The Motion to Recommit in the House: The Minority's Motion
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Recommittal motions can take one of two forms: a simple (or “straight”) motion to recommit or a motion to recommit with instructions. Bills and conference reports can be recommitted, but the motion to recommit does not have the same effect on measures at both stages of the legislative process. A simple motion to recommit a bill gives the minority party a final opportunity to “kill” a measure before the House votes on whether to pass it. When the House adopts a simple motion, the underlying bill goes back to committee and is considered to have been rejected by the House. A simple motion to recommit a conference report proposes to return the report to conference, but does not necessarily “kill” the bill in question. A motion to recommit a bill with instructions provides the minority a last chance to amend a bill before the House votes on its passage. When the House recommits a bill with instructions, the measure goes back to committee, but typically with binding directions that the committee report the bill back to the House instantaneously with an amendment that is included in the instructions. The recommittal of a conference report with instructions returns the report to conference with non-binding directions to the House conferees only (e.g., to insist on disagreeing to a specific Senate amendment). Most motions to recommit bills and conference reports contain instructions. The motion to recommit is in order in the House, but not in the Committee of the Whole. The motion must be offered after the previous question has been ordered, but before the vote on passing a bill or agreeing to a conference report. Debate is allowed only on motions to recommit with instructions that are offered to bills and joint resolutions. Debate is not permitted on simple motions or on any motions to recommit conference reports, except by unanimous consent. The st House must approve the motion by a simple majority vote. From the 101 Congress through the th
109 Congress, the House adopted 7.6% of all motions to recommit.
In modern House practice, the right to offer the motion to recommit is the prerogative of a th minority party Representative who is opposed to the underlying measure. Until the 104 Congress, however, House precedents only guaranteed the minority’s right to offer a simple motion to recommit. The House Rules Committee was allowed to report “special rules” that limited or prohibited instructions in motions to recommit. Since the beginning of the 104th Congress, the Rules Committee has been prohibited from reporting any special rules that restrict or preclude instructions in motions to recommit offered to bills and joint resolutions, provided the motion is “offered by the minority leader or his designee.” This report will be updated at the end of each Congress.
Introduc tion ..................................................................................................................................... 1 Application of Recommittal Motions to Different Types of Measures...........................................1 Motions to Recommit Measures During Initial Floor Consideration..............................................3 Restrictions on Amendatory Instructions........................................................................................4 Recommittal of a Bill: A Case Study...............................................................................................5 Motions to Recommit Conference Reports.....................................................................................7 Recommittal of a Conference Report: A Case Study.......................................................................9 Rules of the House Governing Motions to Recommit..................................................................10 Offering the Motion to Recommit: The Minority’s Prerogative.....................................................11 Consideration of the Motion to Recommit....................................................................................13 Debate on the Motion..............................................................................................................13 Points of Order........................................................................................................................13 Amendments to the Motion.....................................................................................................14 Vote on Adopting the Motion..................................................................................................15 Table 1. Types of Measures to Which Motions to Recommit Were Offered (101stth Congress to 109 Congress).........................................................................................................2 Table 2. Motions to Recommit Bills, Offered and Adopted (101st Congress to 109th Congress) ...................................................................................................................................... 4 Table 3. Motions to Recommit Conference Reports, Offered and Adopted (101st Congress th to 109 Congress).........................................................................................................................9 Table 4. All Motions to Recommit Offered and Adopted (101st Congress to 109th Congress) .................................................................................................................................... 16 Appendix. Motions to Recommit Adopted by the House: 101st Congress - 109th Congress.........17 Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................25 Acknowledgments ......................................................................................................................... 25
The right to make motions to recommit in the contemporary House of Representatives is the prerogative of the minority party. The motion is in order in the House, but not in the Committee of the Whole (formally, Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union). A motion to recommit must be offered after the previous question is ordered on a measure, but before the vote on final passage takes place. When a measure is called up under a “special rule” that orders the previous question in advance through final passage, the rule expressly protects the right to move to recommit. In practice, a recommittal motion typically is offered after engrossment and third reading of the measure. Only one valid motion can be offered, and it can take one of two forms: a simple (or “straight”) motion, or a motion with instructions. Both forms have equal privilege on the House floor, but differ in how they affect the underlying measure. This report discusses the two forms of recommittal motion, relevant rules of the House, the minority’s prerogative to offer the motion, and procedures for disposing of motions to recommit. The report emphasizes motions to recommit bills and conference reports because they represent the overwhelming majority of all recommittal motions each Congress. Data on motions to stth recommit made from the 101 Congress through the 109 Congress are presented in tables 1 throughout the report. Motions that were offered and then ruled out of order are not counted in these data. The appendix provides information about the recommittal motions that the House adopted between 1989 and 2006.
In general, motions to recommit can be offered during initial House floor consideration of bills and most resolutions, and sometimes conference reports as well. The motion is out of order, however, when measures are called up under the “suspension of the rules” procedure. Table 1 below shows data on the different types of measures that to which motions to recommit stth were offered from the 101 Congress through the 109 Congress. The largest number of recommittal motions were offered to bills and conference reports, respectively. 1 The data were for the 101st-104th Congresses were gathered by searching the “Legis” and “Congressional Record” files of House Information Resources (HIR) for references to the motion to recommit in the House.A technicalth problemwith the “CongressionalRecord” files caused information from July 1996 to the end of the 104 Congress to th be missing; for this time period only the “Legis”files were searched. The data for the105 Congress and the first th session of the 106 Congress were gathered from searches of the Legislative Information System (LIS) and the Lexis thththth database. The data for the remainder of the 106 and all of the107, 108, and 109 Congresses were gathered from the LIS database. Table 1. Types of Measures to Which Motions to Recommit Were Offered (101st Congress to 109th Congress) Congress House Bill Conf. Rept. H.J.Res. H.Res. H.Con.Res. S.J. Res. Totals 101st 19 8 1 1 1 1 31 102nd 48 15 1 0 0 0 64 103rd 53 14 1 2 0 0 70 104th 55 20 8a 0 0 0 83 105th 31 8 2 5 0 0 46 106th 38 8 1 1 0 0 48 107th 47 1 1 1 0 0 50 108th 49 9 4 1 0 0 63 109th 54 3 0 2 0 0 59 Totals 394 86 19 13 1 1 514 Source: Compiled by CRS. a.Five of these were continuing appropriations joint resolutions for FY1996. While the remainder of this report concentrates on motions to recommit bills and conference reports, there are some restrictions on moving to recommit other types of measures: • Simple resolutions: It is not in order to move to recommit a resolution on the order of business (usually called a “rule” or “special rule”) reported by the House Rules Committee. • Concurrent resolutions: Section 305(a) of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, as amended, forbids motions to recommit from being offered to concurrent budget resolutions or conference reports on them. • Joint resolutions: The House sometimes acts on joint resolutions to disapprove or approve of specific executive actions under the terms of special expedited or “fast-track” procedures that may prohibit the offering of recommittal motions to 2 those resolutions. 2 For example, this prohibition appears in the Districtof Columbia Home Rule Act, thePension ReformAct, and others. The rule-making provisions of these and other congressional disapproval statutes are included in U.S. Congress,thnd House,Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual and the Rules of the House, H. Doc. 108-241, 109 Cong., 2 sess. (Washington: GPO,2005), sec. 1130, pp. 1059-1231.
