the House as a whole (meeting as the House, not in Committee of the
Whole) actually has the authority to change the text of bills that Members have introduced.
The process of offering and debating amendments in committee closely resembles the amending
process in Committee of the Whole on the House floor. In committee, members offer their
amendments to each section of the bill in sequence unless the committee agrees otherwise by
unanimous consent. The chair directs the clerk to read the first section of the bill. Members then
may propose amendments to that section, but only to that section. After the committee has
disposed of any and all amendments to the first section, or after it has been amended in its
entirety, the chair directs the clerk to read the second section, which then is open to amendment.
This process is repeated until the committee has voted on the last amendment to be offered to the
2 When a committee marks up the text of what will become a clean bill, the committee can amend that text because it is
not yet the text of a bill.
last section of the bill. (Some committees may agree to use an informal system of giving priority
consideration to amendments submitted in advance, often referred to as an “amendment roster.”)
Except in the most contentious markups, committee members do not insist that the clerk actually
read each section of the bill. When the chair first calls up the bill for consideration, he or she
often asks unanimous consent that each section of the bill be considered as having been read.
There usually is no objection because committee members already have been provided with
copies of the bill in accordance with whatever markup notice requirements are in the committee’s
rules. One reason for requiring that each section be read is to delay the proceedings.
It requires unanimous consent for a committee to do anything but have each section read for
amendment in sequence. Longer and more complex bills often are divided into titles, and each
title is subdivided into sections. The largest bills even may be divided into chapters that are
subdivided into titles and then into sections. In such cases, the chair may ask unanimous consent
that the bill be open for amendment one title or one chapter at a time, so that members can
propose amendments to any part of the title or chapter, not just to one section of it at a time. This
arrangement normally saves some time, and also allows committee members to address at the
same time all aspects of each title or chapter. If, for example, a committee member has an
alternative for how a title of the bill deals with different dimensions of the same issue, the
member may offer that alternative as a substitute for the entire title, rather than having to amend
each section of the title as it is considered.
When the committee begins marking up a shorter bill, or one to which few amendments are
expected, the chair may ask unanimous consent that the entire text of the bill be considered as
read and open to amendment at any point. In that case, members can offer their amendments to
any part of the bill in any order. This could be confusing when members plan to offer many
amendments to a long and complex bill. When there are few amendments to consider, however,
opening the bill for amendment in this way can conserve time without causing confusion.
Committees normally agree to such unanimous consent requests, especially because they usually
are made by the committee chair. When any member objects, however, no motion is in order to
open the bill for amendment by titles, chapters, or at any point. By the same token, it is not in
order for a member to move to waive the reading of any section, title, or chapter of a bill, or to
move that the entire bill be considered as having been read. As noted earlier, House rules do make
in order a nondebatable motion in committee to dispense with the first reading of a bill at the very
beginning of the markup. However, this rule does not make in order a motion to expedite or
change the process of reading the bill for amendment.
If a full committee is marking up a bill that one of its subcommittees already has marked up, the
chair is most likely to give priority consideration to any subcommittee-approved amendments to
each section (or to whatever part of the text is open to amendment). To offer additional
amendments to each section, the chair usually first recognizes a senior member of his or her party.
After the committee disposes of that amendment (and any amendments to it), the chair normally
recognizes a senior member of the minority party to offer another amendment to that section.
Thereafter, the chair typically recognizes other members to offer amendments to the section in
order of their seniority, alternating between members of the two parties. However, there is
nothing in House rules that requires chairs to follow these recognition practices. Committee
chairs sometimes offer amendments themselves (unlike Members who preside over the House’s
The amendments that members can offer in committee are subject to essentially the same
requirements that apply to amendments offered on the House floor. Each amendment must be
germane, for example, and it may not propose only to amend something that already has been
amended. Amendments also must meet certain other requirements, including those of the
congressional budget process. The House’s rules do not explicitly prohibit members from offering
amendments on matters that are not within the committee’s jurisdiction. However, such
amendments are quite likely to violate the germaneness requirement, and chairs have refused to
entertain amendments to portions of bills that were not referred to their committees. The process
by which members can make points of order against amendments is discussed below.
