Markup in Senate Committee: Considering Amendments

Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress

enate rules pertaining to amending measures on the floor apply generally to a Senate
committee markup as well. Within the confines of Senate rules, some committees have
adopted their own rules governing the consideration of amendments during a markup. S

However, Senate committee markups can proceed informally, in accordance with a committee’s
particular needs and practices that have evolved over time. Senate and committee rules and
committee practices governing the consideration of amendments during committee markup are
summarized below. For more information on legislative process, see
The committee chair usually chooses the text that serves as the base text of the markup (see CRS
Report 98-244, Markup in Senate Committee: Choosing a Text. The rules of some committees
require that the base text be distributed to committee members in advance of the markup.
Senators may draft amendments to this text prior to markup, and often seek the advice of the
Office of Legislative Counsel to ensure that amendments are clear and properly drafted.
Several committees have rules requiring first-degree amendments to be filed in advance of the 2
markup to assist Senators in planning and to expedite committee action. For example, the
Banking Committee requires 50 copies of a first-degree amendment to be submitted to the
committee two business days before markup. Committee staff may distribute all submitted
amendments to committee members at the outset of the markup, or as the amendments are
Following any opening statements a committee may allow, a measure is open to amendment at
any point and amendments are considered in whatever order Senators offer them. However, a
committee may decide by unanimous consent to structure the amendment process. Senators may
draft amendments during markup, and Senate rules require that amendments be in writing on
demand of any Senator (Rule XV, paragraph 1). Although an amendment must be read when
offered, in practice the sponsor asks unanimous consent to waive the reading (Rule XV, paragraph


The sponsor of an amendment typically is recognized to debate it, and some committees specify
that the sponsor provide information about the amendment to assist with its evaluation. For
instance, the Banking Committee requires Senators offering amendments to show, by appropriate
typographical device, the effect of proposed amendments on existing law, although this
requirement can be waived by the chair. Other Senators may debate an amendment when
recognized by the chair, and the chair ordinarily recognizes the first Senator seeking recognition.
There is no general time limit on debating amendments in committee, either for an individual
Senator, a particular amendment, or all amendments. The chair puts an amendment to a vote when
no Senators seek recognition to debate it. A committee may end debate earlier by agreeing to a
motion to lay an amendment on the table, but tabling kills the amendment. On most committees it
is possible for opponents to filibuster an amendment, because the Senate’s procedure for invoking
cloture to end protracted floor debate does not apply to committees. However, some committees
have adopted rules to bring extended debate to an end. For example, the Judiciary Committee has

1 This report was written by Thomas P. Carr, formerly an Analyst at the Congressional Research Service. The listed
author is available to respond to inquiries on the subject.
2 CRS Report RL33972, Senate Committee Rules in the 110th Congress: A Comparison of Key Provisions, by Betsy
Palmer identifies these committees.

provided for debate to be closed through the adoption, by a majority of the committee (including
at least one minority party Senator), of a non-debatable motion to end debate.
A committee may set its own quorum for voting on amendments, so long as the quorum is not
less than one-third of the committee (Rule XXVI, paragraph 7(a)(1)). Senators may vote by
voice, division, or rollcall vote, and a Senator may move to reconsider the vote on any
amendment (as detailed in Senate Rule XIII). Absent Senators may vote on amendments by
proxy, unless a committee adopts a rule to the contrary (Rule XXVI, paragraphs 7(a)(3) and
7(c)(1)). A Senator voting by proxy must be informed of the matter to be decided and must
request to vote by proxy. Some committees give Senators further flexibility, for instance, by
allowing oral proxies as well as written ones, or by allowing Senators to vote by proxy (or in
person) after the vote has occurred.
A Senator who thinks that an amendment violates any rule can make a point of order any time
prior to the amendment’s disposition. The Senator must cite the basis of the point of order, and,
while Senators do not have a right to debate points of order, the chair often allows the arguments
on both sides to be presented. If the point of order is sustained against any portion of the
amendment, in general the whole amendment falls. If a Senator appeals the ruling of the chair, the
committee will vote on whether to sustain the ruling.
Senate rules governing the consideration of amendments on the floor apply generally to the
consideration of amendments in committee as well (see CRS Report 98-853, The Amending
Process in the Senate). Committees may set aside these rules implicitly or explicitly by
unanimous consent. Under the rules: (1) amendments are permitted in two degrees—a first-
degree amendment that seeks to amend the base text and a second-degree amendment that
proposes to amend the first-degree amendment; (2) amendments need not be germane to the text
they propose to amend, but Senate rules prohibit the floor consideration of substantive committee
amendments containing significant matter outside the jurisdiction of the reporting committee
(Rule XV, paragraph 5); (3) an amendment can only change text in one part of a measure; (4) as a
matter of right, any Senator may demand that an amendment be divided if it consists of two or
more propositions, and each could stand separately; (5) Senators may re-amend text only if their
amendments take a “bigger bite,” by also changing unamended text; and (6) a Senator who offers
an amendment generally may modify or withdraw it unilaterally before action on it has been
Elizabeth Rybicki
Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process, 7-0644