Commonly Used Motions and Requests in the House of Representatives
Commonly Used Motions and Requests in the
House of Representatives
Updated May 22, 2008
Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
Commonly Used Motions and Requests in the
House of Representatives
This report identifies the most commonly used motions and requests available
to Members during proceedings in the House of Representatives. This report does
not identify motions and requests used when the House is in the Committee of the
Whole House on the State of the Union. (See CRS Report RL32200, Debate,
Motions, and Other Actions in the Committee of the Whole, by Bill Heniff Jr. and
Elizabeth Rybicki. For a discussion of motions and requests used in committees see
CRS Report RS20308, House Committee Markups: Commonly Used Motions and
Requests, by Judy Schneider.)
The report divides the motions and requests into seven broad categories, based
on when the motion or request is in order and who can make the motion or request.
Daily Business is the category that includes items that are routine to the conduct of
business in the House each day, such as the motion to adjourn. Decorum and
Privilege covers issues of the rights and privileges of Members and the House and
how Members conduct themselves on the floor. In Parliamentary Tools, motions and
requests are identified that Members may use to get information about the
parliamentary situation or to object to the pending proposal. Proceedings on
Legislation includes motions and requests available to Members that are related to
bringing up and considering legislation. Closing Debate and Voting identifies
motions and requests used to bring debate to a close and obtain a vote. Commit,
Recommit and Refer looks at the motions and requests used to send a bill to
committee. Finally, Resolving Differences identifies motions and requests used to
facilitate amendments between the chambers or to set up a conference between the
chambers on differing versions of legislation.
This report will be updated as needed.
In troduction ..................................................1
Adjourn to a Date and Time Certain...........................3
Approve the Journal........................................3
Insert Material in the Congressional Record.....................3
Morning Hour Debate......................................3
R ecess ..................................................3
Special Order Speeches.....................................3
Decorum and Privilege.....................................4
Personal Privilege, Question of...............................4
Privileges of the House, Question of...........................4
Words Taken Down (Take Down the Words)....................4
Appeal the Ruling of the Chair...............................5
Point of Order............................................5
Reserve a Point of Order....................................6
Reserve the Right to Object..................................6
Table, Lay on the Table.....................................6
Proceedings on Legislation......................................7
Consideration, Question of..................................7
Postpone Until a Day Certain.................................7
Suspend the Rules.........................................8
Take from the Speaker’s Table...............................8
Closing Debate and Voting......................................8
Reconsider (a Vote)........................................9
Commit, Recommit, Refer......................................10
Recommit with Instructions.................................10
Concur in the Senate Amendment(s), Concur in the Senate
Amendment(s) with an Amendment......................11
Disagree to the Senate Amendment(s).........................11
Insist on House Amendment(s)..............................12
Recede and Concur, Recede and Concur with an Amendment......12
Recede from House Amendment(s)...........................13
Commonly Used Motions and Requests in
the House of Representatives
Members of the House of Representatives have an array of options available to
them to participate in the activities of the House. Those options allow Members to
ask questions about the parliamentary situation, object to proceedings in the House,
or ask for a recorded vote, among other things.
This report identifies the motions and requests Members may use to exercise
these options during House proceedings. It describes only procedures used in the
House proper. It does not identify motions and requests used when the House is in
the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union.1
For the purposes of this report, a motion is a formal proposal by a Member to
institute any one of a broad array of procedural actions as provided for under House
rules. Motions must be agreed to by the House to take effect. Motions include the
motion to adjourn and the motion to table.
Also, for the purposes of this report, requests are efforts by a Member to
accomplish some action that is disposed of not by a vote, but by an act of the Speaker
or with the consent of the House. An example of a request is a unanimous consent
request or a parliamentary inquiry. The former would be accomplished with the
consent of the House, the latter is answered by the Speaker.
The following discussion divides the motions and requests into seven categories,
based on when the motion or request is in order and who is most likely to make the
motion or request. Those categories are
!Daily Business includes motions and requests that are routinely
made in the House;
!Decorum and Privilege covers motions and requests that deal with
Members’ rights and conduct;
!Parliamentary Tools identifies motions and requests that Members
may use to get information about, or challenge, the parliamentary
situation or pending proposals;
!Proceedings on Legislation includes motions and requests related
to bringing up a measure for consideration;
1 See CRS Report RL32200, Debates, Motions, and Other Actions in the Committee of the
Whole, by Bill Heniff Jr. and Elizabeth Rybicki; also CRS Report RS20308, House
Committee Markups: Commonly Used Motions and Requests, by Judy Schneider.