Both forms of the motion to recommit3—simple and with instructions—propose to send a bill (or 4 other measure) back to a House committee, typically the committee that originally reported the 5 measure (the “reporting committee”). A simple motion to recommit a bill gives the minority a final opportunity to reject that measure. The motion proposes only to return the bill to the committee that had reported it. When the House adopts a simple recommittal motion, the underlying bill goes back to committee and is considered to have been rejected by the House. The simple motion gives the House an indirect way to “kill” a bill instead of voting directly on its final passage. By contrast, a motion to recommit with instructions provides the minority a last chance to amend a bill. A recommittal motion in this form proposes to send the bill back to committee and also to instruct the committee as to what additional action on the bill it should take. Most often, these instructions direct the committee contain an additional amendment to the bill. Thus, the mover of a recommittal motion with instructions seeks not to “kill” the underlying bill, but to change it to conform more fully with his or her policy views. These policy views are generally those advocated by the minority party. Most recommittal motions with instructions order the committee to report the bill back to the House “forthwith” with an amendment. These “amendatory instructions” contain the text of the proposed amendment. In this form, a recommittal motion gives the committee no discretion and no time in which to act. The committee must return the bill to the House with the amendment immediately. Consequently, when the House adopts a recommittal motion with amendatory instructions, the underlying bill is not actually sent back to committee. Instead, the chairman of the committee specified in the motion takes the floor and, on behalf of the committee, immediately reports the measure back to the House with the amendment set forth in the instructions. At this point, the bill is before the House once again, and the amendment contained in the instructions is the pending question for the House to decide. So the House proceeds to vote on the amendment. If the amendment is adopted, the House then votes on whether to pass the bill as it now has been amended. (See the “Recommittal of a Bill: A Case Study” section for an illustration of these procedures in practice.) 3 All the principles discussed in this section also govern motions to recommit joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, and simple resolutions. 4 References to bills in this and later sections of this report apply equally to joint, concurrent, and simple resolutions, unless otherwise noted. 5 The recommittal motion also can propose sending the bill to a select committeeestablished by the motion itself. For example, in the 102nd Congress, the motion to recommit with instructions offered to H.R. 3732 (Budget Process ReformAct of 1992) sought to send the bill “to a Select Committee on Reform to be composedof ten Members of the House to be appointedby the Speaker....” Themotion failed by a vote of 162-262. SeeCongressional Record, vol. 138, March 31, 1992, pp. 7441-7442. Table 2 below presents data on motions to recommit bills from the 101st Congress through the th
109 Congress. The overwhelming majority (88%) of the motions offered contained instructions,
as did all the motions that the House adopted. Table 2. Motions to Recommit Bills, Offered and Adopted (101st Congress to 109th Congress) Motions Offered to Recommit Bills Motions Adopted to a Recommit BillsCongress Total With Instructions Simple Total Adoption Rate (%) 101st 19 13 6 3 16 102nd 48 33 15 6 13 103rd 53 43 10 6 11 104th 55 46 9 3 5 105th 31 26 5 2 6 106th 40 39 1 3 7.5 107th 49 49 0 2 4 108th 54 53 1 1 1.9 109th 56 53 3 0 0 Totals 405 355 50 26 6.4% Source: Compiled by CRS. a.All the adopted motions to recommit bills contained instructions.
Motions to recommit bills with amendatory instructions cannot propose an amendment that 6 would not have been in order if it had been offered directly as an amendment to the bill. For instance, amendatory instructions must be germane to the underlying measure. To cite one rd example from the 103 Congress, a motion to recommit H.R. 3221 (Iraq Claims Act) with amendatory instructions was ruled out of order because the amendment contained in the instructions was not germane to the underlying bill. The chair explained that the instructions proposed adding language that would change immigration law, a subject that was not addressed in 7 the underlying bill. Amendatory instructions also cannot propose to strike out an amendment that the House already has adopted; this is consistent with the principle that an amendment cannot be amended after having been adopted. By the same token, the instructions cannot propose to amend a portion of 6 The information presented in this section draws upon relevant House precedents discussed in the chapter on “Refer and Recommit” in U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents andthst Procedures of the House, by Wm. Holmes Brown and Charles W. Johnson, 108Cong., 1 sess. (Washington: GPO, 2003), pp. 803-816, and in theParliamentarian’s annotations inHouse Rules and Manual, pp. 783-789. 7 See Congressional Record, vol. 140, April 28, 1994, p. 8803. the bill that the House already has amended in its entirety; this reflects the principle that it is not in order to propose to amend only amended text. The amendment in a recommittal motion can, however, propose (and often has proposed) an amendment that was earlier rejected by the Committee of the Whole or the House. When the House adopts an amendment in the nature of a substitute reported by the Committee of the Whole (i.e., a completely new version of the bill), this action could preclude a recommittal motion from including amendatory instructions because any amendment would propose to reamend some portion of the bill that the House already has amended. For this reason, whenever a special rule anticipates that the House will consider an amendment in the nature of a substitute, the special rule almost always provides explicitly for a motion to recommit “with or without inst ructions.” If the House considers a bill under a special rule, amendatory instructions in the recommittal motion must conform with any other relevant provisions of that resolution. For example, if the special rule prohibits amendments to Title II of the bill in both the Committee of the Whole and the House, it would be out of order to move to recommit the bill with instructions to amend Title II. Amendatory instructions also must abide by certain rule-making provisions of law, such as certain provisions in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-
344, 88 Stat. 297-339, as amended).