The four kinds of amendments that House Rule XVI, clause 6, makes in order on the floor also
may be offered in committee. These are: (1) a first-degree amendment that proposes to change the
text that is being marked up; (2) a second-degree perfecting amendment to that amendment; (3) a
substitute that proposes to replace the entire text of the first-degree amendment; and (4) an
amendment to the substitute. The same House rule also specifies the order in which members are
to vote on these amendments, if two or more of them have been offered.
An amendment in the nature of a substitute—that is, an amendment that proposes to replace the
entire text of the bill or resolution—is in order only at the beginning or the end of the amending
process. Sometimes the chair, or a member acting at his behest, offers such a complete substitute
immediately after the first section of the bill has been opened for amendment. The reason, which
is discussed in the next section, often is tactical, and has to do with the majority’s ability to
conclude the markup process when it chooses to do so.
Each amendment must be in writing, with enough copies for all committee members (and often
for committee staff, reporters, and other interested observers). Members usually draft their
amendments in advance with the assistance of the House’s Office of Legislative Counsel. They
are not required to do so, however, and members sometimes write amendments in long-hand as
the markup progresses. Committee staff usually have blank amendment forms available, but
members need not use them. Chairs and committee staff much prefer (and sometimes request)
that members provide copies of their amendments before the markup begins. However, members
sometimes decide that it is in their interests not to do so.
As soon as any amendment is offered, the clerk must read it before debate on the amendment may
begin. Typically, the sponsor of the amendment asks unanimous consent that this reading be
dispensed with. If there is an objection, the amendment must be read in full. No motion is in order
for the committee to dispense with the reading of an amendment. Members may insist that an
amendment be read if they are unfamiliar with it or if they simply want to protract the
proceedings. In the case of an amendment in the nature of a substitute, the reading can be time
consuming. However, the chair may entertain a point of order against an amendment even before
the amendment has been read in full.
Each amendment is debated under the five-minute rule, much as members debate amendments on
the floor in Committee of the Whole. The chair first recognizes the amendment’s sponsor for five
minutes to explain and justify the amendment. Then the chair recognizes a member who opposes
the amendment to speak for five minutes. Thereafter, each committee member may be recognized
to speak for five minutes (unless the committee votes to stop the debate, as discussed below).
Members who seek recognition sometimes will “move to strike the last word” (a pro forma
amendment), as they do on the floor. In committee markups, however, it usually is sufficient for a
member to attract the chair’s attention and announce that he or she wishes to speak for or against
the pending amendment (or even just to speak on the amendment). In principle, no member is to
be recognized to speak more than once on the same amendment. After the initial 10 minutes of
debate on an amendment, a member may seek recognition to offer an amendment to the pending
In recognizing members to debate amendments, chairs normally follow the conventional
recognition practices: alternating between majority and minority party members, and giving
preference to members in the order of their seniority on the committee. Sometimes, however,
chairs depart from these practices in favor of giving junior members equitable opportunities to
In most committees, there are green, yellow, and red lights (or digital clocks) at the witness table
facing the members to indicate whether the member speaking has time remaining. The member
who has been recognized for five minutes may ask unanimous consent to continue for additional
time. While a member is speaking, another member may ask that member to yield. If the member
who controls the time agrees, his or her time continues to run while the other member is speaking.
For example, if Representative White has been recognized, Representative Black may interrupt
him and ask, “Will the gentleman yield?” (Notice that the same rules of decorum in debate apply
in committee as on the floor. All statements and questions are to be addressed to the chair, not
directly to other committee members.)
Representative White is not required to yield, and may decide not to do so if, for example, he has
much to say, or he does not expect to agree with what Representative Black would say, or if he
thinks that Representative Black’s request is disruptive or distracting. If Representative White
does agree to yield to Representative Black, Representative Black then speaks on Representative
White’s time. Representative White may not yield to his colleague for a specific period of time;
he only has the choice of yielding or declining to do so. If Representative White does yield to a
colleague, however, he may reclaim his time whenever he wants. If Representative Black is
speaking or if the two members are engaged in an exchange when the chair announces that
Representative White’s five minutes have expired, Representative Black may ask unanimous
consent that Representative White be granted an additional few minutes.