!Closing Debate and Voting consists of motions and requests to
conclude consideration and proceed to a vote on a measure or
!Commit, Recommit and Refer deals with motions that may send
a bill to committee; and
!Resolving Differences identifies motions and requests used to set
up a conference between the House and Senate or to facilitate the
exchange of amendments between the chambers.
Unless otherwise noted, a motion or request that is in order may be made by any
Member if he or she has the floor or is recognized by the Speaker for that purpose.
On motions that are debatable, as noted in the report, the debate begins after the
reading of the motion. Debatable motions are considered under the hour rule2, unless
otherwise noted. Any Member may demand that any motion be reduced to writing.
Many motions are customarily presented in writing, especially those incident to
consideration of a measure; others, like the motion to adjourn, are customarily not.
Requests are typically not presented in writing.
Only the key features and conditions applicable to the motions and requests are
covered in this report. More detailed analysis is available in the House Manual and
other printed sources, from the House Parliamentarian, or from CRS analysts and
specialists. Terms in italic have their own entries in the report. Some descriptions
also provide typical language used to invoke the motion or request.3
A number of motions and requests are routinely made in the House each day as
a part of its daily business.
Adjourn. A motion to adjourn is not debatable and must be considered before
all other motions. It is not in order to table this motion. Generally, it is not in order
to repeat the motion to adjourn immediately after one such motion has been defeated.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
2 The “hour rule” is the default rule for consideration of measures or matters in the House.
Under the rule, each Member could be granted one hour of debate. In practice, however, the
first Member recognized under the hour rule moves the previous question at the end of the
first hour of debate, which, if approved by the House, has the effect of ending debate and
bringing the underlying measure or matter to a vote.
3 For complete, official information on House Rules, see U.S. Congress, House,
Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives, One Hundred
Ninth Congress, H..Doc. 109-157, 109th Cong., 2nd sess., [compiled by] John V. Sullivan,
Parliamentarian (Washington: GPO, 2007), sec. 714, pp. 428-540 . Hereafter cited as
House Manual. See also Congressional Quarterly’s American Congressional Dictionary,
(Washington: Congressional Quarterly, 2001); an updated version of the book is found at
[ ht t p: / / www.cr s.gov/ pr oduct s / gui des/ gl ossar y/ a .sht ml ] .
Adjourn to a Date and Time Certain. A motion that the House adjourn to
a date and time certain may not be tabled, is not debatable, and may not be amended.
Approve the Journal. At the start of each day that the House is in session,
the Speaker declares his approval of the Journal of the previous day’s proceedings.
A Member may request a vote on the question of the Speaker’s approval of the
Journal. These votes are generally used by the House leadership to see who is in
town and available to vote. The Journal is the official record of the proceedings of
Insert Material in the Congressional Record. A Member may ask to
insert material into the Congressional Record only by unanimous consent. There is
no motion to be made if unanimous consent is not given.
Morning Hour Debate. Since the 103rd Congress, the House, by unanimous
consent, has set aside a period on Mondays and Tuesdays for the purpose of
conducting “morning hour debates.” On those days, the House convenes 90 minutes
earlier than normal for the purpose of recognizing Members to speak, with 30
minutes controlled by each party. After mid-May of each year, the time set aside for
morning hour debate on Tuesdays is reduced to one hour, with 25 minutes allocated
to each party. Members must reserve time in advance with their respective
leadership, speeches are limited to five minutes, and the chair alternates recognition
between the majority and minority parties.
One-Minute Speeches. A Member may ask unanimous consent to address
the House for one minute. After being recognized by the Speaker, the Member may
speak for one minute on any topic. The Speaker has discretion to decide how many
“one-minutes” (if any) will be permitted each day and when in the day they will take
place (typically, they are at the beginning of a day’s session). At the beginning or end
of a one-minute speech, a Member may ask unanimous consent to revise and extend
his or her remarks.
Recess. Unlike an adjournment of the House, a recess is a temporary
interruption or suspension of a meeting of the House, generally proposed by a
member of the leadership. The Speaker may entertain a nondebatable motion
authorizing him to declare a recess, and that motion will be considered before any
other motion, except a motion to adjourn. In addition, the Speaker is authorized to
declare a recess “for a short time” when no question is pending before the House.