When the underlying measure is a general appropriations bill, a motion to recommit with 8 amendatory instructions must comply with other applicable House rules. Most important, the instructions cannot violate House Rule XXI, clause 2 which prohibits amendments to general appropriations bills from containing legislative language or making unauthorized appropriations. While most instructions are amendatory, some recommittal motions contain non-amendatory 9 instructions, such as directing a committee to hold a hearing or to conduct a study. If the House recommits a bill with non-amendatory instructions, the measure is returned to the designated committee for action as specified in the instructions. The committee’s work is confined to the scope of the instructions.
In the 104th Congress, Representative Edward Markey moved to recommit H.R. 1555 (Communications Act of 1995) with amendatory instructions directing the Committee on Commerce to report the bill back to the House “forthwith” with an amendment. The House adopted this recommittal motion by a vote of 224-199. The amendatory instructions in Representative Markey’s motion proposed adding a new section to H.R. 1555. This new section required, among other things, that television sets manufactured in 8 The term “general appropriations” encompasses the regular annual appropriations bills and measures making supplemental appropriations for two or more agencies (or purposes), but not continuing appropriations or supplemental appropriations for a single agency orpurpose. For further information, see HousePractice, “Appropriations” chapter, sec. 6, pp. 78-79. 9 Some examples of non-amendatory instructions are cited inHouse Practice, “Refer and Recommit”chapter, sec. 17, p. 803. or imported to the United States be equipped with a program-blocking technology called the “v- chip” (formally, the “violence chip”). Earlier, Representative Markey had offered this identical section as an amendment in the Committee of the Whole. The Committee of the Whole, however, adopted a substitute for the Markey amendment. The substitute amendment, offered by Representative Tom Coburn proposed a policy alternative that did not include the “v-chip” requirement. The Committee of the Whole then adopted the Markey amendment as amended by the Coburn substitute. As a result, there was no direct vote during the amending process in Committee of the Whole on the “v-chip” mandate proposed in the original Markey amendment (i.e., the amendment as offered by Representative Markey, not the version as amended by the Coburn substitute). Representative Markey secured this “up-or-down” vote in the House by offering a motion to recommit H.R. 1555 to the Committee on Commerce with instructions that the bill be reported back forthwith with an amendment containing the text of the original Markey amendment. After the House adopted this motion to recommit, Chairman Bliley reported the bill back to the House on behalf of the Commerce Committee with the amendment contained in the motion’s instructions. The House then approved the amendment. Finally, the House then passed H.R. 1555, which at that point contained both the text of the Coburn substitute as well as the text of the original Markey amendment. This example illustrates how the minority party can use the motion to recommit with instructions to secure a House vote on its policy alternative. It also shows the effect of a rules change made at th the beginning of the 104 Congress (and discussed in detail later in this report) that guarantees the minority’s right to offer a motion to recommit with instructions to a bill or joint resolution. Before this rules change, the special rule governing a bill such as H.R. 1555 could have prohibited or limited the instructions that could be contained in a motion to recommit. The following excerpts from the Congressional Record of August 4, 1995, show the parliamentary language used, and the procedural steps that occurred, during and immediately after the House’s consideration of Representative Markey’s motion to recommit with 10 instructions: THE SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the rule, the previous question is ordered. Under the order of the House of the legislative day ofAugust 3, 1995, the amendment reported from the Committee of the Whole is adopted. No separate vote is in order. The question is on the engrossment and third reading of the bill. The bill was ordered tobe engrossed and read a third time, andwas read the third time. Mr. MARKEY. Mr Speaker, I offer a motion to recommit with instructions. The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is the gentleman opposed to the bill? Mr. MARKEY. I am opposed to the bill Mr. Speaker. The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Clerkwill report the motion to recommit. 10Congressional Record, vol. 141, Aug. 4, 1995, pp. 22080-22084. [After the Clerk reported the motion,RepresentativeMarkey wasrecognizedforfive minutes of debate. A Member opposed to the motionwas then recognized for the same amount of time. At the conclusion of debate, the previous question on the recommittal motionwas ordered. After putting the motion to a voice vote, the Speaker pro tempore announced that the noes appeared to have it, so Representative Markey demanded a record vote. The House then adopted the motion to recommit, 224 to199, after which the Speaker pro tempore recognized Representative Bliley, chairman of the Committee on Commerce.] Mr. BLILEY. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the instructions of the House, I report the bill, H.R. 1555, back to the House withan amendment. The SPEAKER PRO TEMPORE. The Clerkwill report the amendment. [The Clerk began readingthe amendment (i.e., the amendment proposed inRepresentative Markey’smotion to recommitwith instructions).AtRepresentative Bliley’s request, and without objection, the amendment was considered as read and printed in the Congressional Record.] The SPEAKER PRO TEMPORE. The question is on the amendment. The amendmentwas agreed to. [Thirdreading and engrossment of the bill then took place, followed by a record vote on the bill’sfinal passage. H.R. 1555, amended as a result ofthe motion to recommit with instructions, was passed, 305-117.]