Committees sometimes permit questions to be addressed to committee staff or executive branch
officials during debates on amendments.
The sponsor of an amendment may withdraw it without the need for unanimous consent, unless
the committee already has amended or agreed to it. On the other hand, it requires unanimous
consent to modify the text of a pending amendment.
During committee markups, chairs and amendment sponsors sometimes signal, by their words or
demeanor, that they believe the committee should be ready to vote on the pending amendment or
other question. If such signals prove ineffective, there are two different nondebatable motions that
members can offer to conclude debates during markup. These are (1) the motion to order the
previous question, and (2) the motion to close debate. The two motions are not in order under all
circumstances, and they have somewhat different effects if adopted.
The motion to order the previous question proposes to stop the debate and block amendments.
During debate on an amendment, for example, a member may seek recognition to move the
previous question on that amendment. The committee immediately votes on the motion and, if it
is agreed to by majority vote, the committee proceeds to vote on the amendment. No further
debate on the amendment is in order, nor can members offer any amendments to it. If the
committee orders the previous question on an amendment while an amendment to it already is
pending, the committee first votes on the amendment to the amendment, and then on the first-
The previous question may be moved on a pending amendment (and amendments to it), or it may
be moved on the entire bill if the last section of the bill has been read or if the reading of the bill
has been waived by unanimous consent so that the bill is open to amendment at any point. A
member may not move the previous question on the section (title, chapter) of the bill that is open
for amendment. This protects the rights of committee members, especially minority party
members, to offer their amendments to each part of the bill when it becomes subject to
Thus, the majority cannot necessarily control the length of a markup by ordering the previous
question on the bill as a whole at whatever time it chooses. If the committee agrees to a
unanimous consent request that the bill be considered as read and open to amendment at any
point, a majority can expedite completion of the markup by agreeing to order the previous
question on the bill and any pending amendments thereto. If there is no such unanimous consent
agreement, however, the previous question can be used only to force votes on each amendment
that is offered, until the clerk has read the last section of the bill.
The motion to close debate is in order under more circumstances, but its effect is more limited. A
member may move to close the debate (1) on the pending amendment (and any pending
amendments to it), or (2) on the section, title, or chapter (and any pending amendments to it) that
is open for amendment, or (3) on the entire text of the bill (and any pending amendments to it),
but only if the reading of the bill has been completed or dispensed with. So one difference
between the two motions is that the committee can vote to close the debate on the pending section
of the bill, but it may not order the previous question on it.
The other difference is in the effect of the two motions. The motion to close debate does only
that: it brings a debate to an end. Unlike the previous question, the motion to close debate does
not affect the rights of members to offer additional amendments. The motion to close debate may
take one of three forms: it may propose to close the debate immediately, or at a certain time, or
after a certain period of time for additional debate. When a committee uses this motion to close
debate immediately on a section, for example, no more debate is in order on the section or on
amendments to it. Members can continue to offer additional amendments to the section, and
request rollcall votes on them, but they may not take any time at all to explain their amendments
(except by unanimous consent, of course).
Because of its dual effect, committee members tend to move the previous question more often
than they move to close debate when both motions are in order. Thus, members are most likely to
move the previous question on a pending amendment or on the bill after it has been read in full or
its reading has been dispensed with. On the other hand, members move to close the debate on a
pending section of the bill because a motion to order the previous question on the section is not in
The limitations on the use of these motions put the majority party in committee at a disadvantage
that the majority party can avoid on the floor. The House frequently considers major bills on the
floor under the terms of special rules recommended by the Rules Committee that restrict the floor
amendments that members are allowed to offer. By this use of special rules, the majority can limit
the number of amendments that members can offer on the floor, and permit some specific
amendments to be offered while blocking consideration of others. In the process, the majority
party can use special rules to control how long members can spend offering and debating
amendments to bills in Committee of the Whole.
