Parliamentary Outreach Program

Floor Procedure In The U.S. House Of Representatives


The Honorable David Dreier
Chairman, the Committee on Rules

Learn the rules and understand the precedents and procedures of the House. The congressman who knows how the House operates will soon be recognized for his parliamentary skills - and his prestige will rise among his colleagues, no matter what his party.

House Speaker John W. McCormack of Massachusetts (1962-1971) giving advice to new House Members

The legislative process in the House of Representatives is the product of 210 years of rule-making and precedents - an evolution that often makes our procedure difficult to comprehend by Members of Congress and the general public. There is a well-known adage widely attributed to Otto von Bismarck that "no man should see how laws or sausages are made."

Much has contributed to this confusion. The House of Representatives has not undertaken a comprehensive recodification of its rules since the 1880s. Since that time, many of the rules (and the precedents by which these rules have been interpreted and applied) have evolved in an unorganized and haphazard way leading to widespread difficulty in learning and understanding the activities of the House. To address this, a bipartisan task force of the Rules Committee developed a recodification of the Rules of the House which was adopted on the opening day of the 106th Congress. Where appropriate, the rules have been cleansed of obsolete and archaic provisions and reorganized to bring related provisions together in an orderly fashion. Without altering the interpretation or content of any rule, certain rules have been rewritten and restructured to clarify their meaning and to minimize obscurities and ambiguities. Others have been modified to bring about conformity with accepted and established House practices. This significant, bipartisan institutional reform will make the rules of the House more user friendly for both Congress and the public.

The deliberative nature of our representative democracy requires widespread knowledge of the legislative process among both Members and the electorate. This manual is designed to provide House Members and staff with a concise, yet informative user guide to the basic legislative process in the House of Representatives. As an addendum to the Rules of the House and Jefferson’s Manual, this easy to use manual will allow Members to better monitor or participate in the legislative proceedings of the House.

The House of Representatives is the People’s House and its legislative process and daily activities should be comprehensible to both its Members and their constituents. We believe this manual will assist in achieving this goal.

This edition incorporates recent rule changes, including those made as a result of the bipartisan recodification of the rules of the House. Also, many sections have been broadened and rewritten to eliminate ambiguities and to add further relevant information.

Over the years, a number of individuals have contributed to the evolution and development of this document. Most notably was the Honorable Robert E. Bauman, former Member of the House from Maryland, who wrote the original version of this manual over a decade ago, and also the Honorable Robert S. Walker, former Member from Pennsylvania, who revised and updated it in 1994. It was then subsequently updated in 1997 by the former chairman of the Rules Committee, Gerald B.H. Solomon, as part of its Parliamentary Outreach Program.

Sincere appreciation and acknowledgment must go to the Office of the Parliamentarian; the Congressional Research Service; Martha Morrison and Dan Keniry of the Speaker’s Floor staff; and Eric Pelletier, Gena Woolner, Erin Evans, and Danielle Simonetta of the Republican Rules Committee staff and the Committee’s Parliamentary Outreach Program.

The Congressional Institute deserves special thanks for its support and contributions under the able leadership of its President, Jerry Climer. The Institute was invaluable to the publication and distribution of this Manual.

David Dreier,
Committee on Rules
January, 1999
106th Congress

(Listed in order of business)

I. The House is Called to Order by the Speaker

A. Time of Meeting
B. Three Day Adjournment Limit
C. Legislative Schedule
D. Powers of the Speaker
E. Morning Hour

II. The Prayer is Offered by the Chaplain

III. Approval of the Journal

IV. Voting by Electronic Device

V. The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag

VI. One Minute Speeches

A. How to Make a One-Minute Speech
B. How Not to Make a One-Minute Speech

VII. Various Unanimous Consent Requests

VIII. Suspension of the Rules

IX. Special Rules for Major Bills

A. Purpose of Special Rules
B. Types of Rules
C. Special Provisions or Procedures
D. Consideration of Rules
E. The Previous Question
F. Adoption of the Rule

X. Resolving into the Committee of the Whole

XI. General Debate in the Committee of the Whole

A. Speaking During General Debate
B. How a Member Speaks
C. Conduct During Debate
D. Quorum and Vote in the Committee of the Whole

XII. Amendments Under the Five-Minute Rule

A. Offering an Amendment
B. Time Limits Under the Five-Minute Rule
C. Protecting an Amendment
D. How to Get a Vote on an Amendment

XIII. Conclusion of a Bill’s Consideration

A. The Committee Rises
B. Separate Votes
C. Previous Question
D. Engrossment and Third Reading of the Bill
E. Motion to Recommit

XIV. Final Passage of a Bill

A. Obtaining a Record Vote in the House
B. General Leave
C. Revising and Extending Remarks
D. Motion to Reconsider
E. Postponement of Votes
F. Clustering of Votes
G. Vote Pairs
H. Conflicts of Interest

XV. Conference Reports

XVI. Discharge Petitions

XVII. End of Legislative Business for the Day

A. Personal Requests
B. Request for Official Leave
C. Extension of Remarks
D. Special Orders
E. Adjournment

Appendix Abridged Parliamentary Dictionary


A. Time of Meeting: The daily hour of meeting is set by a House Resolution adopted on the first day of each session. On January 6, 1999, the House adopted H.Res. 14 which established the following meeting times until May 10, 1999:

  • 2:00 p.m. on Monday;
  • 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday; and,
  • 10:00 a.m. on all other days of the week.

Beginning May 10, 1999 until the end of the first session:

  • Noon on Monday;
  • 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and,
  • 9:00 a.m. on all other days of the week.

The hour of meeting can be changed by order of the House at any time, usually by unanimous consent after consultation between both party leaderships. A Member’s office is notified of any time changes by a Whip call. If in doubt, a Member’s Office should check with the Republican Cloakroom at 225-7350 or the Democratic Cloakroom at 225-7330.

B. Three Day Adjournment Limit: Article I, section 5 of the U.S. Constitution prevents either House from adjourning for more than three days (not including Sundays) unless the other House concurs. Such adjournment authority for more than three days is accomplished through the adoption by both Houses of a concurrent resolution (which does not require the signature of the President).

C. Legislative Schedule: The scheduling of legislation for House Floor action is the prerogative of the Majority Leadership. However, the following informational example is useful in determining the time it takes to prepare legislation for Floor consideration:

Tuesday - If the Committee orders bill reported and views are requested.
Wednesday - Day number 1 for filing views.
Thursday - Day number 2 for filing views. (May file up to 1 hour after 2 day time period expires or 1:00 a.m. on Friday under this example).
Friday - Committee files report on the bill. (May be Day number 1 of report availability if report is filed the day before).
Monday - Day number 1 that report is available to the House.
Tuesday - Day number 2 that report is available to the House.
Wednesday - Day number 3 that report is available to the House. Floor consideration is possible.
Thursday - Rules Committee meets to grant rule. The Committee could meet as early as Tuesday if the two days for filing views are not utilized.
Friday - Rule and bill may be considered on House floor.

Usually on the last legislative day of the week a representative of the Minority Leadership seeks unanimous consent to speak out of order for one minute to address the House for the purpose of asking the Majority Leader about the legislative program for the upcoming week. Following the announcement, the Whip Offices will send Members “Whip Notices” for the next week listing the specific bills to be considered including how each bill will receive Floor consideration (i.e. suspension, open rule...). Each office also receives copies of the legislation scheduled for Floor consideration (if available) in a “Whip Packet" which is delivered by the House Page Service. Finally, offices will receive publications from the Republican Conference or the Democratic Caucus with summaries of the upcoming legislation. Most often these are the Legislative Digest and the House Action Reports.

Even though the Majority Leadership announces a program for the week, it is possible for the program to change. Therefore, it is to a Member’s benefit to follow any updates. The Republican Cloakroom provides recorded information for the week’s program at 225-2020 and 225-7430 for the floor program for that specific day. The Democratic Cloakroom provides recorded information for the week’s program at 225-1600 and 225-7400 for the floor program for that specific day.