Motions to recommit conference reports also can be either simple motions or motions containing instructions. However, motions to recommit conference reports do not have the same purpose or effect as motions to recommit measures during their initial House floor consideration. A simple motion to recommit a conference report proposes only to send the report back to conference for further negotiation; adopting this motion does not necessarily “kill” the bill. A motion to recommit a conference report with instructions also seeks to return a report to conference for further negotiation, but it also proposes to instruct the House conferees (also 11 referred to as “managers”) as to what they should try to achieve during these negotiations. Most commonly, the instructions enjoin the House conferees to insist on the House position on a certain issue or to disagree to a certain Senate position. The instructions are advisory in nature; they are not binding on the House conferees. A Representative cannot make a point of order against a conference report on the ground that it is inconsistent with instructions that the House had given to its conferees. Also, the instructions must stay within the scope of differences between the House and Senate nd positions in the conference. For example, in the 102 Congress, a motion to recommit the conference report on S. 3 (campaign finance reform legislation) was ruled out of order because its instructions directed the House conferees to include in the conference report three provisions that went beyond the scope of the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. A 11 The instructions are directed only to the House conferees, not tothe conference committee as a whole, because the House cannot instruct a committee some ofwhose members are Senators. new recommittal motion then was proposed with instructions that remained within the scope of 12 differences. This second motion was defeated. Instructions in motions to recommit conference reports never direct conferees to report back to the House “forthwith,” as motions to recommit bills with amendatory instructions almost always do. The reason lies in the fact that the House cannot instruct a committee comprising Representatives as well as Senators. A conference report can come to the House floor only after a majority of the House conferees and a majority of the Senate conferees have signed it and the accompanying joint explanatory statement. When the House adopts a motion to recommit a conference report (simple or with instructions), the House conferees “carry the original papers back to conference” and the “same conferees 13 remain appointed.” If a new conference report is later filed, it receives a new number and can be subjected to another motion to recommit. A motion to recommit a conference report is in order on the House floor only if the Senate has not 14 acted on the report. Once the Senate acts on a conference report, the Senate conferees are discharged so there is no conference committee to which the report can be recommitted. At this point, the House can vote only to accept or reject the conference report. Also, a motion to recommit a conference report can be offered only after the previous question has been ordered on the report.eport has been ordered. In some cases, the House has recommitted a conference report 15 by unanimous consent. Table 3 provides data on motions to recommit conference reports from the 101st Congress th through the 109 Congress. The overwhelming majority (85%) of motions offered to recommit conference reports contained instructions. The House adopted only one simple motion to 16 recommit a conference report during the 17-year period. There were instructions included in all the other recommittal motions that the House adopted. 12 See Congressional Record, vol. 138, April 9, 1992, p. 9021-9023. 13House Practice, “Conferences Between the Houses” chapter, sec.35,p.329. 14 On this and other precedents relating to conference reports, see the sectionon “Conferences Between the Houses,” in House Practice, pp.329-362. 15 For example, in the 103rd Congress, a simplemotion to recommit the conference report on H.R. 3355 (a bill amending the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe StreetsAct of 1960) was adopted by unanimous consent. The Majority Leader offered this motion eightdaysafter the House defeated a special rule providing for the conference report’s consideration. 16 See note 15. Table 3. Motions to Recommit Conference Reports, Offered and Adopted (101st Congress to 109th Congress) Motions Adopted to Motions Offered to Recommit Conference Reports Recommit Conference Reports Congress Total With Instructions Simple Total Adoption Rate (%) 101st 8 5 3 1 13 102nd 15 12 3 4 27 103rd 14 11 3a 4 29 104th 20 17 3 3 15 105th 8 7 1 0 0 106th8 0 0 0 107th 1 1 0 0 0 108th 9 9 0 0 0 109th 3 3 0 0 0 Totals 86 73 13 12 14% Source: Compiled by CRS. a.This number includes a simple motion to recommit which the House amended to include instructions. This motion was offered during consideration of the conference report on H.R. 2445 (the energy and water development appropriations bill for FY1994). For further information, see the discussion of this case in the section of this report on “Amendments to the Motion.”
In the 104th Congress, the House recommitted with instructions the first two conference reports on H.R. 1977 (the interior appropriations bill for FY1996). The House later approved the third conference report on this bill. The first motion to recommit instructed the House conferees to insist on the House position on Senate amendment 158. This amendment ended a one-year freeze on the transfer of federal lands to mining companies. The House-passed version of H.R. 1977 extended this one-year freeze for an additional year. When the House agreed to the Senate’s request for a conference on H.R. 1977, it instructed the House conferees by voice vote to insist on the House’s “pro-freeze” position. However, the House managers, however, did not uphold the House position in conference; the first conference report on the bill (H.Rept. 104-259) came to the House floor with the Senate language intact. Representative Sidney Yates, ranking minority member of the Interior Appropriations subcommittee, moved to recommit the conference report with the instructions mentioned above. The motion was adopted, 277 to147, with the support of 91 majority Members, 17 including the bill’s majority floor manager. 17 See Congressional Record, vol. 141, Sept. 29, 1995, pp. 26940-26941. One month later, the conferees approved a second conference report on H.R. 1977 (H.Rept. 104- 300). While this report included the House’s “pro-freeze” position, it added the condition that this freeze would end if Congress approved legislation revising the Mining Law of 1872. (This mining legislation was in the conference report on the budget reconciliation bill that was scheduled to receive House floor consideration in several days.) When the new conference report on H.R. 1977 came to the House floor, Representative Yates moved to recommit the report with instructions. These instructions directed the House conferees to insist not only on the House position on Senate amendment 158 (i.e., with no conditions) but also on Senate amendment 108. This second Senate amendment allowed the Forest Service to sell more timber land in the Tongass National Forest. The House adopted the motion to recommit, 230 to199, with the support 18 of 48 majority Members. The conference committee reconvened for a third time and filed a new conference report (H.Rept. 104-402) nearly one month later. This third conference report extended the one-year freeze without conditions and contained a compromise on the Tongass National Forest issue. In explaining the third conference report, Representative Ralph Regula (majority floor manager for the report) told the House: “[t]he important thing I want to emphasize...is that we responded to the motion to recommit.” After the previous question was ordered on the conference report, Representative Yates once again moved to recommit the report with instructions. This time, he proposed instructions that the House conferees insist on the House position regarding the Tongass National Forest. The House rejected this motion, 187-241, and then adopted the conference 19 report, 244-181. These examples of recommitting a conference report in the House illustrates how motions to recommit with instructions can affect conference committee negotiations. The House recommitted the first two conference reports on H.R. 1977 for the same reason—the conference’s rejection of the House position on Senate amendment 178. In doing so, the House sent the message that its adoption of the conference report required conference approval of the House position on that Senate amendment. While the instructions in the successful recommittal motions applied only to House conferees, they influenced the work of the conference committee as a whole.