Special Order Speeches. Special order speeches are normally in order after
legislative business has concluded in the House for the day, and they can be on any
topic the Member chooses. Members are granted permission to speak from five
minutes up to one hour, and generally are placed on a list to obtain the time by their
party’s leadership. Members are recognized for special order speeches at the
discretion of the Speaker, and the practice is allowed by unanimous consent of the
body — no standing rules provide for special order speeches.
Decorum and Privilege
Members may act to protect their privileges, or those of the House, or to respond
to a break in the decorum of the House by using these motions and requests, which
involve the rights and privileges of a Member or of the House or deal with Member
conduct in the House.
Personal Privilege, Question of. Members can raise a question of personal
privilege when they believe that their rights, reputation, or conduct as a
Representative have been called into question. When a Member raises a question of
personal privilege, the Speaker must determine whether the question qualifies under
the rules and precedents of the House. If it does, the Speaker would recognize the
Member for one hour to talk about the question. Unlike a question of privileges of
the House, a question of personal privilege does not need to be in the form of a
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question of personal privilege.
Privileges of the House, Question of. Questions of the privileges of the
House are defined as those affecting the rights of the House and the safety, dignity,
and integrity of its proceedings. Questions of privilege have priority of consideration
above all other motions, except the motion to adjourn. A question of the privileges
of the House must be presented in the form of a House resolution. After a Member
has presented the question in the form of a resolution, the Speaker determines when
the House will consider it. If the question is raised by the Majority or Minority
leader, has been reported from a committee, or concerns the House’s right to
originate revenue bills, the question must be considered immediately. On other
questions, the Speaker has the discretion to postpone consideration for up to two
days. Once such a question has been raised and called up, the Speaker then
determines whether it qualifies as a question of the privileges of the House under
House rules and precedents. If so, the Speaker then recognizes the Member who
made the motion for debate for half of the one hour allotted. The second half hour
would be controlled by the Majority Leader, the Minority Leader or a designee, as
determined by the Speaker. The question, in the form of a resolution, is subject to
the motion to table. See also Personal Privilege.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question of the privileges of the
House, and offer a resolution ....
Words Taken Down (Take Down the Words). A Member may demand
that the words of another Member be taken down. This typically takes place during
debate when one Member believes another Member has violated the rules of decorum
in the House. The request requires that the Member’s remarks be read to the House
so that the Speaker may determine whether they are offensive or otherwise violate the
rules of the House. If the Speaker determines that the words are out of order, the
violator is customarily given a chance to withdraw or amend them, and the Member
may ask the House for unanimous consent to strike the words from the
Congressional Record. If there is objection, a motion may be offered to strike the
words from the debate. Upon the demand that the words be taken down, the alleged
violator must immediately sit down and await the Speaker’s decision. A Member
whose words have been ruled out of order may not speak again on the same day
without the House’s permission, but the Member can vote.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order, and ask that the
gentleman’s (or gentlelady’s) words be taken down.
The following are motions and requests that are available to all Members during
proceedings of the House that allow Members to gain an understanding of the
parliamentary situation or allow a Member to register his or her disapproval of the
conduct of business, or try to stop it. They can be seen as parliamentary tools.
Appeal the Ruling of the Chair. With this request, a Member formally
protests a ruling, or decision, made by the presiding officer of the House. The appeal
must be made immediately after the ruling or decision. A motion to appeal the ruling
from the chair is debatable and can be followed by a motion by another Member to
table the appeal or to order the previous question, which, if approved, would end
debate on the matter. Some decisions by the Speaker are not subject to an appeal,
such as a decision about whom to recognize to speak. The appeal of the ruling of the
chair is decided by the Speaker; Members may request a vote to sustain the ruling or
overturn the ruling.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I respectfully appeal the ruling of the
Objection. By objecting to a unanimous consent request, a Member may
prevent the occurrence of an action, not otherwise in order under the rules, for which
unanimous consent has been requested, but that he or she would prefer the House not
take. See also “Reserve the Right to Object.”
Parliamentary Inquiry. A Member may ask the Speaker to explain the
existing parliamentary situation by raising a parliamentary inquiry, or a Member may
use the parliamentary inquiry to question whether something taking place is
permitted by, or in violation of, the rules. A parliamentary inquiry may be used to
ascertain information only about procedural questions — the Speaker will not
provide information about substantive policy questions. After the Speaker has
responded to the parliamentary inquiry, Members may ask additional questions to
clarify the situation further, or may proceed to challenge the pending action through
a point of order.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I have a parliamentary inquiry.
