Legislative Procedure in Congress: Basic Sources for Congressional Staff
Legislative Procedure in Congress:
Basic Sources for Congressional Staff
Jennifer E. Manning
Information Research Specialist
Knowledge Services Group
Written for congressional staff, this report identifies and provides website addresses
(when available) of official government sources for information on the legislative
process and the rules and procedure of the House and Senate. References to selected
CRS products are also provided, as well as a listing of selected titles for supplementary
reading. Information is offered on the CRS legislative institutes. This report will be
updated as new information is available.
Understanding legislative procedure and processes is essential for congressional
staff. The publications and websites listed here are key resources that congressional staff
should be familiar with in order to understand basic legislative procedure in the House
Congressional staff can find official overviews and explanatory information on the
legislative process within the U.S. House of Representatives on the House website at
[http://www.house.gov/house/Tying_it_all.html]. Information on the legislative process
within the U.S. Senate is available on the Senate website at [http://www.senate.gov/
pagelayout/legi slative/ d_three_sections_with_teas ers/process.htm].
Available reference sources on the rules and procedure of the House and Senate are
House Rules and Procedure
Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives.
Washington: GPO, 2007.
1 Alexis Donovan provided research assistance for this report.
This publication, often referred to as House Rules and Manual, is prepared for each
Congress by the House Parliamentarian and is issued as a House document, most recently
for the 110th Congress as H.Doc. 109-157, which is available online at
[http://www.gpoaccess.gov/hrm/index.html]. It includes the text of the Constitution; the
rules of the House and portions of Jefferson’s Manual of Parliamentary Practice currently
pertinent to House procedure, each with commentary summarizing applicable precedents;
a portion of the Congressional Budget Act; and other statutory provisions that operate as
procedural rules. Copies are automatically distributed to House offices.
House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the House.
Washington: GPO, 2003.
This one-volume publication prepared by William Holmes Brown and updated by
Charles W. Johnson, both past House Parliamentarians, provides more current summary
information on House rules and selected precedents than Procedure in the U.S. House of
Representatives (see next entry). Organized alphabetically by topic, it reflects changes
in the House rules and procedure adopted as of the 108th Congress. This is sometimes
referred to as Brown’s. The full text is available online at [http://www.gpo
access.gov/hpractice/]. The Office of the House Parliamentarian (5-7373) has a limited
number of copies to distribute to House offices upon request.
Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, 97th Congress: A Summary of the
Modern Precedents and Practices of the House, 86th Congress-97th Congress.
Washington: GPO, 1982.
Frequently referred to as Deschler’s Procedure, after a former Parliamentarian of the
House, this one-volume work summarizes House procedure and provides a cumulated,
condensed version of House precedents from 1959 to 1980. A 1986 supplement,
Procedure in the United States House of Representatives: Annotations of the Precedents
of the House for the 97th, 98th, and 99th Congresses, covers 1981 through 1986. Both
publications are out of print, but House offices can obtain copies from the Office of the
House Parliamentarian (5-7373). These publications are not available on the Internet, but
the full text of the multivolume Deschler’s Precedents of the U.S. House of
Representatives is online at [http://www.gpoaccess.gov/precedents/deschler/index.html].
Related multivolume sets of House precedents are Cannon’s Precedents online at
[http://www.gpoaccess.gov/precedents/cannon/index.html] and Hinds’ Precedents at
[ h ttp://www.gpoaccess.gov/precedents/hinds/index .html] .
Senate Rules and Procedure
Senate Manual. Washington: GPO, 2003.
This manual, usually prepared during the second session of each Congress by the
Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, contains the standing rules, orders, laws,
and resolutions affecting the Senate, as well as copies of historical U.S. documents and
selected statistics on the Senate and other government entities. Issued as S.Doc. 1, copies
are automatically distributed to Senate offices. The full text is available online at
[http://www.gpoaccess.gov/smanual/index.html]. A current edition of just the Standing
Rules of the Senate is available on the committee’s website at
Riddick, Floyd M., and Alan S. Frumin. Riddick’s Senate Procedure: Precedents and
Practices. Washington: GPO, 1992.
This publication was revised and updated in 1992 by the Parliamentarian of the
Senate and published as S.Doc. 101-28. Organized alphabetically by topic, it contains
currently applicable rulings by the presiding officer and practices related to Senate
procedure. An appendix has suggested forms for various procedures, for example,
offering motions or filing conference reports. The full text of Riddick’s is available online
Senate Cloture Rule. Washington: GPO, 1985.