During committee markups, on the other hand, there is no equivalent to the Rules Committee or
to special rules. There is no procedural device by which a committee majority can vote to
preclude consideration of certain amendments that comply with House rules. By the same token,
there is no motion by which a committee majority can vote to conclude a markup until the
committee has completed the process of reading the bill for amendment.
To put it differently, the minority members of a committee can insist that a bill be marked up one
section at a time and that each section be read. Then they can continue to offer their amendments
to each section, and request rollcall votes on the amendments. The committee majority may vote
to close the debate on each section after it is read, but doing so does not block the minority from
offering more amendments to the section. The motion only precludes debate on amendments after
debate on the section has been closed.
One way in which the majority can gain more control over how long a markup lasts is through the
use of an amendment in the nature of a substitute. The committee’s chair (or another majority
party member acting for the chair) sometimes offers an amendment in the nature of a substitute as
soon as the first section of the bill has been read. This complete substitute represents the
majority’s preferred version of the bill. While this substitute is pending, members may not offer
amendments to the bill itself, except to the first section. This effectively blocks the minority from
insisting that the bill be read for amendment by sections and from offering amendments to each 3
section as it is read.
After the substitute has been read and debate on it has begun, the majority can order the previous
question on the substitute whenever it decides to do so. If the previous question is ordered on the
complete substitute, the committee then votes on agreeing to it without further debate or
3 In the unlikely event that the committee eventually rejects the chair’s complete substitute, the clerk would be directed
to read the second section of the bill and the normal amending process would resume.
amendment. Because the substitute was offered by or for the chair, the committee is likely to
agree to it, and that vote effectively ends the amending process. By agreeing to the substitute, the
committee thereby amends the entire text of the bill. No more amendments to the bill are in order,
therefore, because any further amendments would be subject to points of order for proposing to
amend something that already has been amended.
In this way, the majority can use an amendment in the nature of a substitute to give it more
control over the length of a markup. However, there are two potential disadvantages to this
approach. First, any member can insist that the complete substitute be read in full, and this can be
a time-consuming process. The majority cannot waive this reading by motion. Second, the
majority’s ability to use the amendment process to its advantage is limited. The majority’s
amendment in the nature of a substitute is a first-degree amendment to which the minority can
offer second-degree perfecting amendments. When a minority party member offers a first-degree
amendment that the majority opposes, the majority can respond by defeating it or, if that seems
unlikely, by amending it in order to make it more palatable. However, when the minority offers
unwelcome second-degree perfecting amendments to the majority’s complete substitute, the
majority can only attempt to defeat each minority amendment because second-degree
amendments cannot be amended. If the committee agrees to consider an amendment in the nature
of a substitute as “original text” or as “an original question for purpose of amendment,” then
committee members can offer amendments to it in two degrees. However, it requires unanimous
consent to treat a complete substitute in this way.
In addition to offering amendments, members may propose various other motions during
markups. The House parliamentarian has stated in his commentary on Rule XI, clause 2(a), in the
House Rules and Manual that committees “may employ the ordinary motions which are in order
in the House,” such as motions to adjourn, table, postpone to a day certain, postpone indefinitely,
and reconsider. Chairs also regularly assert the right to declare committee meetings in recess—for
example, for lunch breaks and to permit Members to reach the floor in time to be recorded on
quorum calls and to participate in electronically recorded votes.
The motions to table and reconsider deserve some comment. The motion to table rarely is made
to dispose of amendments during committee markups because the effect of tabling an amendment
is to table (or kill) the bill to which the amendment was offered. The motion to reconsider is
offered from time to time, especially when members who are losing a rollcall vote (on an
amendment, for example) believe that they are going to lose that vote only because one or more
committee members are absent. In that case, a member who would prefer to vote on the losing
side votes instead on the winning side. Doing so qualifies that member to move to reconsider the
vote at some time before the markup ends. If a majority votes for the motion to reconsider, the
committee then votes anew on the amendment and may reverse the outcome. Alternately, the
committee may vote to dispose of a motion to reconsider by voting to table it.
In principle, each motion, like each amendment, must be in writing. Members usually do not
enforce this requirement, especially in the case of routine motions, such as motions to adjourn. In
the case of a procedurally important motion, however, such as a motion to reconsider the vote by
which the committee narrowly agreed to an amendment, a member opposed to the motion may
insist that it be presented in written form.