Also remember that in addition to the announced schedule of major bills, legislative matters may be called up for consideration by “unanimous consent.” In keeping with the Speaker's announced policy, unanimous consent requests of that type must be cleared by the Majority and Minority Leadership as well as the bipartisan leadership of the committee(s) of jurisdiction.

Following clearance, these matters may come up with little notice except to the Members managing the request (i.e., the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the committee(s) of jurisdiction). If a Member has a specific interest in something which might come up by unanimous consent, he or she should protect themselves by contacting the appropriate committee and leadership representatives as early as possible. A Member might also ask the Floor staff to be on the lookout for the matter of interest.

In addition to the normal order of business as presented here, there are several "special legislative days.” Bills may be brought up under "suspension of the rules" on Mondays and Tuesdays of each week, although this process is separate and apart from the calendar system. There is no “suspension calendar”. Suspension of the rules will be discussed in detail later in Section 8. Corrections bills may be brought up on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month. Private Bills may be considered on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month.

D. Powers of the Speaker: The Speaker traditionally opens the session each day but may designate a "Speaker pro tempore,” a Member of the majority party, for up to three legislative days. The Speaker or Speaker Pro Tempore may preside through one-minute speeches and other House business (as debate on special rules) until the House resolves itself into the Committee of the Whole, at which time the Speaker appoints a Majority Member to preside as the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole. The Speaker or Speaker pro tempore returns to the Chair when the Committee of the Whole rises.

Note: Rule I of the Rules of the House details the numerous duties of the Speaker, many of which directly affect Members. It is also important to understand the Speaker's power of recognition under clause 2 of Rule XVII. In most cases, it is the Chair's prerogative to recognize a Member. The power of recognition cannot be appealed. Under Rule V, the Speaker is responsible for broadcasting House proceedings.

E. Morning Hour: By agreement of both the Majority and Minority Leaderships, the House has instituted a “Morning Hour” period for special order speeches on Mondays and Tuesdays of each week. On those days prior to May 10 of each session, the House may convene 90 minutes earlier than normal for Morning Hour special order speeches.

On those Tuesdays after May 10 of each session, the House may convene 60 minutes earlier than normal for the Morning Hour.

Morning Hour special order speeches are equally divided and rotated between Majority and Minority parties. Members designated by the leaders may speak for up to five minutes on any subject of their choice (except for the Majority and Minority leaders and Minority Whip who may speak for longer blocks of time). If a Member wishes to participate, he or she must sign up for the time in the respective Cloakroom no more than one week in advance.


The House Chaplain is the Reverend James David Ford. Guest Chaplains are permitted and each Member may consider inviting a clergyman from his or her district to offer the daily prayer. Members should contact Reverend Ford for further information at 225-2509.


Article I, section 5 of the U.S. Constitution requires that the House keep a Journal of its proceedings which is actually a summary of the day's actions. The Speaker is responsible for examining and approving the Journal of the previous day. The Speaker announces his or her approval to the House immediately after the prayer is offered by the Chaplain. Following the announcement of approval by the Speaker, any Member may put the question of approval to a vote. However, it should be noted that the Speaker has the authority to postpone a vote on agreeing to the Journal until a later time on the same legislative day.

Note: The Journal is not the Congressional Record.


When the Speaker or the Chair announces that the yeas and nays are ordered, or announces that a quorum is not present and the record vote is automatic, it is taken by electronic device. The way in which a Member casts a vote by electronic device is as follows:

  1. The Member inserts a voting card into the nearest voting station.

  2. The Member press the appropriate button: “yea”, “nay” or “present.”

  3. It is wise for the Member to go to another voting station and reinsert the voting card until the light comes on and verifies the vote cast at the first station.

  4. The Member should also visually check the voting board to make sure that the light next to his or her name reflects the intended vote.

  5. If a Member does not have his or her voting card, he or she should go to the table in the Well and obtain an appropriate voting card from the boxes placed there (green card for yea, red card for nay, orange card for present). The Member should sign it, and give it to the Tally Clerk who sits to the left (as the Member faces the Clerk) of the Reading Clerk's rostrum on the second level of the podium. The Clerk will then register the vote into the computer but the Member should visually check the board to make sure the vote is recorded correctly.

  6. If the Member decides during a vote that they want to change his or her vote, the Member may simply reinsert his or her card into a voting station and press the appropriate button during the first 10 minutes of a 15-minute vote, or at any time during a 5-minute vote. However, during the last 5 minutes of a 15-minute vote, a change in a Member’s vote can only be made by going to the Well, taking a card from the table, signing it, and handing it to the Tally Clerk on the rostrum. The Clerk then registers the change and a statement will appear in the Congressional Record indicating that the Member changed his or her vote. If the Member uses this procedure to change their vote, they should be sure to check the board to see that it reflects the change. Also, a Member should keep in mind that any change made during a 5-minute vote can be made by machine and no statement about the change will appear in the Congressional Record unless it comes after the voting stations are closed and before the result of the vote is announced.

    Note: Once the record vote ends (by the Chair announcing the result) and other business begins, the vote is final -- no further voting or changing is permitted. However, a Member may submit a statement declaring how the Member would have voted had he or she been present. Such an explanatory statement containing the Member’s original signature will be inserted in the Congressional Record at the point immediately after the vote. A suggested script for such an explanatory statement on missed or mistaken votes may be obtained from the Floor staff. It is important to remember that this statement does not affect whether or how the Member is recorded on the vote.

  7. Clause 2 of Rule III specifically prohibits any Member from allowing another person to cast his or her vote and from casting the vote of another Member.

  8. The allotted time for a quorum call or recorded vote under the rules of the House is not less than 15 minutes (clause 2 of Rule XX). It is the prerogative of the Speaker or presiding officer to allow additional time beyond the 15 minutes. Often one will hear Members calling “regular order" when an electronic vote extends beyond 15 minutes under the mistaken impression that recorded votes are limited to 15 minutes -- they are not limited. The regular order is to allow more time on recorded votes if the Chair desires.

    It has been the custom of the House since the 104th Congress to attempt to “limit” these 15 minute votes to 17 minutes.

    The Chair will allow all Members who are on the Floor before the final announcement to be recorded, but is not obliged to hold the vote open to accommodate requests through the Cloakrooms for Members “on their way.”


After approval of the Journal, the Speaker recognizes a designated Member to lead the House in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. The Member designated alternates between the Majority and Minority on a daily basis. The Member is usually informed in advance if he or she is the designated Member.


These short speeches (300 words) may be made by Members before or after legislative business each day. (If the speech given at the beginning of the day is longer than 300 words or includes extraneous materials, it will appear in the Extension of Remarks section of the Congressional Record). Any Member may seek recognition to make a speech on a subject of his or her choice not exceeding one minute in duration. One-minute speeches are often coordinated through the Republican and Democratic Leadership to focus on particular topics, but the speeches are not limited to such topics. Participants in these efforts usually receive priority seating and recognition.

The one-minute speech period is granted at the discretion of the Speaker as are the number of such speeches. Some days one-minute speeches may be limited to ten or fifteen per side (Republican and Democrat). On other days they may be unlimited. On occasion, this period is postponed until the end of the day if the business of the House is heavy and time is short. In this case a Member should keep in mind that they are permitted to address the House for one minute at the end of legislative business for the day, provided legislative business does not extend past midnight.

A. How to Make a One-Minute Speech: To give a one-minute speech, a Member should go to the front row of seats on the their party’s side of the floor and sit down. The Speaker will recognize Members in turn, alternating between the Majority and Minority sides. At the appropriate point, the member should stand to seek recognition and address the Chair by saying: "Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to address the House for one minute and to revise and extend my remarks.

The Speaker will respond by saying: “Without objection, so ordered.” The Member may then proceed to the podium in the Well to give the speech. The Chair will tell the Member when the one minute has expired at which time the Member may finish the sentence, but no more.

Members are strongly recommended to read all of Rule XVII, “Decorum and Debate," and especially clause 1 of that rule and section xvii of Jefferson’s Manual, “Order and Debate,” and the accompanying footnotes to both, to get an idea of what can and cannot be done or said when on the House Floor. (Also see "Conduct During Debate" under Part II of this Manual, "General Debate in the Committee of the Whole.")