This committee print (S.Prt. 99-95) was prepared for the Senate Committee on Rules
and Administration by the Congressional Research Service. It includes lists of selected
filibusters; tables of cloture votes; a legislative history of the cloture rule; and a
bibliography. This publication is not available on the Internet, but Members of Congress
can obtain copies from the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration (4-6352) or
the Congressional Research Service (7-5700). Lists of cloture votes from the 92nd
Congress forward are also available on the Senate website’s “Cloture” page at
[ h ttp://www.senate.gov/reference/reference_index _ s ubjects/Cloture_vrd.htm] .
Primers on the Legislative Process and Related Documents
Our American Government. Washington: GPO, 2003. (H.Doc. 108-94)
This revised version of the popular introductory guide is written in a question-and-
answer format that covers a broad range of topics dealing with the legislative, executive,
and judicial branches of our government. Its appendixes contain a glossary of legislative
terms and a selective bibliography. Copies of each new edition are automatically
distributed to congressional offices. The current edition is available online at
[http://www.gpoaccess.gov/serialset/cdocuments/108cat1.html] and also at
[http://usinfo.state.gov/infousa/government/overview/docs/ouramgov.pdf]. Members of
Congress can also obtain printed copies of the current edition from the House Legislative
Resource Center and the Senate Document Room.
The Constitution of the United States of America As Amended: Unratified Amendments:
Analytical Index. Washington: GPO, 2003. (H.Doc. 108-95)
This revised version contains the text of the Constitution, its amendments, and a
very useful index to the Constitution and amendments. The full text, with its periodic
supplements, is available online at [http://www.gpoaccess.gov/constitution/index.html].
Dove, Robert B. Enactment of a Law: Procedural Steps in the Legislative Process.
Washington: GPO, 1982.
Prepared by the Senate Parliamentarian, this primer on the legislative process traces
procedures used in the Senate and the House of Representatives. No printed copies are
available, but it was updated in 1997 and is available full text on the Senate website at
[http://www.senate.gov/legislative/common/briefing/Enactment_law.htm], as well as on
THOMAS, the Library of Congress public website, at [http://thomas.loc.gov/home/
Johnson, Charles W. How Our Laws Are Made. Washington: GPO, 2003. (H. Doc.
This guide is updated periodically (most recently as H.Doc. 108-93) and is available
on the THOMAS website at [http://thomas.loc.gov/home/lawsmade.toc.html]. This
pamphlet outlines stages in the legislative process for the generalist and explains the uses
of various publications, which track that process. It is prepared by the Parliamentarian of
the House in consultation with the Parliamentarian of the Senate. Copies of new editions
are automatically distributed to congressional offices, and can also be obtained from the
House Legislative Resource Center and the Senate Document Room.
CRS has a variety of resources and services available on legislative procedure. The
CRS website is available for the use of Members of Congress and congressional staff at
[http://www.crs.gov]. CRS products are found there, plus links to the Legislative
Information System (LIS), and a “Legislative Reference Sources” page at
[ h ttp://www.crs.gov/reference/general/legi slative /legref.shtml] .
Members of Congress and congressional staff may obtain useful CRS materials on
legislative procedure from the “CRS Guides to Congressional Processes” page on the
CRS website at [http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml]. Short one- or
two-page fact sheets on House procedure are available under the heading “Fact Sheets:
House Legislative Process” at [http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/legproc/factsheets/
MenuHouseFactSheets.shtml]. Fact sheets on Senate procedure are available under the
heading “Fact Sheets: Senate Legislative Process” at [http://www.crs.gov/products/
guides/legproc/ fact sheet s/MenuSenat eFact Sheet s.shtml].
The “CRS Guides to Congressional Processes” Web page also includes a legislative
glossary and an online introductory video about legislative procedure.
Selected CRS Reports
CRS Report 98-812. Amendments Between the Houses.
CRS Report 98-706. Bills and Resolutions: Examples of How Each Kind Is Used.
CRS Report 98-728. Bills, Resolutions, Nominations, and Treaties: Origins, Deadlines,
Requirements, and Uses.
CRS Report RS20147. Committee of the Whole: An Introduction.
CRS Report RS20794. The Committee System in the U.S. Congress.
CRS Report 98-736. Floor Consideration of Conference Reports in the House.
CRS Report RS20200. General Debate In Committee of the Whole.