Motions to recommit are governed by both Rule XIX, clause 2, and Rule XIII, clause 6(c)(2). Rule XIX, clause 2(a), provides that “[a]fter the previous question has been ordered on the passage or adoption of a measure, or pending a motion to that end, it shall be in order to move that the House recommit (or commit, as the case may be, the measure, with or without instructions, to a standing or select committee. For such a motion to recommit, the Speaker shall give preference in recognition to a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner who is opposed to the measure.” (Paragraphs (b) and (c) of the same clause govern debate on motions to recommit; see the discussion of “Debate on the Motion”.) 18 See Congressional Record, vol. 141, Nov.15, 1995, pp. 32625-32626. 19 See Congressional Record, vol. 141, Dec. 13, 1995, p. 36322-36323. Rule XIII, clause 6(c)(2), as amended in 1995, states that the Committee on Rules shall not “report a rule or order which would prevent the motion to recommit a bill or joint resolution from being made as provided in clause 2(b) of rule XIX, including a motion to recommit with instructions to report back an amendment otherwise in order, if offered by the Minority Leader or a designee, except with respect to a Senate bill or resolution for which the text of a House-passed measure has been substituted.” The next section of this report discusses the changes made to this th rule at the start of the 104 Congress.
In modern House practice, offering the motion to recommit is the prerogative of a member of the minority party. This has not always been the case, however. Before 1909, the recommittal motion was typically reserved for a Representative “friendly” to a measure (typically the majority floor manager) “for the purpose of giving one more chance to perfect it, as perchance there might be 20 some error that the House desired to correct.” In 1909, the House amended what is now Rule XIX, clause 2(a), to add the language directing the Speaker to give preferential recognition for offering the motion to recommit “to a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner who is 21 opposed to the measure.” By 1932, House precedents interpreting this rule firmly established that preferential recognition should be given to a minority party Member opposed to the 22 underlying measure. From 1934 to the start of the 104th Congress, however, separate precedents held that the minority 23 was only guaranteed the right to offer a simple motion to recommit. These precedents interpreted clause 6 of Rule XIII as allowing the Rules Committee to report a special rule that prevented or limited the inclusion of instructions in a motion to recommit a bill or joint resolution. Because there were no recorded votes in the Committee of the Whole until 1971, a recommittal motion with amendatory instructions provided the only certain means for the 24 minority to obtain a recorded House vote on its policy alternative. Before 1971, a special rule restricting amendatory instructions took away this minority tool for obtaining recorded votes, or limited the minority’s ability to use that tool as it saw fit. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Rules Committee increasingly issued special rules that limited the offering of floor amendments in the Committee of the Whole (so-called “restrictive 25 rules”). In some of these situations, the Republican minority’s only opportunity to propose an 20 U.S. Congress, House,Hinds’ and Cannon’s Precedentsof the House of Representatives, (Washington: GPO, 1907 and 1936), vol. VIII, sec. 2762. 21 The House agreed to this rules change as part of the resolution adopting the chamber’s rules for the 61st Congress. This resolution also amended what now is RuleXIII, clause6(c(2), toprohibit the Rules Committeefrom reporting a special rule thatprevented the offering of a motion torecommit as provided in RuleXIX. 22 Statement of Stanley Bach, Congressional Research Service, in: U.S. Congress, House Subcommittee on the Rules of the House,Roundtable Discussion on the Motion to Recommit, subcommittee print, 102nd Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO, 1992), p. 18. 23 These precedents are noted inHouse Rules and Manual, sec. 859, p. 636. 24 An amendment wasadded to theLegislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-510, 84 Stat. 1140) to authorize recorded votes in the Committee of the Whole. 25 Data on restrictive rules from the 95th through 101st Congresses are provided inRoundtableDiscussion on theMotion (continued...) amendment was through offering a motion to recommit with amendatory instructions. When a restrictive special rule also prohibited instructions in the recommittal motion, the minority 26 sometimes was effectively blocked from offering its most important amendments. During the strd 101 through the 103 Congresses, the Republican minority began to challenge the House precedents allowing the Rules Committee to report special rules that only permitted a simple 27 motion to recommit. Each challenge, however, resulted in the earlier precedents being sustained. When the Republican party took control of the House in the 104th Congress, the House amended its rules to preclude the Rules Committee from reporting a special rule that prevents or limits the minority from offering a recommittal motion with instructions to a bill or joint resolution. This rules change added the following new language to the last sentence of Rule XIII, clause 6(c)(2), concerning motions to recommit bills and joint resolutions: ... including a motion to recommit with instructions to report back an amendment otherwise in order, if offered bythe MinorityLeader or a designee, exceptwith respect to a Senate bill or resolution for which the text of a House-passed measure has been substituted With the addition of this language, the House’s rules explicitly recognize the minority’s prerogative to offer a motion to recommit, with or without instructions, to bills and joint resolutions. To summarize the situation in today’s House, the following principles govern preferential recognition for offering recommittal motions: • The Speaker first looks to the Minority Leader or his designee. Thereafter, under House precedents, the Speaker gives preferential recognition “to minority members of the committee reporting the bill in their order of seniority on the committee, then to other members of the minority, and finally to majority 28 members opposed to the bill.” • The Speaker gives preferential recognition to a Member who is opposed to the underlying measure. When a Member seeks recognition to offer a recommittal motion, the Speaker asks: “Is the gentlewoman (gentleman) opposed to the measure?” Once the Representative answers affirmatively, the Speaker neither examines “the degree of that Member’s opposition” nor does he distinguish between opposition “to the bill in its present form” and a more fundamental 29 opposition. (...continued) to Recommit, p. 122. 26Ibid., p. 92 and pp. 141-148. 27House Rules and Manual, sec. 859, p. 636. 28House Practice, sec. 14, p. 811. 29 Ibid.