B. How Not to Make a One-Minute Speech:

Mr. X: "Mr. Speaker and those of you viewing these proceedings on television in your office or at home...."

It is not proper at any time for a Member to refer to the television audience because of Rule XVII which states that a Member must always address the Chair and only the Chair.

Mr. X: "...and those distinguished citizens of the San Dimas Rotary Club who are here visiting the Capitol today and are with us in the House Gallery...”

Clause 7 of Rule XVII states specifically that Members may not introduce or otherwise make reference to people in the Visitors or Press Gallery.

Mr. X: "...I want to state my absolute disgust about the unbelievably stupid vote yesterday in the Senate of the United States...."

It is acceptable to refer to actions taken by the Senate which are a matter of public record, but it is improper to characterize Senate action or inaction and to make reference to individual Members of the Senate.

Mr. X: “...Mr. President, you should veto that bill....”

Not only is it inappropriate to address the President directly (Members must always address the Chair), but it is improper to refer to the President in a personally offensive manner.

Note: A Member does not actually have to deliver a one-minute speech. He or she can simply ask unanimous consent that it be placed in the Congressional Record and yield back his or her time. The speech will be inserted at that point, but it will appear in different type to indicate that it was not delivered in person. Also, if extraneous materials are inserted with a one-minute speech, the entire speech will appear at the end of the Congressional Record just prior to special order speeches.


The House does much of its noncontroversial work by "unanimous consent" (i.e., when one Member stands up and asks that something be done or permitted by unanimous consent and no other Member objects to the request). For example, these requests may involve debate time (similar to the language of a special rule) in order to consider a measure or conference report, or waive points of order against a measure. Members should remember that these requests must be cleared by both the Majority and Minority leadership.

In most cases, the Chair, hearing no objection, says simply: "Without objection, so ordered.”

If a Member is unfamiliar with the request or its motives, the best way to find out what is behind the request is to "reserve the right to object." This gives the Member the floor and the opportunity to inquire about the request.

If the discussion during the “reservation of the right to object" proceeds for too long, any Member can demand “the regular order," which means that the Member reserving the right to object must stop talking and either object or withdraw the reservation. It should be noted that the Member reserving the right to object may yield to another Member on the subject of the objection.


Under clause 1 of Rule XV, it is in order on Monday and Tuesday of each week, and during the last six days of a session (impossible to determine unless the adjournment resolution has been adopted in advance), for the Speaker to entertain motions to suspend the rules and pass legislation.

Bills brought up under suspension of the rules are spoken of as “suspensions” in floor terminology. There is no suspension calendar. The purpose of considering bills under suspension is to dispose of non-controversial measures expeditiously. Consideration of legislation under suspension of the rules on other days of the week is possible by unanimous consent or a special rule.

A motion to suspend the rules requires a vote of two-thirds of the Members present and voting. No amendments are in order unless submitted with the bill by its manager as part of the motion to suspend the rules.

Debate on a bill brought up under suspension is limited to 40 minutes, 20 minutes controlled by a Member who supports the bill and 20 minutes controlled by a Member in opposition, a division which does not always follow party lines. It is typical for the chairman of the committee of jurisdiction to mange the time. For control of the opposition time, priority is given to a Minority Member of the committee which has jurisdiction over the bill. Often the 20 minutes “in opposition” is controlled by the ranking Minority Member of the committee or subcommittee who may not be opposed to the measure because no one rises in opposition. However, he or she may be challenged for control of the opposition time by another Member who qualifies as being opposed to the measure.

The Majority Leadership usually schedules several bills under suspension of the rules on the same day and the Chair often announces beforehand that recorded votes on passage of each suspension, if ordered, will be postponed until the debate is concluded on all such suspensions (or for up to two legislative days).

At the conclusion of debate, the postponed votes may be “clustered” and put before the House. If several votes have been ordered and the Chair has announced that the time for voting will be reduced, the first vote in the series will consume not less than 15 minutes and all subsequent record votes will take not less than 5 minutes each. It is important for Members to realize when a 5-minute vote is expected, so that it will not be missed.

In the case of a series of two or more votes in which any votes after the first one will be reduced to not less than 5 minutes, the Member will be summoned to the Floor by two bells followed by five bells.


A. Purpose of Special Rules: Every major piece of legislation, except privileged matters such as appropriations bills, budget resolutions and conference reports, normally needs a “rule” to be adopted before the bill can be called up, debated and amended. Although recently most appropriations bills have required special rules as they are in violation of standing House rules. A “rule,” also known as a “special rule” or “order of business resolution,” is simply a House resolution that sets the terms for debate and amendment. A special rule is highly important because it controls what the House can and cannot do regarding the bill itself. Rules are reported to the House by the Rules Committee, acting as an arm of the Majority Leadership. They require adoption by the full House by a simple majority vote in order to go into effect. Bills considered under suspension or other special procedural days do not require a special rule in order to be considered on the House floor.

Members should be careful not to confuse a special rule on a bill with a standing rule of the House. The former is an exception to or departure from the standing Rules of the House. The latter, or standing House rules are adopted by resolution on the first day of a new Congress as part of a resolution reported by the Majority party caucus (See H.Res. 5, Jan. 6, 1999). Special rules are adopted in the form of simple House resolutions and only apply to the consideration of the legislation specified in the special rule.

B. Types of Rules (all of which are considered in the House)

  1. An “open” rule permits general debate for a certain period of time (one, two or three hours or more depending on the importance of the legislation and the legislative schedule) and allows any Member to offer an amendment that complies with the standing rules of the House and the Budget Act under the five minute rule.

  2. A “modified open” rule permits general debate and allows any Member to offer a germane amendment under the five minute rule subject only to an overall time limit on the amendment process and/or a requirement that the amendment(s) be pre-printed in the Congressional Record.

  3. A “structured” or “modified closed” rule permits general debate for a certain period of time but the Rules Committee limits the amendments that may be offered to only those designated in the special rule or the Rules Committee report to accompany the special rule or precludes amendments to a particular portion of a bill, even though the rest of the bill may be completely open to amendment.

  4. A “closed” rule permits debate for a certain period of time, but allows no amendments to be offered to the bill.

The Rules Committee has encouraged Members to pre-print amendments in the Congressional Record (in advance of their consideration) by adding a provision to open rules allowing the Chair to give priority in recognition to those Members who have pre-printed their amendments.

C. Special Provisions or Procedures:

  1. A device that is sometimes incorporated into modified rules is a “self-executing provision.” In this case, when the House adopts the rule, it simultaneously adopts the amendment(s) specified in the report on the rule. No separate vote on the amendment(s) is then possible nor is an amendment to the self-executed(s) in order unless the self-executed provision is made part of the base text for the purpose of further amendment.

  2. One of the most important features of a special rule allowing an amendment process is what the rule designates as the base text for purposes of amendment. In essence, this is the version of the bill or amendment to which Members are allowed to offer amendments. This often may be the text of the committee reported amendment in the nature of a substitute, an amendment in the nature of a substitute as modified by another amendment or a completely new text printed in the Congressional Record or in the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying the rule.

  3. Another device that is sometimes incorporated into a rule is the “most votes wins” procedure in which several alternative variations (i.e., substitutes) of the same measure are made in order. Each amendment is debated and voted upon in the Committee of the Whole, and the amendment with the most “Yea” votes is adopted and reported back to the House.

  4. A “waiver" in a rule means that some standing rule of the House (such as germaneness) is being set aside to permit the bill which the rule governs to be called up for consideration or to permit certain amendments to be offered to the bill in question. Without such a waiver, a point of order would lie against consideration of the bill or amendment and any Member could make that point of order, thereby preventing consideration of the bill or amendment.