There are two different quorum requirements governing committee markups. Clause 2(h)(1) of
House Rule XI requires that a majority of the committee’s membership must actually be present
when the committee votes to order a measure reported. To facilitate the conduct of committee
markups and other meetings, however, House rules do not insist that a majority be present for 4
other purposes. For all other votes and for other proceedings during a markup, most committees
may set their own quorum requirement in their committee rules, so long as that quorum is not less
than one-third of the committee’s members (Rule XI, clause 2(h)(3)). Most committees adopt a
one-third quorum requirement as part of their rules.
It is much easier in committee than on the House floor for members to insist that a quorum be
present. On the floor, a member rarely can demand the presence of a quorum unless a vote is
taking place. In committee, on the other hand, any member whom the chair has recognized can
make a point of order that a quorum is not present. When a member makes this point of order, the
chair counts to determine whether in fact a quorum is present. The chair’s count is not subject to
challenge or appeal. If a quorum is present, the chair announces that fact and business resumes. If
a quorum is not present, however, the chair must initiate a quorum call and the necessary quorum
of members must register their presence before business can resume.
During committee meetings, like during House floor sessions, questions can be decided by voice,
division, or record votes. Committees, like the House, first take a voice vote on each question.
The chair asks those favoring the question to call out “Aye,” and then asks those opposed to call
out “No.” Based on what the chair hears, he or she announces that the ayes or the noes appear to
have it. At that point, any member who disagrees with the chair’s announcement can demand a
division vote. In that case, the chair asks those in favor to raise their hands until counted,
followed by those opposed.
Before the chair announces the final result of either a voice vote or a division vote, any member
may request that the question be decided by a call of the roll. The request for a rollcall vote must
be supported by at least one-fifth of the members present, although some committees adopt rules
that make it even easier to obtain roll calls. In fact, a chair may order a rollcall vote on a question
as a courtesy to any member who requests it, or even in anticipation that members will request it.
When a rollcall vote is ordered, the chair directs the clerk to call the roll. The clerk first calls the
names of the majority party members, followed by the names of the minority party members. The
chair may direct the clerk to call his or her name either first or last. After the clerk completes
calling the roll, the chair normally directs the clerk to call the names of the members who failed
to vote when their names were first called. The clerk then is to tally the vote and, at the chair’s
direction, report the number of members voting aye and no.
4 There are several other actions for which a quorum consists of a majority of the committee’s membership. These
include issuing subpoenas and releasing executive session material.
Sometimes, however, the chair delays asking the clerk to report the tally in order to allow absent
members to reach the committee room and cast their votes. Members sometimes have two or
more committee or subcommittee meetings at the same time, requiring them to leave one meeting
in order to come to the other when a vote is taking place. Chairs know that their committee
members want to be recorded as having voted whenever possible, so they may delay announcing
the result of a vote when they are informed that an absent member is on his or her way to the
committee room to vote. When the outcome of an important vote hangs in the balance, a chair
may leave a vote open for even longer periods of time, if that is likely to allow the chair’s
position to prevail. Committees can adopt a committee rule allowing the chair to postpone votes.
Although committees typically require only a one-third quorum for all but the final vote in
markup, committee staff do their best to make sure that all the members of their party are present
to be recorded on each rollcall vote. The reason lies in the House’s ban on proxy voting in
committee. Before 1995, members could leave their proxies with one of their committee
colleagues to cast for them. This often enabled a committee chair, if he or she held enough
proxies, to win a rollcall vote even when the chair’s position was opposed by a majority of the
members who actually were present.
