Special Rules in the House of Representatives

CRS Report for Congress
Special Rules in the House of Representatives
Updated February 27, 2003
Stanley Bach, James V. Saturno, and Christopher M. Davis
Senior Specialist in the Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

Special Rules in the House of Representatives
The House Rules Committee enables the House to debate and vote on major
legislation that is not privileged for floor consideration and that cannot pass by
unanimous consent or under suspension of the rules. The Committee reports
resolutions, known as rules or special rules, to make individual bills in order for floor
action and to affect the procedures for debating, amending, and voting on the bills,
usually in Committee of the Whole.
Open rules do not restrict the germane floor amendments that Members can
propose. Closed rules generally prohibit all floor amendments, except perhaps for
those recommended by the standing committee with jurisdiction over the bill.
Restrictive rules, sometimes called modified open or modified closed rules, limit
opportunities for offering floor amendments, usually by identifying the specific
amendments that are to be in order.
The Rules Committee also may report rules with “queen-of-the-hill” or
“self-executing” provisions that set aside some of the regular procedures and
prohibitions of the legislative process. In addition, special rules can waive points of
order against bills and amendments. Conference reports usually receive rules only or
primarily to waive points of order.
The Rules Committee can devise a resolution to address, create, or avoid almost
any parliamentary situation. However, each of its resolutions must be debated and
adopted by majority vote on the House floor. Thus, the House first considers the
proposed rule on a bill before beginning consideration of that bill under the terms and
conditions of the rule.
This report was originally written by Stanley Bach, a former Senior Specialist
in the Legislative Process at CRS. This contents of this report, and the examples cited
herein, reflect the practices of the House with regard to special rules at the time it was
written. It will be updated to reflect any changes in House practice.