D. Consideration of Rules: Before a special rule is considered by the House, it is the subject of a hearing before the Rules Committee during which Members testify as to the type of rule and amendments they support. Members are usually notified by the Committee (usually in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter and a Floor announcement by the Rules Committee Chairman) in advance of the hearing if a rule restricting the amendment process is anticipated, and are given a deadline for filing their proposed amendments with the Committee. After the Rules Committee members have had an opportunity to offer amendments to the proposed rule, the Committee votes on reporting the rule. The rule and accompanying report are usually filed that same day.

A special rule may not be considered on the same day it is reported, except by a two-thirds vote of the House (unless it is within the last three days of the session). This prohibition is sometimes waived by the adoption of another special rule reported by the Rules Committee.

The process for considering a rule in the House is as follows:

  1. The rule is called up for consideration in the House by a Majority Member (manager) of the Rules Committee.

  2. One hour of debate is permitted and the Majority manager customarily yields one half of the time to the Minority manager for the purposes of debate only.

  3. Amendments to rules are very rare. It can be altered by unanimous consent or the manager may offer an amendment (usually by direction of the committee). It is also possible but unlikely that the Majority manager may yield for the purpose of amendment or for the previous question to be defeated (see subsection E).

  4. The previous question is moved and put to the House by the Chair for a vote.

  5. Once the previous question is ordered, the House then votes on the rule. Upon adoption of the rule, the House may proceed to consideration of the legislation.

E. The Previous Question: The previous question is a motion made in order under clause 1 of Rule XIX and is the major parliamentary device in the House used for closing debate and preventing further amendment. The effect of adopting the previous question is to bring the resolution to an immediate, final vote. The motion is most often made at the conclusion of debate on a rule, motion or legislation considered in the House prior to final passage. A Member might think about ordering the previous question in terms of answering the question: Is the House ready to vote on the rule, bill or amendment before it?

In order to amend a rule (other than by using those procedures previously mentioned), the House must vote against ordering the previous question. If the previous question is defeated, the House is in effect, turning control of the Floor over to the Minority party.

If the previous question is defeated, the Speaker then recognizes the Member who led the opposition to the previous question (usually a Member of the Minority party) to control an additional hour of debate during which a germane amendment may be offered to the rule. The Member controlling the Floor then moves the previous question on the amendment and the rule. If the previous question is ordered, the next vote occurs on the opposition’s amendment followed by a vote on the rule as amended.

F. Adoption of the Rule: This occurs after the disposition of the previous question. When the previous question is not a subject of controversy it is simply disposed of by the Speaker's statement that "Without objection the previous question is ordered." Next the question of adopting the rule is put to the House, and the rule is either adopted or defeated. The underlying bill is not prejudiced for future consideration if the rule providing for its consideration is defeated. The Rules Committee can report another rule providing for consideration of that initial underlying bill.


The Committee of the Whole is a parliamentary device, derived from the practice of the English House of Commons, used to expedite the work of the House during debate and amendments to bills. It involves several less formal arrangements to conduct business, including a lesser number of Members required for a quorum (100 as compared to 218 in the full House). It also has a different procedure required to obtain a recorded vote (25 Members standing in support as compared to the requirement of one-fifth of those present standing or a lack of a quorum in the full House). Certain motions allowed in the House are prohibited in the Committee of the Whole, such as motions for the previous question, to adjourn, to reconsider a vote, or to refer or recommit.

The Speaker does not preside in the Committee of the Whole, but appoints a Member of the Majority party to preside with the full authority to keep order, rule on questions, recognize Members, and order votes. The Member designated to preside is addressed as "Mr. Chairman" or in the case of a female Member as "Madam Chairman." On entering the House Chamber and facing the Chair, an easy way to determine whether the House is in the Committee of the Whole or in the full House is to note the position of the Mace to the left of the Chair. If it is in the lower position, the House is in the Committee of the Whole.


There are two ways for the House to be resolved into the Committee of the Whole: (1) the manager of the bill may move that the House resolve itself into the Committee of the Whole (either by authority of a special rule or by authority of the standing rules in the case of a privileged matter such as an appropriations bill); or (2) if the special rule authorizes the Speaker to declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole (in which case the resolving action is automatic and no vote is put to the Members).

Once the House has resolved into the Committee of the Whole to consider a particular measure, the parliamentary conduct of the Committee is dictated by the special rule previously adopted (refer to Section 9, “Special Rules For Major Bills”) as well as general House Rules.

The “first reading” of the bill is normally dispensed with by the specific provisions of the special rule governing the bill. The Clerk reads the title and then the Chairman recognizes a Majority party member to manage the debate. This is usually the chairman of the committee or subcommittee with jurisdiction over the pending bill.

One half of the general debate time is customarily allotted by the special rule to the Minority and that time is usually managed by the Ranking Minority Member of the committee or subcommittee. In the case of appropriations bills or other privileged matters, general debate time may be fixed by unanimous consent prior to resolving into the Committee of the Whole since, without such a limitation, any Member could speak for up to an hour before the amendment process begins. (In the case where there have been multiple referrals, the rule usually allots time for each committee with jurisdiction over the measure).

A. Speaking During General Debate: The time for general debate is controlled by the Majority and Minority Floor managers of a bill and a Member should ask the Majority or Minority manager at the committee table for time to speak. Normally Members of the committee with jurisdiction over the bill speak first, and those not on the committee speak later. The first speech is given by the Majority and the order of speakers then informally rotates back and forth across the aisle.

If a Member needs additional time to speak, they must ask the Floor manager to yield more time. It is not in order to ask unanimous consent for additional time during general debate because the time is “controlled." A Member may instead wish to speak briefly about the bill and insert a much longer statement into the Congressional Record to cover all the points that Member wants to make (Note: Different typeface will appear in the Congressional Record to distinguish unspoken words).

B. How a Member Speaks: The floor manager will yield a Member time and the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole will recognize him/her for the allotted time. Once at a microphone a Member’s remarks may be prefaced by saying: “Mr. Chairman (or Madam Chairman), I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.” Then he or she may proceed to speak for the time yielded. The floor manager may yield extra time to a Member to complete their statement if requested and the time is available.

If a Member would like to ask a question of another Member who is speaking or make a comment, he or she should address the Chair and say: “Mr. Chairman (or Madam Chairman), will the gentleman from California yield to me?" If the gentleman wishes to yield, he may do so at his discretion and must remain standing while the other Member speaks. The gentleman who has yielded may at any time “reclaim" his time and then the other Member must stop speaking and allow him to continue. A Member to whom time has been yielded cannot yield time to another Member unless he or she is the Member controlling his or her side’s debate time.

C. Conduct During Debate:

  1. Words Taken Down: A Member should avoid impugning the motives of another Member, the Senate, the Vice President or the President, using offensive language, or uttering words that are otherwise deemed unparliamentary. These actions are strictly against the standing Rules of the House and are subject to a point of order. This is made by a Member "demanding that the gentleman's (or gentlewoman's) words be taken down." If this happens in the Committee of the Whole, the Committee of the Whole rises and the Speaker must return to the Chair and rule on the propriety of the words used. In the case of remarks regarding the Senate and the President, the Chair may take the initiative and admonish Members for unparliamentary references.

    Often the offending Member obtains unanimous consent to withdraw the inappropriate words or the demand is withdrawn before the Speaker rules and then the Member proceeds in order. However, if the Member's words are ruled out of order, they may be stricken from the Congressional Record by motion or unanimous consent, and the Member will not be allowed to speak again on that day except by motion or unanimous consent (clause 4 of Rule XVII).

  2. Relevancy: A Member may get carried away in debate and stray from the s under discussion. If so, he or she may be subject to a point of order that their remarks are not relevant to the debate (clause 1(b) of Rule XVII).

  3. Speaking Out of Order: If a Member has something to say which is not relevant to the debate and just cannot wait until later, he or she may ask unanimous consent to "speak out of order" for a period of time (usually one or two minutes). If granted, the Member may then speak on the desired subject for the allotted time. This is usually done for important announcements to the House.

  4. Addressing the Chair: A Member must be standing while speaking. If not, the Member may be subject to a point of order because of unparliamentary posture (clause 1(a) of Rule XVII).