Point of Order. A point of order is a claim by a Member from the floor that
a pending proceeding violates the rules of the House. A point of order may not be
made after debate on the matter being challenged begins; a Member desiring to raise
a point of order receives preference in recognition from the Speaker. Once the
Member is recognized to make a point of order, he or she must specifically cite
which House rule is being violated and why. No further action may take place until
the Speaker rules on the point of order. In order to make a ruling, the Speaker may
ask Members to argue for and against a point of order, but any debate is at the
discretion of the Speaker. If the Speaker sustains the point of order, the proposed
action falls from consideration. A Member may appeal the ruling of the chair on a
point of order. See also “Reserve a Point of Order.”
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I make a point of order against ... on the
grounds that ...
Regular Order. A Member may demand “regular order” to request that the
House return to the pending business. For example, if a Member had reserved a
point of order, a demand for regular order would force that Member to either make
the point of order or withdraw the reservation. Similarly, a demand for regular order
would require a Member who had reserved the right to object to state his or her
objection or withdraw the reservation.
Reserve a Point of Order. If a Member is unsure whether an amendment
or other action would violate House rules, the Member may reserve a point of order
against the action at the time it is proposed. Debate on the proposal would then
proceed. By reserving a point of order when an action is initially proposed, a
Member may preserve the right to make the point of order against the action at some
later point, after debate has occurred (but before the House disposes of the proposed
action). For example, if a Member offers an amendment, another Member may
reserve a point of order against the amendment to gain time to examine it.
Subsequently, if the reserving Member finds that the amendment violates no rule, or
is substantively acceptable, he or she may withdraw the reservation. Otherwise, the
Member also may insist on the point of order. A Member is allowed to reserve a
point of order at the Speaker’s discretion — once the Speaker desires to hear the
point of order, the Member must make it or withdraw it. Similarly, if there is a
demand for regular order, the Member reserving a point of order must make it or
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I reserve a point of order.
Reserve the Right to Object. A Member may “reserve the right to object”
to a unanimous consent request. As unanimous consent requests are not debatable,
a Member may reserve the right to object, to allow the proponent of the request time
to explain the proposal. For example, if a Member asks unanimous consent to bring
up a bill, another Member may reserve the right to object, and then yield to the
original Member to allow an explanation of what is proposed. If, in light of the
explanation, the reserving Member is not satisfied with the proposed action, he or she
may then object to the unanimous consent request; if satisfied, he or she may
withdraw the reservation of objection. See also “Objection, Regular Order.”
Table, Lay on the Table. If agreed to, a motion to table disposes of the
pending matter adversely and without a direct vote on its substance. The motion is
not debatable, and is adopted by majority vote or without objection. If adopted, the
tabling motion is the same as defeating the underlying proposition. If the tabling
motion is defeated, the situation reverts to where it was when the motion to table was
made. The House does not allow the tabling motion against the motion to recommit,
but it is in order against some other motions, such as the motion to reconsider a vote
or appeal the ruling of the chair. A motion to table an amendment, if successful, also
would table the underlying proposition to which the amendment was proposed.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I move to lay the [proposition] on the table.
Unanimous Consent. A Member may make a unanimous consent request
to ask permission to allow an action to take place, even if it is contrary to House rules
or practice. Although Members rarely object to routine unanimous consent requests,
they have the right to do so and thereby force full compliance with the rules. A
Member might ask unanimous consent to address the House for one minute. Or a
Member might ask unanimous consent that all Members have five legislative days
in which to revise and extend their remarks on a measure. See “Reserve the Right
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that...
Proceedings on Legislation
These are motions and requests that allow a Member to participate in
proceedings on legislation, such as the consideration and disposition of legislation
on the House floor.
Consideration, Question of. A Member may raise the question of
consideration, literally whether the House should take up a measure, only if the
measure being called up is being debated without a special rule to govern its
consideration, and the measure does not need to be considered in the Committee of
the Whole. The question is in order at the point when the measure is called up but
before debate begins. The question also may be raised on some motions, such as the
motion to recommit. The question is not debatable. Once the question has been
raised, the House must vote on whether to consider the measure.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I raise the question of consideration.