Debate is not allowed on a simple motion to recommit, except by unanimous consent. For motions to recommit with instructions, House Rule XIX, clause 2(b), allows ten minutes of debate if the motion is offered to a bill or joint resolution (no debate is permitted on recommittal motions with instructions that are offered to other types of measures). Under clause 2(c) of the same rule, the ten minutes of debate can be extended to one hour upon the demand of the majority floor manager. When this demand is anticipated, the special rule governing the measure’s floor consideration may specify that the recommittal motion with instructions shall be debatable for 30 one hour. Debate time, whether ten minutes or one hour, is equally divided between the mover of the motion and a Member opposed to the motion (usually the majority floor manager). The chair rules on whether a motion to recommit is in order only in response to a point of order that the motion violates a House rule or precedent or a provision of a rule-making statute or a special rule. A Member may make or reserve such a point of order immediately after the recommittal motion is read (or after the reading has been dispensed with by unanimous consent). In situations where debate on the recommittal motion is permitted, the point of order must also be made before debate on the motion begins. In nearly all situations, the chair decides whether to sustain or to overrule the point of order (an exception is discussed below). If the chair overrules the point of order, the House proceeds to 31 consider the recommittal motion. If the point of order is sustained, a new motion to recommit can be offered if it is offered in a timely fashion. The same principles also apply to points of order raised against amendments to motions to recommit (as discussed in the next section). A special procedure is used for points of order raised under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (P.L. 104-4, 109 Stat. 48). The chair does not rule on these points of order. Instead, the House votes on whether to consider the matter against which a point of order has been made. This vote takes place after twenty minutes of debate that is equally divided between the Member making the point of order and an opponent. The first unfunded mandates point of order was raised against a motion to recommit with instructions offered to H.R. 3136 (Contract With America th Advancement Act) in the 104 Congress. This point of order claimed the motion’s instructions contained an unfunded governmental mandate. The House voted not to consider the recommittal 32 motion. A valid motion to recommit with instructions was subsequently offered and defeated. 30 For example, in the 103rd Congress, H.Res. 132 provided for onehourof debate on a motion to recommit with instructionsoffered to H.R.1335(the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1993). SeeCongressional Record, vol. 139, March 18, 1993, pp. 5674-5675. 31 Rulings of the chair onpoints oforder canbe reversed by amajorityvote of the House,but in practice these rulings are seldom challenged. 32Congressional Record, vol. 142, March 28, 1996, pp. 6930-6934. Members do not often offer amendments to recommittal motions, either to add or to amend instructions. Such an amendment is in order only before the House votes to order the previous question on the motion. This generally leaves only three opportunities for offering an amendment, none of which arises frequently. First, for debatable recommittal motions only, an amendment is in order once debate is completed (if the previous question has not been ordered on the motion). The mover of the recommittal motion controls the floor at this time, and only that Member can offer an amendment or yield to 33 another Representative to do so. A Member seeking to amend a motion to recommit would, therefore, have to ask the motion’s mover to yield for an amendment. While the Member offering 34 the motion has little incentive to yield for that purpose, it has happened on occasion. Second, for both debatable and non-debatable motions to recommit, an amendment can be offered if the Member who offered the motion does not move the previous question. This is an unlikely scenario, however. The previous question motion has precedence over the motion to amend. This means that if the previous question on the recommittal motion is not moved and a Member seeks to offer an amendment to the motion, the motion’s sponsor could still move the previous question 35 and prevent House consideration of the amendment. Last, for both debatable and non-debatable motions to recommit, an amendment can be offered if the previous question on the recommittal motion is defeated. The previous question on the recommittal motion is typically ordered without objection and without a formal vote taking place. However, a Member trying to offer an amendment could demand the yeas and nays on the motion to order the previous question. If the House rejects that motion, House precedents provide that “a Member who in the Speaker’s determination led the opposition to the previous question on the motion to recommit, such as the chairman of the committee reporting the bill, is entitled to offer 36 an amendment to the motion regardless of party affiliation.” In addition, the Member proposing 37 the amendment “would not necessarily have to qualify as being opposed to the bill.” Debate is not permitted on an amendment to a recommittal motion, regardless of whether the underlying motion was debatable. The amendment’s supporters may explain it and urge its adoption before they actually offer the amendment—for example, during whatever time may be available for debating the recommittal motion itself. Especially because the House normally must vote against ordering the previous question on the motion before any amendment to it can be offered, the amendment’s proponents typically make their case in favor of the amendment in the process of urging Members to vote against the previous question. An amendment to a recommittal motion must be germane to the underlying measure, not necessarily to the instructions contained in the recommittal motion itself. A point of order against 33 U.S. Congress,House, Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, 97th Cong., (Washington: GPO, 1982), chap. 23, sec. 16.3-16.4, p. 366. 34 For an example, see Congressional Record, vol. 119, July 19, 1973, pp. 24966-24968. 35 U.S. Congress, House,Deschler’s Precedents of the U.S. House ofRepresentatives, H. Doc.94-661,94th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO,1977), vol. 7, chap. 23, sec. 25.1, p. 184. 36House Practice, sec. 15, p. 812. 37 Ibid. the amendment is timely if raised immediately after the amendment is read (or after the reading has been dispensed with by unanimous consent). If the chair sustains the point of order, another amendment to the motion can be offered unless the House then votes to order the previous question. A simple motion to recommit a bill or joint resolution can be amended to change the committee(s) specified in the motion, or to add instructions to the motion. When the underlying measure is a conference report, the simple motion can be amended to insert instructions to the House conferees. A recommittal motion with instructions, whether offered to a bill or a conference report, can be amended to delete the instructions (thereby making the recommittal motion a simple one), or to change the instructions in part or in whole. A substitute amendment striking out all the instructions and substituting new instructions “cannot be ruled out as interfering with the 38 right of the minority to move recommitment,” even if it is a majority party Member who offers the substitute. The House must approve an amendment to a recommittal motion by a simple majority vote. First, the House normally votes to order the previous question on the motion and the amendment that has been offered to it. After the previous question is ordered, the House first votes on the amendment. If that amendment is approved, the House then votes on adopting the recommittal 39 motion, as amended. Adopting a recommittal motion requires only a simple majority vote of the House. When a motion to recommit is defeated, another one cannot be offered; only one valid motion to recommit is in order. Table 4 below provides data on all the motions to recommit that Members offered from the 101stth Congress through the 109 Congress. The data include both motions to recommit measures before initial House passage and motions to recommit conference reports. In each successive Congress except for the last one, the number of offered motions increased but the adoption rate did not. The Appendix provides information about the 39 motions to recommit that the House adopted (bill number, title, date adopted, vote results, description of instructions, and unique aspects of the motion’s disposition). 38Hinds’ and Cannon’s Precedents, vol. VIII, sec. 2759, p. 391. 39 If a Membermoves the previous question only on an amendment to a recommittal motion and the House rejects that motion, an amendment to the amendment would bein order. If theHouse rejects an amendment to arecommittal motion, a new amendment to themotion could be proposed if theprevious question has not been ordered on the motion to recommit. Table 4. All Motions to Recommit Offered and Adopted (101st Congress to 109th Congress) Congress All Motions to Recommit OfferedAll Motions to Recommit AdoptedAdoption Rate (%) 101st 31 5 16 102nd 64 10 16 103rd 70 10 14 104th 83 6 7 105th 46 2 4 106th 48 3 6.3 107th 50 2 4 108th 63 1 1.6 109th 59 0 0 Totals 514 39 7.6% Source: Compiled by CRS.