  5. Walking in the Well: Members should avoid walking between the Chair and any Member who is addressing the House. In addition, Members should not walk through the Well of the House when Members are speaking (clause 5 of Rule XVII).

  6. Dress Code: Members should dress appropriately which has traditionally been considered to include a coat and tie for male Members and appropriate attire for \ female Members. Members should not wear overcoats or hats on the Floor while the House is in session. There is no eating, drinking, or smoking is permitted. The use of personal electronic equipment, including cellular telephones and laptop computers, is banned on the Floor of the House (clause 5 of Rule XVII).

  7. Forms of Address: Members should not address their colleagues by name on the House Floor. They are “the Gentleman from California,” or “the Gentleman from California, Mr. Jones" or “the Gentlewoman from Florida,” or “the Gentlewoman from Florida, Mrs. Smith."

Note: All of the same cautions and prohibitions mentioned above with respect to conduct during debate in the Committee of the Whole also apply to conduct during debate in the House.

D. Quorum and Vote in the Committee of the Whole: A quorum in the Committee of the Whole consists of 100 Members. However, during general debate the Chairman has the discretion to refuse to entertain a point of order that a quorum is not present. If the Chair does permit a quorum call at this point and orders the call by electronic device, Members will be summoned by three bells to the House Floor to record their presence.

The Chairman must entertain a point of no quorum during consideration of a measure under the five-minute rule (the regular amendment process) if a quorum has not yet been established in the Committee of the Whole on the bill on that day. However, if a quorum has been established in Committee, the Chairman does not need to entertain a point of no quorum during consideration under the five-minute rule unless and until the question is put on a pending amendment or motion. Whenever such a question is put before the Committee, any Member may rise and say: “On that question I request a recorded vote, and pending that, I make a point of order that a quorum is not present.”

If less than 100 Members are present, the Chair will direct that Members record their presence by electronic device. The Chair at his or her discretion may order either a “live” or “notice” quorum call. For a live quorum call, Members must respond by recording their presence. A Member’s absence will be noted in the Congressional Record. In the case of a “live" quorum call where a five minute vote on an amendment is expected following the quorum call, Members are summoned by three bells followed by five bells.

Alternatively, in the absence of a quorum, the Chair may order a “notice” quorum call and vacate the quorum call at any time when 100 Members appear. The Committee then continues its business, and no indication of who responded to the call will appear in the Congressional Record. In the case of a "notice" quorum call, Members are summoned by one long bell followed by three short bells. In current practice, notice quorum calls are very rare.


After all of the general debate is concluded, either by all time having been consumed or both sides yielding back the balance of their unused time, the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole will direct the Reading Clerk to read the bill for amendment. This is the so-called "second reading" of the bill. Under the standing Rules of the House, a bill is read for amendment by section (or by paragraph in the case of an appropriations bill), although a special rule may provide that it be read by title for amendment, or that it be considered as read and open for amendment at any point. Also, a special rule may also specify the order in which amendments contained in the report on the rule must be offered.

The special rule frequently provides for each section (or paragraph or title) to be considered as read. In that case, the Reading Clerk only designates each section as it is reached.

A. Offering an Amendment: If a Member wants to offer an amendment, he or she must be on the floor when the Clerk reads to the point at which the amendment is in order. At that point, the Member asks for recognition to offer the amendment. If a Member misses the opportunity to offer the amendment at the proper time, he or she may not be able to offer the amendment at all unless unanimous consent is granted to return to the appropriate place in the bill or the Member is able to redraft it to amend a subsequent section of the bill that has not yet been read for amendment. In general, Members should be sure that their amendments comply with the rules of the House.

  1. The amendment must be “germane” to the bill and to the section to which it is offered. (See clause 7 of Rule XVI for an explanation of germaneness.) Failure to comply with this Rule means that the amendment may be ruled out of order, if a point of order is made against it. A Member should be sure to have the amendment reviewed by a Parliamentarian well in advance of the debate to ensure its germaneness and compliance with House rules.

  2. A Member should share the amendment with the appropriate Members of the committee of jurisdiction unless the element of surprise is desired. If the amendment gets a generally favorable reception, it is often possible to work with the committee Members to redraft the amendment so that they can accept it.

  3. It is recommended that Members should also provide sufficient copies of their amendment (a minimum of 10) to the Reading Clerk on the rostrum. The Member may either take the copies to the Clerk in advance or may send the amendment to the desk as the Member offers it from the Floor.

  4. Members should make sure the Floor staff as well as the Cloakroom has information about their amendment so they can communicate it to the membership, by posting it at the leadership desk on the Floor and in the Cloakroom, and by informing Members over their beepers if a recorded vote is ordered.

  5. A Member should also have their amendment pre-printed in the Congressional Record prior to the consideration of the portion of the legislation to which it pertains.

B. Time Limits Under the Five Minute Rule: Under the normal process of debate during consideration of amendments, the author of an amendment is recognized for five minutes, followed by recognition of a Member who wishes to speak in opposition for five minutes (hence the term "five-minute rule”). Other Members may speak for five minutes by standing to seek recognition and saying, “Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.”

This pro forma amendment is simply a device to get time without having to offer an actual amendment. Once a Member is finished speaking on a pro forma amendment, it is considered to have been automatically withdrawn and no vote is required on it.

When speaking under the five-minute rule, a Member may be able to obtain additional time by simply saying: "I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted to proceed for an additional ___ minutes.” The Chair will respond with the usual: "Without objection, it is so ordered," but any Member can object. Unlike the time during general debate, time under the five-minute rule is not allocated to any specific Member,unless specifically provided for in a special rule. Additional time can be obtained by unanimous consent or by asking another Member who has not consumed all of his or her 5 minutes to yield time. When all Members who wish to be heard are finished, the Chair puts the question to a vote.

In addition to time limitations that may be imposed by rules governing consideration of bills, clause 8 of Rule XVIII outlines the manner in which the time for debate may be limited -- either for tactical advantage or because all parties agree that enough debate has occurred. Such limits are proposed by a Member, usually the manager of the bill, asking “unanimous consent that all time on this amendment and all amendments thereto be limited to ____ minutes.” Or the Member may ask that “all debate on this amendment (or section) and all amendments thereto end at 5:30 p.m.” These requests may be granted without objection or, if objection is heard, they may be moved and subject to a vote.

C. Protecting an Amendment: It is advisable for a Member to have their amendment printed in the Congressional Record (where it will be numbered accordingly) before consideration of the bill. There are occasions in which a rule governing a bill will require amendments to be printed in the Congressional Record prior to consideration or they will not be in order, or which provide preferential treatment for pre-printed amendments. There is a special box for such amendments on the lower tier of the rostrum. If the Member submits an amendment for printing, it must be signed in the upper right-hand corner. Facsimile copies are not acceptable. Once printed in the Congressional Record, the Member is assured five minutes to speak on the amendment, as will one opponent, even if a time limit is imposed by the Committee of the Whole. However, this protection will not apply if the special rule governing the bill adopted by the House includes a time limitation or the rule does not include the Member’s amendment in the list of amendments that are to be made in order. The time for consideration of amendments may be limited overall by a rule or the rule may specify time limits for each amendment made in order.

D. How to Get a Vote on an Amendment: Once all the debate has concluded on an amendment, the Chair will put the question: “The question occurs on the amendment offered by the Gentlewoman from Florida. All those in favor will say aye. Those opposed will say no.” Then the Chair will announce the outcome of the voice vote. Typically, if the Member is dissatisfied with the outcome of the voice vote, he or she will demand a recorded vote on the amendment.

Note: Rarely, a Member will demand a “division” vote before requesting a recorded vote. Under this little-used procedure, the Chair will first ask those in favor to rise, then those opposed. The Chair will count the Members and announce the total. If the Member is still unsatisfied with the outcome, a record vote may be requested.

In order to obtain the record vote, the Member must have 25 Members (including himself or herself) rise to be counted by the Chair. As noted earlier, the Member may want to make a point of no quorum pending the request for a record vote in order to get more Members to the Floor to support the request. If so, he or she should say: "Mr. Chairman (or Madam Chairman), I request a record vote and, pending that, I make a point of order that a quorum is not present." If a sufficient number of Members stand, the Member should withdraw the point of no quorum and restate the request for a record vote.