Proxy voting was prohibited in 1995. The result has been to put more of a premium on
maximizing attendance, especially when the majority party holds only a few more committee
seats than the minority. In those circumstances, the absence of only one or two majority party
members can enable the minority party to prevail on a party-line vote if all the minority party
members are present. It is very important, therefore, for as many members as possible to attend
markups, and for the committee staff of each party to know how to contact their absent members
as soon as a rollcall vote begins (if not before). Committee staffs may devise systems to keep
track of where their party’s members are, and may rely on members’ legislative assistants to
ensure that those members are present when they are needed to make a quorum or to cast their
In presiding over a markup, the chair participates freely in the debate, unlike the Speaker and
other members who preside over floor sessions of the House. Like the Speaker, however, the
chair is responsible for maintaining order, insisting on proper decorum, and enforcing applicable
procedures. Committee chairs are somewhat more likely than the Speaker to take the initiative in
declining to recognize members who are about to say or do something in violation of proper
procedure. In general, though, it is the responsibility of committee members to protect their rights
by making points of order whenever they believe that appropriate procedures are being violated to
To make a point of order, a committee member addresses the chair at the appropriate time, and
announces that he or she wishes to make a point of order. The chair recognizes the member to
make and explain the point of order, indicating precisely what procedural requirement or
prohibition is being violated. The member whose action is being challenged by the point of order
then is recognized to reply, after which the chair may recognize other members to argue for or
against the point of order. However, the chair entertains all debate on a point of order at his or her
discretion; members have no right to debate points of order.
Whenever the chair has heard sufficient debate, he or she rules on the point of order, either
sustaining or overruling it. The chair bases the ruling on his or her understanding of proper
procedure, perhaps with the advice of senior committee staff and with the benefit of whatever
debate on the point of order has just taken place. The House parliamentarian and his assistants do
not attend committee meetings to provide authoritative procedural guidance. However, committee
staff may seek guidance from the Office of the Parliamentarian in advance of a committee 5
meeting, or even by telephone during the course of the meeting.
Any committee member who disagrees with the chair’s ruling may challenge it by addressing the
chair and appealing his or her ruling. The committee acts on the appeal by voting on whether the
ruling of the chair is to stand as the decision of the committee. An appeal is debatable under the
five-minute rule, although any member who has been recognized may make either of two non-
debatable motions that, if adopted, end debate on the appeal. A member may move the previous
question on the appeal. Or, the member may move to table the appeal; if the committee votes to
table an appeal, the ruling of the chair stands.
During committee markups, the most common points of order are against amendments—on the
grounds, for example, that an amendment is not germane. To make a point of order against an
amendment, however, a committee member must be alert to make it at the proper moment. A
point of order may be made against an amendment (or any other debatable motion) after it has
been read or the committee has waived the reading of the amendment, but before debate on it has
begun. Once the proponent of the amendment begins to explain it, a point of order no longer can
be made against the amendment; the point of order would come too late.
This can present a problem during committee markups that are conducted rather informally, as
they usually are. Often, when a member offers an amendment, the chair responds by directing the
clerk to distribute copies of it to all the members. While this is being done, the member offering
the amendment sometimes begins to explain it. By the time the other committee members receive
and review copies of the amendment, it is too late to make a point of order against it because
debate on the amendment already has begun. To avoid this problem, members sometimes reserve
points of order against amendments as soon as they are offered, and without having yet seen
them. In this way, an amendment’s sponsor may explain and defend it for five minutes, while
other members examine it, determine whether it is subject to a point of order, and, if so, decide
whether they want to make that point of order. After the sponsor has relinquished the floor, the
member who reserved the point of order may make it, or withdraw the reservation and allow the
debate to continue.
5 Committees sometimes have requested CRS staff to attend committee meetings to offer answers to procedural
questions as they arise.
When a committee member is uncertain about the procedures being followed during a markup, he
or she may address the chair and, when recognized, make a parliamentary inquiry. This inquiry
must be a question about procedure, not about the substance, meaning, or effect of the bill or
amendment the committee is debating. A committee chair is not required to entertain
parliamentary inquiries, but chairs usually do so unless convinced that an inquiry is repetitive or
is being made for dilatory purposes. The chair’s reply to a parliamentary inquiry is not subject to
appeal because it constitutes only an explanation, not a ruling.
