Suspension of the Rules in the House: Principal Features

Suspension of the Rules in the House:
Principal Features
Elizabeth Rybicki
Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
“Suspension of the rules” is a procedure that the House of Representatives often uses
on the floor to act expeditiously on relatively noncontroversial legislation.1 This
procedure is governed primarily by clause 1 of House Rule XV. When a bill or some
other matter is considered “under suspension,” floor debate is limited, all floor
amendments are prohibited, and a two-thirds vote is required for final passage. For more
information on the legislative process, see [
Typically, a Member whom the Speaker has recognized will say, for example, “Mr.
Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 1234.” By making that
motion, the Member triggers the use of the suspension procedure under Rule XV.
However, this same procedure can be used for other legislative purposes. For example,
a Member can move to suspend the rules and agree to a conference report, or concur in
a Senate amendment to a House bill, or take some other action.
There are nine principal features of the suspension procedure.
!First, the Speaker controls the use of this procedure. No Member has
a right to make a suspension motion. The Speaker decides who to
recognize for suspension motions.
!Second, suspension motions are in order only on Mondays,
Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and during the final days of the annual
congressional session. The House sometimes agrees to consider
suspension motions on other days, by agreeing to either a unanimous
consent request or a special rule for that purpose.
!Third, there are only 40 minutes of debate on a suspension motion
and the bill (or other action) to which it relates. Time control is
usually divided between the chairman and the ranking minority member

1 This report was written by Stanley Bach, a former Senior Specialist in the Legislative Process
at CRS. The listed author updated the report and can respond to inquiries on the subject.

of the committee or subcommittee with jurisdiction over the bill.
However, if the ranking minority member supports the bill, another
Member who opposes it can claim control of half the time for debate.
!Fourth, when a bill is considered under suspension, no floor
amendments are in order. The Member making the motion, however,
can include amendments as part of his or her motion. In that case, the
Member moves to suspend the rules and pass the bill as amended.
!Fifth, after the 40 minutes of debate, there is a single vote on
suspending the rules and passing the bill. The House does not vote
first on whether to suspend the rules and then on whether to pass the bill.
Both questions are decided by one vote.
!Sixth, a two-thirds vote of the House is required to pass a bill under
suspension of the rules. This is a two-thirds vote of the Members
present and voting, a quorum being present. If a suspension motion fails
to receive the required two-thirds vote, the House can consider the bill
in question again, often under procedures that require only a simple
majority vote to pass it.
!Seventh, the Speaker can postpone rollcall votes on suspension
motions until later on the same day or within the next two legislative
days,2 and cluster them to occur one after the other. When there is a
series of such rollcall votes, Members have 15 minutes to vote on the
first motion but they usually have only five minutes to vote on each of
the other motions.
!Eighth, there is no requirement that a bill must be reported from
committee before the House can consider it under suspension. One
advantage of the suspension procedure is that the committee to which a
bill was referred does not have to meet formally to vote on reporting it or
to prepare a written report on the bill.
!Ninth, the suspension procedure automatically waives all points of
order against the bill (or other action) and against its consideration.
The procedure suspends all rules of the House except those that govern
the suspension procedure itself.
There is no suspension calendar. Instead, during the last floor session of each week,
a member of the majority party leadership usually makes a public announcement on the
floor about the bills that have been scheduled tentatively for consideration under
suspension during the following week.

2 A “legislative day” begins the first time the House meets after an adjournment and ends when
the House adjourns again.

For additional information, see the Parliamentarian’s notes following clause 1 of
Rule XV in the House Rules and Manual; pp. 871-879 of House Practice; and vol. 6,
chap. 21, sec. 9-15 of Deschler’s Precedents.