A. The Committee Rises: Usually the special rule provides that, automatically following the disposition of all amendments, the Committee rises and reports the bill back to the House with the recommendation that the bill, as amended, do pass. If the rule does not include this provision, the Majority manager of the bill will be recognized to make such a motion. The Committee of the Whole then rises and the Speaker or a Speaker pro tempore resumes the Chair.

B. Separate Votes on Amendments Adopted in the Committee of the Whole: The Chair, now the Speaker, asks the House: “Is a separate vote demanded on any amendment adopted in the Committee of the Whole?" Separate votes may be demanded only on amendments adopted by the Committee. Amendments that were defeated may not be voted upon again. If there is no request for any separate votes, the amendments adopted are put before the House en bloc and adopted without objection. On the other hand, if an amendment has been adopted by a narrow margin or a voice vote in the Committee of the Whole, at this point, the opponents may try to reverse the outcome by demanding a separate vote on it in the House.

C. Previous Question: Under special rules, the previous question is usually considered as having been ordered on the measure to final passage, meaning no motion or vote on the previous question is allowed. In the absence of such a provision (such as on appropriations bills), the Speaker puts the previous question, usually without objection, on the bill and all amendments thereto.

D. Engrossment and Third Reading of the Bill: The question of engrossment and third reading of the bill is then put. This is a routine motion that orders the Clerk to engross the bill (prepare it for transmission to the Senate) and read its title (the “third reading”).

E. Motion to Recommit: After the third reading, but before the Speaker orders the vote on final passage of the bill (or joint resolution), a motion to recommit the bill, either with or without instructions, to the committee which originally reported it is in order (clause 2 of Rule XIX). This motion is traditionally the right of the Minority and gives them one last chance to amend or defeat the bill. The Rules Committee may not report a special rule that denies a motion to recommit with instructions if offered by the Minority Leader or his designee (clause 6(c) of Rule XIII).

  1. If the motion to recommit is without instructions, the adoption of the motion has the practical impact of killing the bill without a final vote on its passage. In other words, the House has said, “send it back to the committee from whence it came. We do not want it as it is.” The motion is not debatable if it does not include instructions.

  2. If the motion to recommit is with instructions, and is adopted, the originating committee to which the bill is returned must follow those instructions. Usually the instruction is for the committee to "report the bill back to the House forthwith with the following amendment...” The text of the amendment is then given in full. In effect, this is a last chance for the Minority to make a germane change in the bill. The motion with instructions is debatable for 10 minutes, equally divided, but not controlled (which means neither side may yield or reserve time), between the proponent and the opponent, although the time may be extended to one hour at the request of the Majority Floor manager.

If the bill is recommitted with such "forthwith” instructions, the bill is immediately reported back to the House on the spot with the amendment, the amendment is voted on, and the House proceeds to final passage of the bill.

The motion to recommit is the prerogative of the Minority party. In order of priority, the Minority leader and then Minority party Members on the committee handling the bill, by seniority, have the right to offer the motion. They "qualify" to offer the motion if they state that they oppose the bill. The Member who qualifies and offers the motion usually votes against final passage of the bill if the motion to recommit fails.

It is worth noting that a motion to recommit need not instruct that an amendment be adopted. The motion may also direct that further hearings be held, or that an investigation be conducted and that a report of that investigation be made to the House, so long as the instruction is germane to the bill as amended and is in compliance with all other House rules. However, in the case of such general instructions, the committee cannot be required to report the bill back to the House, although it is certainly not precluded from doing so. This is referred to as a motion to recommit “forthwith” with general instructions.

Note: The bill does not disappear into some legislative limbo as some seem to think. It either is killed (by adoption of a straight motion to recommit without instructions) or comes immediately back in amended form (by adoption of the “forthwith” motion to recommit with instructions).


If the bill has been important enough to have been debated, amended and subjected to a motion to recommit, it is often important enough to have a recorded vote on final passage. However, there may also be times when conventional wisdom might dictate that a record vote on final passage should be avoided, if possible.

A. Obtaining a Recorded Vote in the House: There are several ways to obtain recorded votes:

    1) Because the Constitution requires a quorum to be present to do business, whenever a quorum (218 Members) is not present, a recorded vote can be obtained by addressing the Chair and saying: “Mr. Speaker, I object to the vote on the grounds that a quorum is not present and I make a point of order that a quorum is not present.”

    An alternate means of obtaining a recorded vote when a quorum is not present is to request the “yeas and nays" which requires that one-fifth of those Members present stand up to order the vote. This could be as many as 87 if all 435 Members are present or as few as 1, if less than 5 Members are on the Floor. This can be done by saying: “Mr. Speaker, on that vote I demand the yeas and nays." The Speaker will respond by saying, "All those in favor of taking this vote by the yeas and nays will stand and remain standing while the Chair counts." Once the Chair determines that one-fifth of those present support the demand, the vote is ordered.

    2) To obtain a recorded vote when a quorum (218 Members or more) is present say: “Mr. Speaker, on that I demand a recorded vote." A “recorded vote" under these circumstances requires only one-fifth of a quorum (44 Members) to stand and support the request.

B. General Leave: It is customary after consideration of a bill for the Majority Floor manager of the bill to ask: “Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have five legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and to include extraneous material on the subject of the bill just passed.” Once this request is granted, Members may insert remarks on the bill without having to ask permission personally. The remarks should be labeled "General Leave.” Members should be advised, that if the material is submitted rather than actually spoken on the Floor, it will appear in different type in the Congressional Record.

C. Revising and Extending Your Remarks: Once a Member has requested to see his or her remarks before they are printed in the Congressional Record, especially those made during debate when other Members are involved, certain rules of courtesy should be followed. As soon as the Official Reporter gives the transcript to the Member, it should be corrected for grammatical errors and immediately return it so that other Members may do the same.

The substance of a Member’s remarks should not be changed -- only grammatical corrections should be made (clause 8, Rule XVII). If elaboration is desired with tables or other "extraneous material," and permission has not been granted under general leave, permission must be obtained for that specifically, and it can only be granted in the House and not in the Committee of the Whole. Members should be aware that it will take approximately one hour between the time a speech is given and the time the transcribed remarks will be available on the Floor.

D. Motion to Reconsider: Under clause 3 of Rule XIX, the motion to reconsider is available to any Member who votes on the prevailing side of a question and who wishes to move reconsideration on the same or succeeding legislative day. This often occurs when Members (usually Minority Members) determine there is a need to slow down the legislative process. It is the common practice in the House for the Speaker to follow final passage of most bills or resolutions with the statement: "Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table." If no objection is raised, this has the parliamentary effect of ending any possibility that another vote on the bill can take place.

E. Postponement of Votes: Under clause 8(a)(1) of Rule XX, the Speaker has the discretion to postpone votes for up to two legislative days on a number of questions, including final passage of bills. Other questions which can be postponed by the Speaker include adoption of resolutions and ordering the previous question on: (1) the adoption of a resolution; (2) the question of passing a bill; (3) the question of instructing conferees; (4) the question of agreeing to a conference report; and, (5) votes on amendments or motions to recommit Corrections Calendar bills. Under clause 6 of Rule XVIII, the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole has the authority to postpone votes during consideration of a bill, and to reduce voting time to 5 minutes on a postponed question if the vote follows a 15 minute vote.

F. Clustering of Votes: Under clause 9 of rule XX, the Speaker may reduce to five minutes the voting time for electronic voting on any question after a record vote on: a motion for the previous question, an amendment reported from the Committee of the Whole, and a motion to recommit a bill, resolution or conference report, or the question of passage or adoption of a bill, resolution, or conference report. Votes can only be clustered by the Chair when there has not been intervening business between the votes in question.