Measure to Description of Instructions Unique Aspects of Motion’s Which Motion Date Approved Vote Results (committee name noted in italics) Disposition was Offered 101st Congress H.R. 12786/15/89 412-7 That Banking, Finance & Urban Affairs Financial report back forthwith with Institutions amendments. Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act H.R. 24617/27/89 176-90 (division vote) That Armed Forcesreport back One hour of debate was allowed. Dept of Defenseforthwith with amendments. Also, the motion’s mover demanded iki/CRS-RL33860Authorization Act for a division vote. g/wFY1990/91 s.or leakH.Con.Res. 22111/2/89 262-152 That Foreign Affairsreport back Support forforthwith with an amendment inthe ://wikiPeace and Democracy in nature of a substitute (text of S. Con Res. 79). httpCentral America H.R. 56119/17/90 227-142 That Post Office & Civil Servicereport Armed Forces back forthwith with an amendment Mail (to strike out all after the enacting clause and insert new text). Conf. Rept. on10/11/90 375-45 That House managers “report back S. 2104a bill” which includes specific Bill to amend the language.a Civil Rights Act of 1964 Measure to Description of Instructions Unique Aspects of Motion’s Which Motion Date Approved Vote Results (committee name noted in italics) Disposition was Offered 102ndCongress H.R. 295010/23/91 Voice Vote That Public Works & Transportation Intermodal report back forthwith with an Surface amendment. Transportation Infrastructure Act Conf. Rept. on4/1/92 206-199 That House managers disagree to H.R. 3337Senate amendments relating to White House redesign of U.S. circulating coinage. Commemorative Coin Act First Conf. 4/8/92 408-8 That House conferees insist on iki/CRS-RL33860Rept. on S. 3Bill to Amend the certain provisions of H.R. 4104 (companion bill to S. 3). g/wFederal Election s.orCampaign Act of leak1971 ://wikiConf. Rept. on S. 13065/28/92 214-157 That House managers agree to section 205(f) of the Senate bill. httpBill to Amend Title V of the Public Health Service Act H.R. 50066/5/92 Voice Vote That Armed Servicesreport back Committee chairman spoke in favor Dept. of Defense forthwith with an amendment to the or the motion. Also, the Authorization bill. amendment proposed in the Act for FY1993 instructions was not allowed in Committee of the Whole underthe special rule governing H.R. 5006. H.R. 54276/24/92 376-45 That Appropriationsreport backMajorit floor manager said he did Regular forthwith with amendments. not object. Also, the amendments Legislative Branch proposed in the instructions were Appropriations not allowed in the Committee of Bill, FY1993 the Whole under the special rule governing H.R. 5427. Measure to Description of Instructions Unique Aspects of Motion’s Which Motion Date Approved Vote Results (committee name noted in italics) Disposition was Offered H.R. 53686/5/92 329-68 That Appropriationsreport backCommittee chairman said he did not Regular Foreign forthwith with amendments (“strike object. Operations out and insert”). Appropriations Bill, FY1993 H.R. 54876/30/92 Voice Vote That Appropriationsreport backMajority floor manager announced Regular forthwith with an amendment to there was no objection on his side. Agriculture strike language. Appropriations Bill, FY1993 H.R. 55187/9/92 268-115 That Public Works & TransportationAn identical amendment offered by Regular report back forthwith with anthe Minority Leader was adopted in Transportation amendment. the Committee of the Whole, and Appropriations then superseded by a substitute iki/CRS-RL33860Bill, FY1993 amendment under the “king-of-the-hill” special rule. The Minority g/wLeader reoffered his Committee of s.orthe Whole amendment in a leakrecommittal motion with instructions in order to get a clear ://wikivote on the subject matter. httpConf. Rept. on9/24/92 235-173 That House managers recede from H.R. 5517Senate amendment No. 2. Regular District of Columbia Appropriations Bill, FY1993 103rdCongress H.R. 53686/17/93 Voice Vote That Appropriations report backMajority floor manager did not Regular Foreign forthwith with an amendment. object to the motion.. Operations Appropriations Bill, FY1994 Measure to Description of Instructions Unique Aspects of Motion’s Which Motion Date Approved Vote Results (committee name noted in italics) Disposition was Offered H.R. 22007/29/93 Voice Vote That Science, Space & TechnologyCommittee chairman rose in NASA report back forthwith with ansupport of the motion. Authorization amendment. Act, FY1994 Conf. Rept. on 10/19/93 282-143 for the amendment to the The amendment added instructions SIMPLE motion to recommit was H.R. 2445SIMPLE motion; voice vote for the directing the House managers to first offered. When House defeated Regular Energy & motion as amended insist on disagreement to Senate the previous question on this Water amendment No. 33. motion, a majority Member offered Development an amendment to add instructions Appropriations to the simple motion. The House Bill, FY1994 adopted this amendment, and then the motion as amended. Conf. Rept. on11/94/93 226-202 That House managers concur in H.R. 3167Senate amendment No. 1. iki/CRS-RL33860Unemployment Compensation g/wAct s.or leakH.R. 3221Iraq Claims Act 4/28/94 Voice Vote That Foreign Affairs report back forthwith with an amendment. The first motion to recommit with instructions was ruled out of order ://wikiof 1993/94 for not being germane to the bill.Mover of this motion then offered a httpnew motion with instructions. Committeee chairman spoke in support of the new motion, which was adopted. H.R. 44265/25/94 Voice Vote That Appropriationsreport backMajority floor manager did not Regular Foreign forthwith with an amendment (toobject to the motion. Operations change funding levels). Appropriations Bill, FY1995 H.R. 46026/23/94 Voice Vote That Appropriationsreport