CRS Report 98-777. The House Amendment Tree.
CRS Report RL30945. House and Senate Rules of Procedure: A Comparison.
CRS Report 98-175. House Committee Jurisdiction and Referral: Rules and Practice.
CRS Report RS20308. House Committee Markups: Commonly Used Motions and
CRS Report 98-309. House Legislative Procedures: Published Sources of Information.
CRS Report 98-458. Introducing a House Bill or Resolution.
CRS Report 98-459. Introducing a Senate Bill or Resolution.
CRS Report 98-721. Introduction to the Federal Budget Process.
CRS Report 98-425. Invoking Cloture in the Senate.
CRS Report 95-563. The Legislative Process on the House Floor: An Introduction.
CRS Report 96-548. The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: An Introduction.
CRS Report RL30787. Parliamentary Reference Sources: House of Representatives.
CRS Report RL30788. Parliamentary Reference Sources: Senate.
CRS Report 98-143. Procedural Distinctions Between the House and the Committee of
CRS Report 98-337. Senate Committee Hearings: Scheduling and Notification.
CRS Report 98-308. Senate Legislative Procedures: Published Sources of Information.
CRS Report 98-612. Special Rules and Options for Regulating the Amending Process.
CRS Report RS22477. Sponsorship and Cosponsorship of House Bills.
CRS Report 98-279. Sponsorship and Cosponsorship of Senate Bills.
In addition to legislative procedure material, CRS offers several programs on
legislative procedure for congressional staff. Legislative staff can attend Congress: An
Introduction to Resources and Procedure, an introductory CRS program designed for and
offered only to permanent, professional Hill staff who seek a foundation for
understanding the legislative process and the resources available to monitor it. This CRS
program is offered 10 or more times a year and is the first of the CRS Legislative Process
Institutes, a three-part series providing training in the legislative process. The other parts
are the Advanced Legislative Process Institute and the Graduate Institute (the “CRS
Congress”). Attendance at Congress: An Introduction to Resources and Procedure is
recommended as a prerequisite for the CRS Advanced Legislative Process Institutes.
More information on the three CRS institutes is available on the CRS website at
[http://www.crs.gov/services/general/briefings.shtml] or by telephone at 7-7904.
CRS also offers a monthly introductory “Legislative Concepts” class to House staff
and interns in the House Learning Center. Information is available on HouseNet
[http://housenet.house.gov] under “House Learning Center.”
Legislative staff members are also invited to attend the CRS Budget Process
Institutes. The introductory Overview of the Federal Budget Process is offered several
times each year and provides an introduction to federal budgeting procedures, particularly
procedures used in Congress. Three advanced institutes — Budget Resolutions and
Reconciliation, Appropriations Process, and The President and the Budget — are
offered during the year at times when they are most relevant to congressional staff. Event
dates and registration forms for CRS programs and institutes can be found on the CRS
website at [http://www.crs.gov/events/invite.shtml].
Congress A to Z. 5th ed. Washington: CQ Press, 2008.
Davidson, Roger H. and Walter J. Oleszek. Congress and Its Members. 11th ed.
Washington: CQ Press, 2007.
Green, Alan. Gavel to Gavel: A Guide to the Televised Proceedings of Congress. 5th ed.
Washington: C-SPAN, 1993.
Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to Congress. 6th ed. Washington: CQ Press, 2007.
Koempel, Michael L., and Judy Schneider. Congressional Deskbook: the practical and
comprehensive guide to Congress. Alexandria, VA: TheCapitol.Net, 2007.
Kravitz, Walter. Congressional Quarterly’s American Congressional Dictionary. 3rd ed.
Washington, CQ Press, 2001. Available to congressional offices in an updated and
expanded edition on the CRS website at
[ http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/gl ossary/a.shtml] .
Oleszek, Walter J. Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process. 7th ed.
Washington: CQ Press, 2007.
Tiefer, Charles. Congressional Practice and Procedure: A Reference, Research, and
Legislative Guide. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1989.
Where to Get These Publications
Many of the works on legislative procedure listed in this report are produced by the
Government Printing Office and may be purchased:
!by telephone, (202) 512-1800 or (866) 512-1800;
!online at the GPO Bookstore website at [http://bookstore.gpo.gov]; or
!by fax, (202) 512-2104.
Some of these publications are only available from congressional sources for
congressional office use, while others listed in the Supplementary Reading section may
be purchased from bookstores or publishers.