G. Vote Pairs: The practice of obtaining a vote “pair” when a vote had been missed was eliminated in the 106th Congress. However, a Member can still have his or her position on the missed vote made part of the public record, by inserting a brief statement in the Congressional Record at the proper point indicating how the Member would have voted. Such statements would appear in the Congressional Record under the headings “Stated Aye” and “Stated Nay”. For more information about this new practice, contact the Floor staff.

H. Conflicts of Interest: Clause 1 of Rule III dictates that each Member must be present in the Hall of the House during its sessions "unless excused or necessarily prevented" and "shall vote on each question put, unless he or she has a direct personal or pecuniary interest in the event of such question." It has been ruled that only the Member can decide whether such a conflict exists and not even the Speaker will question his or her judgment, nor can any other Member challenge his or her vote on such grounds. The Member should let his or her conscience be his or her guide, especially in light of Rule XXIV, Code of Official Conduct. If the Member believes he or she has such a conflict, he or she can vote "present" on the record vote and include an explanation in the Congressional Record.


In order for a bill to be presented to the President for signature, it must pass both the House and Senate in the exact same form. The device used for reaching agreement between the two Houses is often, but not always, a conference committee. Sometimes differences between the two bodies are resolved by amendment -- e.g., the House will agree to the bill as passed by the Senate with an amendment and the Senate will subsequently concur with that amendment.

A bill may be sent to conference by special rule or unanimous consent. If objection is heard, the bill may be sent to conference by motion or suspension. Clause 1 of Rule XXII provides that a motion to request or agree to a conference with the Senate is in order if the motion is made by direction of the committee with jurisdiction over the legislation. If such a motion has not been authorized by the committee, a special rule may be required to go to conference. Therefore, it is in the prevailing side’s interest to conclude committee mark-ups with a motion to authorize the Chairman in advance to take all steps necessary to proceed to conference when that stage of the process eventually is reached.

Following the motion to go to conference, but prior to the appointment of conferees, the Speaker will recognize a Minority Member, with preference given to the Minority Floor Manager, (if recognition is sought) to offer a motion to instruct House conferees. The motion is debatable for one hour, divided between the Majority and the Minority managers. If both support the motion, however, a third Member may demand time in opposition. All three Members are then recognized for one-third of the time. The motion to instruct conferees is not amendable unless the previous question is defeated. The instructions are not binding and they may not propose to do what the conferees could not otherwise do under the Rules of the House (e.g. exceed the scope of the conference). Additional opportunities to instruct occur when a conference report is recommitted or after 20 days if the conference has failed to report. The Member who wishes to offer a motion to instruct conferees after 20 days must notify the House one day in advance of offering the motion.

Conferees are named by the Speaker and usually include Members of the committee(s) of jurisdiction and principal proponents of the legislation’s major provisions.

When a conference agreement is reached, it comes back to the House in the form of a "conference report" which the House must consider and approve. Unless the requirement is waived, the rules require that a conference report be filed at least three calendar days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) before it can be called up for consideration. The rules also require that a majority of the conferees sign the conference report. After that time, it becomes privileged and can be called up at any time. If the conference report violates a rule of the House, it may be subject to a point of order that would prevent its consideration.

Debate on a conference report takes up to one hour, the time divided between the Majority and the Minority, unless the Majority party manager and the Minority party manager both support the conference report. In that case, one-third of the debate time will be given to an opponent of the conference report who makes such a demand.

Before adoption of the conference report, a motion may be in order to recommit the conference report to the committee on conference, either with instructions (that must be within the authority of the conferees and comply with the Rules of the House) or without instructions, although no separate debate time is allowed on either motion. Such a motion is only in order if the Senate has not yet acted on the conference report thereby discharging the conferees, and the instructions in the motion to recommit are not binding because the House cannot bind Senate conferees. A Member qualifies to offer the motion if he or she opposes the conference report and states that fact.

If the House is first to act and the motion to recommit is adopted, the conference must meet again and a new conference report must be filed prior to consideration of the measure again. Clause 8(a) of rule XXII, requiring a three-day layover of conference reports, still applies unless waived by special rule.

Following debate on the conference report and in the absence of a motion to recommit or upon the defeat of such a motion, a vote then occurs on adoption of the conference report (a conference report may not be amended on the Floor).

Members should also be aware that when dealing with appropriations conference reports, there may be times when conferees cannot reach agreement on all the amendments in disagreement or there may be times when conferees must report provisions outside the conference report. For example, conferees may not exceed the scope of the conference or violate clause 2 of Rule XXI – prohibiting legislative or unauthorized provisions in an appropriations bill. In those cases, the conferees will present a conference report to the House and Senate that includes all amendments on which agreement has been reached but excludes the amendments that remain in real or technical disagreement. The conference report is considered first and then, assuming adoption of the conference report, the amendments in disagreement are considered and disposed of individually.


After a bill has been introduced and referred to committee for 30 legislative days or more, any Member may file a motion with the Clerk of the House to discharge the committee from further consideration of the bill. A Member may also file a motion to discharge the Rules Committee of a special rule after it has been pending before the committee for at least 7 legislative days. However, in order to discharge the rule providing for consideration of a bill, the rule must be pending for 7 legislative days and the bill must be pending for 30 legislative days.

Discharge petitions may cover only a single introduced measure, not multiple bills. Clause 2(f)(1)(A) of rule XV states that a motion to discharge must only provide for the consideration of similar subject matter. In order words, a discharge motion cannot waive the germaneness rule.

If the Member is successful in convincing a majority of the total membership of the House (218 Members) to sign a discharge petition, the petition becomes eligible for consideration on the second or fourth Monday of the month after a seven legislative day layover (except during the last six days of any session when the layover is waived). The discharge motion is debatable for 20 minutes, one-half of the time for the proponents and one-half of the time for the opponents. If the motion to discharge a bill is adopted, it is then in order to move that the House immediately consider the bill itself; if the motion to discharge a rule is adopted, the House turns immediately to consideration of the rule.

Note: Under a Rules change in the 103rd Congress, signatures on a discharge petition must be made available to the public by the Clerk and are made available on the Internet. The names of new signatories are printed in the Congressional Record on the last legislative day of each week.


After completion of the scheduled legislative business, it is customary at the end of the day for the House to consider any miscellaneous unanimous consent requests which have not been made earlier in the day, including personal requests of individual Members.

A. Personal Requests: Certain personal requests can only be made by the Member himself or herself, including:

  1. a request to make a correction in the Congressional Record;

  2. a request to have a Member’s name removed as a cosponsor of a bill or resolution (this request may also be made by the original sponsor of the measure);

  3. a request for inclusion of extraneous material exceeding two pages in the Congressional Record which must be accompanied by a cost estimate from Government Printing Office.

B. Requests for Official Leave: Clause 1 of Rule III allows Members to be absent and excused on grounds of necessity which can include a death in the family, illness or official business. Requests for leaves of absence should be made through the Cloakroom and are signed by the appropriate party Leader. They are laid before the House each evening and made a part of the Congressional Record. It is a good idea to use this device since Federal statutes require docking the pay of Members who are absent without leave -- although the law has not been enforced in recent history.

C. Extension of Remarks: Members may insert comments in that section of the Congressional Record entitled “Extension of Remarks,” by simply turning in to the Cloakroom such remarks with the Member’s original signature. It is no longer necessary to obtain “permission” to include extensions in the Congressional Record. A form is provided on the Leadership tables on the Floor for Members who wish to obtain permission to extend their remarks in the section of the Congressional Record entitled “Extensions of Remarks.” The Member may sign up or make the request of the Cloakroom. The Member on duty at the close of each day asks permission for such extensions which can include extraneous materials.

Things to remember:

  1. All material submitted must bear an original Member’s signature in the upper right-hand corner of the front page -- facsimiles are not permitted, and the Member’s typed name to be sure of identification;

  2. Members must be sure to give each extension a title or the Congressional Record clerks with title the extension themselves.