back Regular Interior forthwith with amendments Appropriations (“strike and insert”). Bill, FY1995 Measure to Description of Instructions Unique Aspects of Motion’s Which Motion Date Approved Vote Results (committee name noted in italics) Disposition was Offered H.R. 46047/21/94 424-0 That Rulesreport back forthwith Majority floor manager did not Budget Control with amendments. object to the motion. Act of 1994 Conf. Rept. on8/19/94 Agreed to by unanimous consent. SIMPLE motion. Offered by the Majority Leader who H.R. 3355sought to expedite disposition of the Violent Crime conference report. Eight days earlier, Control Act of the House defeated the special rule 1994 governing the report’s floor consideration. Conf. Rept. on9/22/94 234-192 That House managers insist on H.R. 4539House position on amendment No. Regular 52, and disagree to Senate Treasury/Postal amendment No. 29. Service iki/CRS-RL33860Appropriations Bill, FY1995 g/wth s.or104Congress leakH.R. 18687/1/95 Voice Vote That Appropriations report backThe motion’s mover announced it Regular Foreign forthwith with an amendment. was bipartisan and accepted by the ://wikiOperations involved committee. httpAppropriations Bill, FY1996 H.R. 15558/4/95 224-199 That Commerecereport back See detailed discussion of this motion Communications forthwith with an amendment. in the “Recommittal of a Bill: A Case Act of 1995 Study”: section of this report. H.R. 21269/7/95 Voice Vote That Appropriationsreport backMajority floor manager announced Regular Dept. of forthwith with an amendment. that the motion was acceptable. Defense Appropriations Bill, FY1996 Measure to Description of Instructions Unique Aspects of Motion’s Which Motion Date Approved Vote Results (committee name noted in italics) Disposition was Offered First Conf. 9/29/95 277-147 That House managers insist on the See detailed discussion of this Rept. on House position on Senate motion in the “Recommittal of a H.R. 1977amendment number158. Conference Report: A Case Study”: Regular Interior section of this report. Appropriations Bill, FY1996 Second Conf. 11/15/95 230-1999 That House managers insist on the See detailed discussion of this Rept. onHouse position on Senate motion in the “Recommittal of a H.R. 1977amendments numbered 108 and Conference Report: A Case Study”: Regular Interior 158. section of this report. Appropriations Bill, FY1996 First Conf. 11/29/95 216-208 That House managers insist on the Rept. onHouse position on Senate iki/CRS-RL33860H.R. 2099Regular VA/HUD amendment number4. g/wAppropriations s.orBill, FY1996 leak105thCongress ://wikiH.R. 17586/11/97 Voice Vote That International Relations report httpEuropean Security Act of back forthwith with an amendment. 1997 H.R. 34946/11/98 Voice Vote That Judiciaryreport back forthwith Protection of with an amendment. Children From Sexual Predators Act of 1998 106th Congress Conf. Rept. on5/5/99 Voice Vote That House managers include a H.R. 833specific amendment in their report. Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1999 Measure to Description of Instructions Unique Aspects of Motion’s Which Motion Date Approved Vote Results (committee name noted in italics) Disposition was Offered Conf. Rept. on 8/3/99 Voice Vote That House managers include a H.R. 2031specific amendment in their report Twenty-First Amendment Enforcement Act H.R. 7015/11/00 413-3 That Resourcesreport back Conservation and forthwith with an amendment. Reinvestment Act of 2000 107thCongress H.R. 15422/27/02 Voice Vote That Energy and Commerce reportThe House amended the original Internet Freedom back forthwith with an amendment. motion to recommit after it and Broadband defeated the previous question on Deployment Act the original motion to instruct. Both iki/CRS-RL33860of 2001 the amendment to the motion and g/wthe amended motion were adopted s.orby voice vote. leakH.R. 50057/26/02 318-110 That Select Committee on Homeland Homeland Securityreport back forthwith with ://wikiSecurity Act of an amendment. http2002 108th Congress H.R. 28444/22/04 Voice Vote That House Administration report Majority floor manager did not Continuity in back forthwith with an amendment. object to the motion. Representation Act of 2004 Source: Compiled by CRS. Notes: The motions to recommit presented in this appendix were identified by searching the “Legis” and “Congressional Record” files (101stCongress - 106th Congress, 1st Session) of the House Information Resources (HIR) for references to the motion to recommit in the House. A technical problem with the “Congressional Record” files caused th information from July 1996 to the end of the 104 Congress to be missing; for this time period, only the “Legis” files were searched. For each Congress, the motions identified through the HIR searches were then verified by examining a hard copy of the Congressional Record. For the 106thCongress, second session through the 109th Congress, the data was obtained by searching the Legislative Information System (LIS). The 109th Congress is not included in this list because no motion to recommit in that Congress was successful. a.The instructions directed the House managers to “report back a bill which includes language making it clear that businessmen/women would not have to adopt artificial hiring and promotion quotas to comply with civil rights laws; language reducing the need for further burdening the judicial system as well as language which lessens the prospect for huge damage awards.” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 136, Oct. 11, 1990, p. H9406. iki/CRS-RL33860 g/w s.or leak ://wiki http Betsy Palmer Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process email@example.com, 7-0381 This report was originallywritten by Mary Mulvihill. The listed author updated the report and is available to answer questions about it.