From time to time, committee members may address the chair to raise a “point of information” or
a “point of clarification.” Neither exists under the procedures of the House of Representatives or
its committees. Nonetheless, chairs sometimes reply as a courtesy to their fellow committee
The procedural rulings of the chair usually are final, unless reversed on appeal by majority vote
of the committee. In most circumstances, a committee member who disagrees with a ruling made
in committee may not challenge it on the floor of the House. It is generally left to each committee
to enforce or disregard its markup procedures. In Procedure in the House (ch. 17, sec. 11.1), the
House parliamentarian has stated that “a point of order does not ordinarily lie in the House
against consideration of a bill by reason of defective committee procedures occurring prior to the
time the bill was ordered reported to the House. Such point of order, if made in the House, may
be overruled on the ground that the rules of a particular committee are for that committee to
interpret unless they are in direct conflict with the rules of the House or unless the House rules
specifically permit the raising of such objections.” In general, if the committee votes to order a
bill reported to the House, that vote (if properly conducted) cures procedural defects that may
have occurred at earlier stages of the committee’s consideration of the bill.
It bears repeating that no House committee has the authority to actually change the text of a
measure that has been introduced and referred to it, nor do committees vote directly on the merits
of bills and resolutions. The committee votes instead on the amendments that it will recommend
to the House. The House then considers and votes on these committee amendments when it acts
on the bill itself.
Markups may begin with an amendment in the nature of a substitute being offered by or on behalf
of the chair, sometimes for the tactical reasons discussed above. Members then offer their
amendments to that complete substitute, rather than to the text of the underlying bill. In such a
case, the final vote the committee takes on amendments is on agreeing to the amendment in the
nature of a substitute, as it may have been amended. When the committee reports the bill back to
the House, the bill will be accompanied by only that one amendment in the nature of a substitute,
even though the committee may have adopted several or even many amendments to it during the
course of the markup.
The committee does not conclude its markup by voting on the bill itself. After voting on the last
amendment to be offered, the chair recognizes a majority party member to move that the
committee order the bill reported to the House with whatever amendments the committee has
adopted during the markup, and with the recommendation that the House agree to those
amendments and then pass the bill as amended. The bill is actually reported (as opposed to the
committee ordering it reported) when the committee chair takes the bill and the accompanying
committee report to the floor when the House is in session, files the report, and returns the bill to
the House. The committee report then is printed, the bill is reprinted to show the committee’s
action and its recommended amendments, and the bill is listed on the Union Calendar if it
authorizes or appropriates funds or affects revenues, or otherwise on the House Calendar.
A House committee has several options in deciding how it will report to the House after it has
completed a markup.
If the committee has marked up a bill that was introduced and referred to it—H.R. 1, for
example—the committee may vote to order H.R. 1 reported with one or more amendments.
If, as its last vote on amendments, the committee agreed to an amendment in the nature of a
substitute (perhaps as amended), the committee may vote to order H.R. 1 reported with that one
amendment, even though the amendment constitutes an entirely new text of the bill that may not
resemble the text of H.R. 1 as it was introduced and referred to the committee.
If the committee has marked up H.R. 1 and agreed to several different amendments to it, each
amendment affecting a different provision of the bill, the committee may vote to order H.R. 1
reported with those separate amendments. Instead, though, the committee may authorize the chair
to incorporate those amendments into a single amendment in the nature of a substitute. The
reason for doing so is that it is more convenient for the House, when considering a bill on the
floor, to act on a single committee substitute than to act on a series of discrete committee
amendments. The committee may agree to a unanimous consent request that the committee report
an amendment in the nature of a substitute instead of the several amendments. Alternatively, a
member may offer the amendment in the nature of a substitute as the last amendment to be
considered during the markup. (In the latter case, however, any committee member has the right
to insist that the substitute actually be drafted and available in writing at the time it is offered.)
Alternately, the committee may vote to report what is known as a clean bill instead of reporting
H.R. 1 with one or more amendments. A clean bill is a new bill that has a new number instead of
H.R. 1 and that typically lists as its sponsor the committee chair, not the Member who had
introduced H.R. 1. This new bill is known as a clean bill because it incorporates all the
amendments that the committee adopted during its markup of H.R. 1. For this reason, the
committee reports the new bill without amendment; in this sense, it is “clean.”