  3. If the extraneous material to be inserted will exceed two pages of the Congressional Record, it must be submitted to the Government Printing Office in advance for a cost estimate. When the estimate is received the Member must ask leave of the House in person, that notwithstanding the cost, it be printed. At the beginning or the end of the day the Member must stand and seek recognition. The Speaker will say, “For what purpose does the gentleman/gentlewoman from rise?” The Member will respond by saying, “I ask unanimous consent to extend my remarks in the Congressional Record and to include therein extraneous material notwithstanding the fact that it exceeds two pages and is estimated by the GPO to cost $ .” (As of January 1998, it cost $475.00 per page for the first two printed pages, $436 for the first two pages in electronic form, and $222.00 for every page thereafter.)

Extensions should be delivered to the Cloakroom, handed to the Congressional Record clerks who sit at the bottom tier of the rostrum during session, or delivered to the Office of the Official Reporters of Debates in Room HT-60 of the Capitol by 5 p.m. or 15 minutes after the House adjourns, whichever is later.

D. Special Orders: Members may request special orders through their Cloakroom (Majority at 225-7350, Minority at 225-7330) in five minute increments up to 60 minutes in length. Special order speeches are given at the end of the day, after legislative business. They may be on any topic, and may either be given orally or submitted in writing (as with extensions of remarks). Members are recognized first for five minute special orders, alternating between the Majority and Minority. At the conclusion of five minute special orders, the Chair will recognize Members who wish to speak for longer periods of time, also alternating between the Majority and Minority. Special orders cannot be requested more than one week in advance. Any questions concerning special orders should be directed to the Cloakrooms.

E. Adjournment: A motion to adjourn closes the business of the day. It is wise to check with the Cloakroom and make sure of the time to which the House has adjourned.



Amendments (Types of) - A proposal of a Member of Congress to alter the text of a bill or another amendment. An amendment usually is voted on in the same manner as a bill.

Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute - An amendment which seeks to replace the entire text of an underlying bill. The adoption of such an amendment precludes any further amendment to that bill under the regular process (Also, see Substitute Amendment).

Pro Forma Amendment - A motion whereby a Member secures five minutes to speak on an amendment under debate in the Committee of the Whole. The Member gains recognition from the chair by moving to “strike the last word.” The motion requires no vote, does not change the amendment under debate, and is deemed automatically withdrawn at the expiration of the five minutes of debate.

Substitute Amendment - An amendment which replaces the entire text of a pending amendment. (Also see “Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute”).

Calendar - An agenda or list of business awaiting possible action by the House or Senate. The House has five calendars (the Corrections Calendar, the Discharge Calendar, the House Calendar, the Private Calendar and the Union Calendar).

Committee of the Whole - A committee composed of all House Members created to expedite the consideration of bills, other measures and amendments on the floor of the House. In the Committee of the Whole, a quorum is 100 Members (as compared to 218 in the House) and debate on amendments is conducted under the five-minute rule (as compared to the hour rule in the House). In addition, certain motions allowed in the House are prohibited in the Committee of the Whole including, but not limited to, motions for the previous question, to table, to adjourn, to reconsider a vote, and to refer or recommit.

Expedited Procedures - Procedures which provide a special process for the accelerated Congressional consideration of legislation. This accelerated process usually includes consideration in committee and on the Floor of the House and Senate. Furthermore, these procedures often involve a departure from the regular order of the House. Expedited procedures are provided by law, as opposed to by a special rule.

Five Minute Rule - (1) A debate-limiting rule of the House used when the House sits as the Committee of the Whole. (2) A Member offering an amendment is allowed to speak for five minutes in support of each amendment and an opponent is allowed to speak for five minutes in opposition. (3) Other Members may rise to “strike the last word” and receive five minutes to speak in favor or opposition. (4) Additional time for speaking can be obtained through a unanimous consent request.

Germaneness - A rule requiring that debate and amendments pertain to the same subject as the matter under consideration. Questions of germaneness both in committee and on the House floor are determined by the Chair and/or the Speaker subject to appeal to the House or the Committee.

Marking Up a Bill - The process by which a committee or subcommittee moves through the contents of a measure, debating and voting on amendments to its provisions by revising, adding or subtracting language prior to ordering the measure reported.

Motion to Recommit - A motion made on the floor after the engrossment and third reading of a bill or resolution, but prior to the Chair’s putting the question on final passage. Preference is given to a Member who is opposed to the bill, and is reserved by tradition to the Minority party. The Speaker usually gives priority recognition to the bill’s Minority floor manager. The motion to recommit may be without instructions which is non-debatable and has the effect of killing the bill), or with instructions (subject to 10 minutes or sometimes an hour of debate split between a proponent and opponent, and usually directs the reporting committee to amend “forewith” (immediately) or rewrite the bill in a specified way). The motion to recommit does not apply to simple resolutions or concurrent resolutions, but may apply to conference reports where the House acts first.

Office of the Parliamentarian - An office managed, supervised and administered by a non-partisan Parliamentarian appointed by the Speaker. This office is responsible for advising the presiding officer, members and staff on the rules and procedures of the House as well as for compiling and preparing the precedents of the House. All consultation with this office is confidential (if requested).

Point of Order - An objection that the pending proposal (bill, amendment, motion, etc.) is in violation of a rule of the House. The validity of points of order is determined by the presiding officer, and if held valid, the offending bill, amendment or provision is ineligible for consideration. Points of order may be waived by special rules.

Privilege - A status relating to the rights of the House and its members and the priority of motions and actions on the floor of the House. “Privileged questions” relate to the order of legislative business while “questions of privilege” relate to matters affecting the safety, dignity or integrity of the House, or the rights, reputation or conduct of a member acting as a representative.

Previous Question - A motion offered to end debate and preclude further amendments from being offered. In effect it asks, “are we ready to vote on the issue before us?” If the previous question is ordered in the House, all debate ends and usually the House immediately votes on the pending bill or amendment. If the previous question is defeated, control of debate shifts to the leading opposition member (usually the Minority floor manager) who then manages an hour of debate and may offer a germane amendment to the pending business. The effect of defeating the previous question is to turn over control of the floor to the Minority or opposition.

Quorum - The number of Members whose presence is required for the House to conduct business. A quorum in the House is a Majority of the Members (218). A quorum in the Committee of the Whole is 100 Members. A quorum is presumed to be present until its absence is demonstrated. Under certain circumstances, a point of order can be made that a quorum is not present, at which time the Speaker (or Chair) counts for a quorum. If a quorum is not present, Members may be summoned to the floor. If a quorum fails to respond to the call, the only business in order is a motion to adjourn or a motion to direct the sergeant-at-arms to request the attendance of absentees.

Rules (Types of) - There are two specific types of Rules.

Standing Rules - These are the standing Rules governing the normal order of business in the House or in a committee. These Rules are adopted by the full House and by each committee at the beginning of each Congress. These Rules generally govern such matters as the duties of officers, the code of conduct, the order of business, admission to the floor, parliamentary procedures on handling amendments and voting, and jurisdictions of committees.

Special Rules - (1) Special rules involve a departure from the standing rules of the House for the consideration of specific bill. (2) They are usually resolutions reported by the Rules Committee which govern the handling of a particular bill on the House floor.

Suspension - A time-saving method used to consider legislation. By suspending the rules and passing the measure, this procedure has the effect of preventing any points of order from being raised against a measure for violation of a rule. Under this procedure, the bill is unamendable (except for one amendment by the floor manager if offered as part of the motion) and debate on the motion and the measure is limited to forty minutes equally divided between a proponent and an opponent. A favorable vote of two-thirds of those present is necessary for passage. This procedure is in order every Monday and Tuesday and is intended to be reserved for relatively noncontroversial bills. The rules of the House Republican Conference prohibit the consideration of a bill under suspension which costs more than $100 million, but this prohibition can be waived.

Unanimous Consent - A method used to expedite consideration of non-controversial measures on the House floor. Proceedings of the House or actions on legislation often take place by unanimous consent of the House (i.e., without objection by any Member), whether or not a rule of the House is being violated.

Yielding - Once a Member has been recognized by the Speaker (or Chair) to speak, he controls the floor; in general, no other Member may speak without being granted permission to do so by the Member recognized. Another Member who wishes to speak will ask the recognized Member to yield by saying, “Will the gentleman yield to me ?”