Postpone Indefinitely. A pending matter may be subject to a motion to
postpone indefinitely, which kills it. The motion to postpone indefinitely is not
amendable, it is debatable and may also be tabled, which, if successful, would kill
the motion to postpone indefinitely, but not the underlying matter or measure.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I move that the [further] consideration of
____ be postponed indefinitely.
Postpone Until a Day Certain. The motion to postpone to a day certain
postpones consideration of specified business and brings it back for consideration on
the specified day. The motion to postpone until a day certain is amendable, and it is
debatable. The motion may not specify a time when the matter will be considered.
It is in order to offer a motion to table this motion, which, if successful, would kill
the motion to postpone to a date certain but not the underlying matter or measure.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I move that the [further] consideration of
____ be postponed until Friday next.
Suspend the Rules. Noncontroversial measures can be considered by
moving that the House suspend the rules and pass a bill, adopt a resolution or
conference report, or concur in amendments of the Senate. Typically, the motion to
suspend the rules is offered by the committee or subcommittee chair of the committee
of jurisdiction. A measure considered under suspension of the rules must pass by a
two-thirds vote of those Members present and voting. Debate on a motion to suspend
the rules and pass a measure is limited to 40 minutes; the time is evenly divided
between proponents and opponents of the measure. Members may not offer
amendments from the floor, but the motion itself can include an amendment,
typically a committee amendment.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House suspend the rules
Take from the Speaker’s Table. The Speaker is required to dispose of
certain communications received by the House from the executive branch and from
the Senate (such as Senate-passed bills), and until he does so, these communications
are said to be on his table. He can refer them to appropriate committees.
Customarily, a floor manager of legislation may make a unanimous consent request
or a motion that the House act on an item at the Speaker’s table, such as to motion
to concur in the Senate amendments to a bill.
Closing Debate and Voting
There are a variety of motions and requests available to Members who want to
bring debate to a close or get to a vote on a measure or matter.
Previous Question. The previous question is a nondebatable motion to close
consideration and bring a pending matter to an immediate vote. If the motion is
agreed to by a majority vote, it generally cuts off further debate and prevents the
offering of additional amendments or motions. If the previous question is ordered
on a debatable proposal before any debate has occurred, the proposal may be debated
after the previous question is ordered for 40 minutes. When the House considers a
special rule from the Rules Committee, the majority floor manager usually moves the
previous question on the resolution when time for debate has been used or yielded
back. If the motion fails, the Speaker recognizes a Member who opposed ordering
the previous question to offer and debate an amendment. After debate on the
amendment, that Member typically then moves the previous question on the
resolution and the amendment to it. Once a special rule has been approved and the
House considers the matter governed by it, typically in the Committee of the Whole,
the special rule normally directs that the previous question is ordered as soon as the
Committee of the Whole reports the measure back to the House.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I move the previous question on ….
Quorum Call. Also known as the Call of the House. A Member may make
a point of order that a quorum is not present. Under the Constitution, a majority of
House Members (218) must be present to conduct business, but the House typically
assumes it has a quorum present (a “presumptive quorum”). In general, Members
may make this point of order only when the Speaker has put the question on a
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I object to the vote on the grounds that a
quorum is not present and make a point of order that a quorum is not present.
Reconsider (a Vote). A Member who has voted with the prevailing side may
make a motion that the House reconsider a vote. This motion allows the House one
opportunity to review its decision on a motion, amendment, measure, or any other
proposition on which it has voted. The motion to reconsider must be offered on the
same day as the original vote, or on the next legislative day. The motion is debatable
only when offered to a proposal that was debatable. If the motion to reconsider a
vote succeeds, it brings the original question back before the House. Immediately
after the result of a vote has been announced, the Speaker usually declares, “Without
objection, a motion to reconsider is laid on the table.” Any Member can object and
force a vote on the motion to reconsider, or on a motion to table the motion to
reconsider. Those who oppose reconsidering the vote may move to table the motion,
which would kill the move to reconsider the vote and block any future attempt to
reopen the issue.
A Member would say: I move to reconsider the vote by which the [proposition]
was passed [or rejected].
Recorded Vote. A vote in which Members are recorded by name. The House
uses an electronic voting system, where a Member can record his or her vote in one
of three ways: yea, nay or present. To obtain a recorded vote in the House requires
support from 44 Members (one-fifth of a quorum), but a Member can usually obtain
a vote without the requisite quorum if the Member notes the absence of a quorum
when asking for the vote. Recorded votes may be requested in both the House and
the Committee of the Whole.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, on that I demand a recorded vote.