The effect of reporting a clean bill is much the same as reporting the marked-up bill with an
amendment in the nature of a substitute. In either case, all the committee’s proposed changes in
the marked up text are incorporated into a single new text. Then why would a committee report a
There are at least two reasons. First, if the committee has marked up a staff draft (discussion
draft, chair’s mark) instead of H.R. 1, that marked-up text must be introduced and reported as a
bill before the House can consider it. Second, there are instances in which the committee (or its
chair) decides to assume complete responsibility (and credit) for the bill it orders reported.
Imagine, for example, that the committee has marked up H.R. 1 in ways that the original sponsor
of the bill finds unacceptable. In that case, the sponsor may wish to disavow further responsibility
for H.R. 1, and so welcomes the committee’s decision to report a clean bill instead of reporting
H.R. 1 with a committee substitute. In other cases, the chair may prefer a clean bill in order to
have his or her name most closely associated with it.
Technically, the committee must have the clean bill in its possession before it can vote to order it
reported. This means that, at the conclusion of the markup, the marked-up text must be prepared
as a bill, it must be introduced while the House is in session, and the newly introduced clean bill
must be numbered and referred back to the committee before the committee may act on it. In
practice, committees sometimes short-circuit this process if no one objects. Immediately after the
committee completes its markup, it may authorize the chair to report the clean bill. So long as the
clean bill is introduced on that same calendar day, the official records of the House’s proceedings
do not indicate whether the clean bill actually was introduced and referred to committee before or
after the committee’s markup ended.
Immediately after the committee votes to order the bill reported, the ranking minority member or
another minority party member usually claims the right for all committee members to submit their
own supplemental, minority, or dissenting views for printing as part of the committee’s report on
the bill. Clause 2(l) of Rule XI provides that:
If at the time of approval of a measure or matter by a committee (other than the Committee
on Rules) a member of the committee gives notice of intention to file supplemental,
minority, or additional views for inclusion in the report to the House thereon, that member
shall be entitled to not less than two additional calendar days after the day of such notice
(excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays except when the House is in session on
such a day) to file such views, in writing and signed by that member, with the clerk of the
There is one final action that House committees sometimes take concerning bills that they have
just marked up and ordered reported. A committee can adopt a motion that authorizes its chair to
take the actions necessary to send the bill to conference when that time comes—in other words,
after both houses have passed different versions of the bill or another bill on the same subject. For
this purpose, the chair may recognize a majority party member to move that, pursuant to clause 1
of Rule XXII, the committee authorizes its chair to make such motions in the House as may be
necessary to go to conference with the Senate on H.R. 1 or a similar Senate bill.
If and when the time comes to take H.R. 1 to conference, the House usually agrees to a
unanimous consent request that the House create a conference committee with the Senate to
negotiate a compromise between their differing positions on the bill. If unanimous consent cannot
be secured, one option is to obtain a special rule from the Rules Committee for that purpose. A
second alternative lies in Rule XXII, clause 1:
A motion to disagree to Senate amendments to a House bill or resolution and to request or
agree to a conference with the Senate, or a motion to insist on House amendments to a
Senate bill or resolution and to request or agree to a conference with the Senate, shall be
privileged in the discretion of the Speaker if offered by direction of the primary committee
and of all reporting committees that had initial referral of the bill or resolution (italics
Under the terms of this rule, the committee chair can make this motion on the House floor only if
the committee has adopted a motion authorizing him to do so. And the vote in committee on this
motion requires that a majority of the committee actually be present, just as does the vote to order
the bill reported back to the House. By adopting the motion to go to conference at the same
meeting at which the committee has marked up the bill and voted to order it reported, the
committee avoids the need to schedule another meeting and assemble a majority of the
committee’s members when the time actually arrives, perhaps months later, to arrange for the
conference with the Senate.
The committee must agree to such a motion with respect to each bill or resolution on which it
may eventually want to go to conference. Committees cannot give their chair the authorization
required by clause 1 of Rule XXII in a blanket form that applies to some or all of the bills that the
committee may order reported during the course of the Congress.
This report was originally prepared by Stanley Bach, Senior Specialist in the Legislative Process.
Specialist on the Congress