House Rules Governing Committee Markup Procedures

House Rules Governing Committee
Markup Procedures
Judy Schneider
Specialist on the Congress
Government and Finance Division
The rules of the House provide only general guidance to committees for conducting
meetings to mark up legislation. There are no House rules that explicitly govern the
various aspects of markup procedure. Instead, clause 1(a)(1) of Rule XI provides in part
that “the Rules of the House are the rules of its committees and subcommittees so far as
applicable....” And clause 2(a)(1) of the same rule directs each standing committee to
adopt written rules governing its own procedures that “may be not inconsistent with the
Rules of the House....” (Italics added).
These requirements leave many questions unanswered. The House can apply
different rules to the consideration of measures on the floor; for example, the House can
consider one bill under suspension of the rules and then debate the next bill in Committee
of the Whole. It is not obvious, therefore, which House rules are to be applicable to
committees. Further, it would not be possible for committees to adopt rules that would
be “not inconsistent” with all of these different rules.
The House parliamentarian provides helpful 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.” The House does not often consider
measures in the House as in Committee of the Whole, as distinguished from considering
bills either in the House or in Committee of the Whole. Furthermore, as the
parliamentarian explains, the procedures that govern floor action in the House as in
Committee of the Whole are different in several respects from the procedures applicable
in committee.
Based on the parliamentarian’s guidance, it is possible to identify the key procedures
that House committees are to follow during the markup process.
!First reading. The first reading of the bill may be waived by a
nondebatable motion, if printed copies of the bill are available and if
there is objection to waiving the reading by unanimous consent.. Clause

1(a)(2)(B) of Rule XI makes this motion in order.

!Reading the bill for amendment. The bill is to be read for amendment,
one section at a time, unless the committee agrees otherwise by
unanimous consent. Members are to offer their amendments to each
section of the bill after that section has been read but before the next
section is read. Only by unanimous consent may the committee consider
the bill as having been read and open for amendment at any point, or to
be considered by title instead of by section.
!Reading sections of the bill. Each section of the bill is to be read before
Members offer amendments to it. This reading may be waived by
unanimous consent.
!Reading amendments. Each amendment is to be read before debate on
it begins, unless the reading is waived by unanimous consent.
!Debate. All debate is conducted under the five-minute rule, except for
debate on points of order or responses to parliamentary inquiries, which
the chairman entertains at his discretion.
!Motions to close debate. A Member may move to close the debate on
the pending section (and all amendments thereto) or on the pending
amendment (and all amendments thereto). The motion may provide that
debate end immediately, at a certain time, or after a specified number of
minutes or hours. A motion is not in order to close debate on the entire
bill if any portion of the bill has not yet been read. After the time for
debate has expired, Members may offer additional amendments, but
unanimous consent is required to explain or debate them.
!The previous question. A motion to close debate does precisely that; it
stops the debate but it does not prevent Members from offering additional
amendments. Alternately, to end debate and preclude further
amendments, a Member may move the previous question on a pending
amendment (and all amendments thereto), but not on the pending section
of the bill. Also, a Member may move the previous question on the
entire bill (and all amendments thereto), but only after the bill has been
read in full, or the committee has agreed by unanimous consent to
dispense with the reading of the bill and the bill is open to amendment at
any point.
!The vote to report. After the committee disposes of the last amendment
to the bill, it votes on a motion to order the bill reported, together with
whatever amendments the committee has adopted. The committee does
not vote on approving or passing the bill.
It is left largely to each committee to enforce its procedures governing the
process of debate and amendment during markup sessions. In the commentary
accompanying Rule XI, clause 2(a)(1), the House parliamentarian explains 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 is
ordered reported to the House.”