Separate Vote. After a bill has been reported back to the House from the
Committee of the Whole, any Member may demand a separate vote on any
amendments that were agreed to in the Committee of the Whole. A separate vote is
not in order on amendments that were defeated in the Committee of the Whole.
Typically, the Speaker will inquire: “Is a separate vote demanded on any
amendment? If not, the Clerk will put them en gros.”
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I demand a separate vote on....
Yea-and-Nay Vote. Under the Constitution, any Member, with the support
of one-fifth of those present, may request a Yea-and-Nay vote when in the House.
These votes are typically taken by the electronic voting system. The Constitution as
well as some laws and House rules require that specific questions pending before the
House be decided by the yeas and nays. A Yea-and-Nay vote is required, for
example, to override a presidential veto.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I demand the yeas and nays.
Commit, Recommit, Refer
Although the formal purpose of these motions is to send to committee
legislation being considered by the House, they are in practice used principally to
bring amendments to the measure before the House. These motions are most likely
offered by an opponent of the pending legislation towards the end of House
consideration (except for Refer, which is used earlier in the process). Only one such
motion is in order; the parliamentary situation would determine which of these very
similar motions is in order in a given circumstance.
Commit. The motion to commit sends a measure or matter to a committee or
committees. It is in order only on measures or matters that have not been previously
referred to and reported from committee. When the measure or motion was reported
by committee, the motion to recommit is used. Agreement to the motion to commit
sends the measure or matter to a committee or committees. If the motion is on a bill
or joint resolution and contains instructions (essentially telling the committee how
to handle it), it is debatable. It may be tabled. It is in order only after the motion for
the previous question has been moved or ordered.
Recommit. A motion to recommit, to send the bill back to committee, may
be offered with or without instructions. The motion to recommit with instructions
is discussed below. The motion to recommit without instructions, sometimes called
a “straight” motion to recommit, sends the pending matter back to committee and can
effectively kill the measure. The motion is offered just before the vote on final
passage or adoption, and only one such motion (commit, recommit or either of those
with instructions) is permitted. The Speaker gives priority of recognition for offering
the motion to recommit, in order, to minority members of the reporting committee,
to any other minority party member, to majority members of the committee, and
finally to any other majority party member, but only to a member who declares that
he or she opposes the measure. The Rules Committee may not report a special rule
that prevents the motion from being offered. The motion to recommit may not be
tabled. The straight motion to recommit is not subject to debate, but it may be
amended to include instructions, so long as the amendment is germane to the
underlying measure. A conference report may be subject to a motion to recommit,
with or without instructions, if the House is the first chamber to act on the conference
Recommit with Instructions. The motion to recommit with instructions
sends the pending matter back to committee to take some action which may include
reporting it back to the House, but may also include holding hearings or studying the
matter further. In this form, the motion can be, essentially, an attempt to amend the
bill before final passage. If the instructions call for the committee to report back
“forthwith,” and the motion to recommit is successful, then the committee is
presumed to have acted upon the bill in the manner included in the instructions and
it is immediately before the House with the instructed amendment pending. If the
instructions do not explicitly state the term “forthwith,” or use terms such as
“promptly,” the effect is to place the measure again before committee, not before the
House. The motion is offered just before the vote on final passage or adoption, and
only one such motion (commit, recommit or either of those with instructions) is
permitted. The motion to recommit with instructions is subject to the same priority
for recognition as the motion to recommit (see above). A House rule precludes the
Rules Committee from reporting a special rule that prevents the motion from being
offered. When offered on a bill or a joint resolution, the motion is debatable for 10
minutes, equally divided between proponents and opponents, although the majority
floor leader may extend debate to one hour. This motion may not be tabled and the
instructions are amendable. An amendment must be germane to the underlying bill
and may not violate the right of the minority to offer the motion to recommit (by, for
example, completely changing the intent of the original motion). A conference report
may be subject to a motion to recommit, with or without instructions, if the House
is the first chamber to act on the conference agreement.
