Introducing a House Bill or Resolution

Introducing a House Bill or Resolution
Betsy Palmer
Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
Developing Ideas for Legislation. Ideas and recommendations for legislation
come from a wide variety of sources, such as individual Representatives, committees and
other House working groups, party and chamber leaders, executive branch agencies and
the White House, states and localities, and citizens or interest groups. Any or all of these
individuals or entities may participate in drafting legislation, although only a Member
may formally introduce legislation. For more information on legislative process, see
[] .1
Some of the most common considerations that might be taken into account when
drafting a bill are
!To what committee or committees is the measure likely to be referred?
!Will the bill attract cosponsors?
!Does the measure have bipartisan appeal?
!Is the measure best introduced at the beginning or toward the end of a
!What are the budgetary or appropriations implications?
!Should there be a companion measure introduced in the Senate?
Drafting Legislation. Although there is no requirement that bills and other
measures introduced in the House be prepared by the House Office of Legislative
Counsel, the office plays an important role in drafting legislation. Its staff attorneys are
both subject-matter specialists and experts in legislative drafting. Legislative counsel
staff are often assigned to serve a specific committee or committees and focus almost
exclusively on related policy areas in which they are expert. They act as nonpartisan,
shared staff, working closely with committee members and staff. Numerous drafts of a
bill or resolution may be required before a measure is formally introduced.
Staff drafting legislation may seek assistance from legislative counsel at any stage.
All communications with the office are considered confidential. The office is located at

136 Cannon House Office Building (5-6060).

1 This report was originally prepared by former CRS Specialist Richard C. Sachs. Please direct
any inquiries to the listed author.

After introduction, a bill will normally be referred to the committee (or committees)
having jurisdiction, under House Rule X, over the subject the bill addresses. (For detail,
see CRS Report 98-175, House Committee Jurisdiction and Referral: Rules and Practice,
by Judy Schneider.) The referral will be made by the Office of the Parliamentarian, acting
as agent of the Speaker (Rule XII, clause 2). Members and staff drafting legislation may
consult the Office of the Parliamentarian on the referral that a draft bill would be likely
to receive, and on the possibility of securing a different referral by making adjustments
in its text before introduction.
Introducing a Bill. The formal procedures that govern the practical activity of
introducing legislation are few and are found in House Rule XII. Former House
Parliamentarian Wm. Holmes Brown in House Practice: A Guide to the Rules,
Precedents and Procedures of the House (Washington: GPO, 2003) has stated: “The
system for introducing measures in the House is a relatively free and open one.” House
rules do not limit the number of bills a Representative may introduce.
When a Representative who is the primary sponsor has determined that a bill or
resolution is ready for introduction, the measure is printed in a form that leaves room for
the parliamentarian’s office to note the committee or committees of referral and for a
clerk to insert a number. The Member must sign the measure and attach the names of any
cosponsors on the form provided by the Clerk’s office; cosponsors do not affix their
signatures to the bill. The Member then deposits the measure in the box, or “hopper,” at
the bill clerk’s desk in the House chamber when the House is in session. A Member need
not seek recognition in order to introduce a measure.
If a Member has second thoughts after introducing a measure, he or she may reclaim
it from the clerk so long as the measure has not been assigned a number and referred to
committee (a process that normally takes one day). Once a measure has been numbered
and referred, it becomes the property of the House and cannot be reclaimed. The House
has the authority to consider an introduced bill or resolution even if the primary sponsor
resigns from the House or dies.
In the first days of a new Congress, hundreds of bills and resolutions are introduced.
Measures are numbered sequentially and Representatives may seek to reserve numbers,
as these are sometimes seen as providing a shorthand meaning to the legislation, or having
some other symbolic meaning. In recent years, the House has ordered that bill numbers
one through 10 be reserved for majority party leaders.