Refer. The motion to refer sends a measure or matter to a committee or
committees. It is in order only on measures or matters that have not been referred to
a committee and are being considered under the general rules of the House. It is a
debatable motion that may contain instructions (see “Recommit with Instructions”),
and it may be tabled. It is in order only before the previous question has been moved
The actions discussed in this section are used to resolve differences on
legislation that has been considered by both chambers and passed in differing
versions. The requests and motions described below represent the two methods
Congress has of resolving differences between the two chambers’ versions of
legislation. One method is called amendments between the chambers. Under this
method, the bill is amended by one chamber and then sent over to the second
chamber, either for its approval or for further amendment. Differences also can be
resolved if the two chambers agree to go to conference on a measure. The House and
Senate can disagree to each other’s positions and then agree to create a conference
committee to propose a package of settlements to all their disagreements. The
motions described below can be used to send amendments back and forth or to get
to a conference between the chambers. The majority of these requests and motions
are typically made by the majority floor manager of the legislation. The motions
discussed below are debatable under the hour rule.
Concur in the Senate Amendment(s), Concur in the Senate
Amendment(s) with an Amendment. The motion to concur in the Senate
amendment or any of its variations is associated with the method of resolving
differences known as amendments between the chambers. If the House concurs in
a Senate amendment, it clears the measure for the President. If the House concurs
in the amendment with a further amendment, the action sends the matter back to the
Senate for action on the House amendment to the Senate amendment. This motion
can only be used when the last amendments were those of the Senate.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to take _____
from the Speaker’s table and a Senate amendment thereto, and concur in the Senate
Disagree to the Senate Amendment(s). The motion to disagree to the
Senate amendments is associated with setting up a conference. The House must first
formally disagree to the Senate amendments to be able to request a conference with
the Senate to work out those differences. This motion puts the House on record as
disagreeing to an amendment or amendments from the Senate and may initiate action
to go to conference between the two chambers on the measure. This motion is used
when the Senate was the latter chamber to amend the measure.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to take _____
from the Speaker’s table with the Senate amendment thereto, disagree to the Senate
amendment and agree to the conference asked by the Senate.
Insist on House Amendment(s). The motion to insist on House
amendments is associated with setting up a conference. Essentially, it is a motion
that the House reiterate a position it already has taken during the process of
amendments between the houses. The House may insist on its amendment before or
after the Senate has disagreed to it, or the House may insist on its previous
disagreement to an amendment of the Senate. The motion is typically accompanied
by a request for a conference or agreement to a conference requested by the Senate.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to take _____
from the Speaker’s table, insist on the House amendment and request a conference
with the Senate thereon.
Instruct Conferees. The result of a motion to instruct conferees is a formal
vote of the House to tell its conference committee members how they should resolve
an issue. Under House precedents, the right to offer a motion to instruct conferees
is the prerogative of the minority. There are three situations where such a motion
may be offered: 1) after the House decides to go to conference but before House
conferees are named (only one such motion is in order); 2) 20 calendar days and 10
legislative days after conferees have been named if a conference report has not been
filed; and 3) as a part of a motion to recommit a conference report with instructions.
This last opportunity does not exist if the Senate has already acted on the conference
report. Motions to instruct conferees are not binding. There is no point of order
against a conference report that does not follow a House-passed motion to instruct.
Motions to instruct are debated under the hour rule.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I offer a motion to instruct.
Recede and Concur, Recede and Concur with an Amendment. The
motion to recede and concur and its variations are associated with amendments
between the houses, after the House has already previously disagreed to Senate
amendments or insisted on House amendments, so as to go to conference. It can only
be used when the last amendments are those of the Senate. These are motions that
allow the House to go back to the method of amendments between the chambers after
having disagreed or insisted on its position and possibly gone to conference. If used
in this situation or in any situation which the House had already insisted on House
amendments, the motion would have to propose that the House recede from
insistence on its own amendment as well as receding from the amendment itself.
These steps are typically taken when items are reported from a conference in
disagreement or when a conference report has been defeated.
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House recede from its
disagreement to the amendment of the Senate and agree to the same, with an
Recede from House Amendment(s). The motion to recede from House
amendments is also associated with amendments between the houses. This is a
motion that the House withdraw from its previous position during the process of
amendments between the houses. The House would use this to recede from its
amendments if it was the last chamber to act. This step is typically taken when items
are reported from a conference in disagreement or when a conference report has been
defeated. The motion to recede from House amendments would typically be
followed by a motion to concur in Senate amendments with a new and different
A Member would say: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House recede from its