[House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House]
[Chapter 49. Resolutions of Inquiry]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]


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                    CHAPTER 49 - RESOLUTIONS OF INQUIRY

                              HOUSE PRACTICE

  Sec. 1. In General
  Sec. 2. To Whom Resolutions May Be Directed
  Sec. 3. Subjects of Inquiry
  Sec. 4. Committee Functions
  Sec. 5. Consideration in the House
  Sec. 6. Privilege of Resolution
  Sec. 7. -- Resolutions Calling for Opinions
  Sec. 8. Executive Branch Responses
        Research References
          3 Hinds Sec. Sec. 1856-1910
          6 Cannon Sec. Sec. 404-437
          Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2
          Manual Sec. Sec. 864-868


  Sec. 1 . In General

      The resolution of inquiry is one of the methods used by the House 
  to obtain information from the executive branch. Deschler Ch 15 
  Sec. 2. Resolutions of inquiry are accorded privileged status under 
  rule XIII clause 7. Manual Sec. Sec. 864, 866.
      A resolution of inquiry is simple rather than concurrent or joint 
  in form. Manual Sec. 865. The resolution normally provides that the 
  information be furnished directly to the House. However, a resolution 
  merely authorizing a committee to request information has been treated 
  as a resolution of inquiry, and in one instance the resolution 
  directed the officer named to furnish information to a committee 
  rather than to the House. 3 Hinds Sec. 1860; Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2.26.
      A resolution of inquiry need not contain a statement as to the 
  purpose for which the information is sought. 96-1, June 15, 1979, p 
  15027. In fact, the inclusion of a preamble will effectively destroy 
  the privilege that the resolution might otherwise enjoy. See Sec. 6, 
  infra.
      The wording of the resolution will vary depending on the person to 
  whom the resolution is directed. The House traditionally ``requests'' 
  the President and ``directs'' the heads of executive departments to 
  furnish information. Manual Sec. 865. The resolution may include the 
  qualifying phrase, ``if

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  not incompatible with the public interest,'' or words to that effect. 
  3 Hinds Sec. 1896; 6 Cannon Sec. 436; Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2.8.


  Sec. 2 . To Whom Resolutions May Be Directed

      Resolutions of inquiry have been traditionally directed to the 
  President or to a cabinet officer. Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2. Rule XIII 
  clause 7 refers to ``the head of an executive department.'' That term 
  does not extend beyond Cabinet officers to subordinate officials. 
  Thus, a resolution of inquiry directed to the Federal Reserve Board (6 
  Cannon Sec. 406) or to the Director of the CIA (Deschler Ch 15 
  Sec. 2.1) would not be privileged for consideration.


  Sec. 3 . Subjects of Inquiry

      A wide variety of information--relating to both foreign and 
  domestic affairs--may be sought pursuant to a resolution of inquiry. 
  The House has agreed to such resolutions to obtain information on:

     Agreements between the President and the British Prime 
         Minister. Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2.13.
     The relationship between the President's brother (Billy 
         Carter) and the Libyan Government. 96-2, Sept. 10, 1980, p 
         24948.
     The dismantlement and removal of industrial plants from 
         postwar Germany. Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2.15.
     Sales to foreign countries of goods in short supply. Deschler 
         Ch 15 Sec. 2.22.
     Domestic availability of petroleum and coal. Deschler Ch 15 
         Sec. 2.23.
     The construction of certain river improvements and the costs 
         thereof. 3 Hinds Sec. 1875.
     Information in possession of the Department of Justice 
         relative to a certain kidnapping case, including the names of 
         those questioned in the investigation. Deschler Ch 15 
         Sec. 2.19.
     Documents containing a list of public school systems receiving 
         Federal aid that bus school children to achieve racial balance 
         or indicating the use of Federal funds for such busing. 
         Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2.24.
     Department of Defense documents regarding U.S. military 
         assistance to certain nations. Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2.12.
     Information from the Secretary of State regarding a U.S. 
         military alert ordered in October, 1973. 93-2, Apr. 9, 1974, p 
         10177.
     Information from the Secretary of Defense relative to 
         congressional support for the C-5B aircraft. 97-2, Aug. 3, 
         1982, p 18947.
     Information from the President relative to U.S. activities in 
         Honduras and Nicaragua. 98-1, May 4, 1983, p 11097.
     Information from the President relating to U.S. supplies of 
         crude oil and refined petroleum products. 96-1, June 14, 1979, 
         p 14951.

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     Evidence compiled by the Department of Justice and the FBI in 
         connection with the ABSCAM investigation (relating to bribery 
         of certain Members and other public officials), and information 
         on the amount of Federal spending thereon. 96-2, Feb. 27, 1980, 
         pp 4071, 4078.

      Documents that have been sought pursuant to a resolution of 
  inquiry include reports on foreign affairs, such as the so-called 
  Pentagon Papers (Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2.2), certain communications 
  between the Department of State and a U.S. Embassy (Deschler Ch 15 
  Sec. 2.3), maps showing certain military operations (Deschler Ch 15 
  Sec. 2.8), military statistical data (Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2.11), 
  papers in the custody of the Special Prosecutor (Deschler Ch 15 
  Sec. 2.17), and a letter from the Director of the FBI to the Secretary 
  of Commerce (Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2.20). A resolution of inquiry, 
  reported adversely in 1993, requested the President to furnish certain 
  documents concerning the White House travel office and the FBI. 103-1, 
  July 20, 1993, p 16207.


  Sec. 4 . Committee Functions

                  Referrals and Reports; Joint Referrals

      Resolutions of inquiry are introduced through the hopper and 
  referred to the appropriate committees for consideration and report. 
  Under rule XIII clause 7, committees are required to report 
  resolutions of inquiry back to the House within 14 legislative days, 
  exclusive of the day of introduction and the day of discharge. 3 Hinds 
  Sec. Sec. 1858, 1859. The 14-day reporting period may be extended by 
  unanimous consent. Manual Sec. 864; 97-2, July 12, 1982, p 15773. In 
  the case of a multiple referral, all committees must either report or 
  be discharged before consideration.

                                 Discharge

      If the committee fails to report the resolution back to the House 
  within the 14-day period, the House may reach the resolution by a 
  motion to discharge as follows:

      Member: Mr. Speaker, I move to discharge the Committee on  
    __________ from the further consideration of the resolution, H. Res. 
    ____, a privileged resolution of inquiry.

      This motion is privileged for consideration after the 14-day 
  period even though there may have been some delay in the transmittal 
  of the resolution to the committee. Manual Sec. 867; 3 Hinds 
  Sec. 1871. The motion to discharge is not debatable. Manual Sec. 867. 
  A motion to table the motion to discharge is in order but is likewise 
  not debatable. 6 Cannon Sec. 415. However, if the

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  motion to discharge is agreed to, the question recurs on agreeing to 
  the resolution of inquiry; and that question is debatable. 6 Cannon 
  Sec. 417.
      A committee also may be discharged from consideration of a 
  resolution of inquiry by unanimous consent, even where a motion to 
  discharge is not yet eligible for consideration under rule XIII clause 
  7. Deschler Ch 15 Sec. Sec. 2.17, 2.18.


  Sec. 5 . Consideration in the House

                           Generally; Calling Up

      A resolution of inquiry, if in proper form, is privileged, and a 
  report thereon is presented from the floor rather than through the 
  hopper. 103-1, July 20, 1993, p 16207. Subject to three-day report 
  availability under rule XIII clause 4, the resolution may be called up 
  in the House and considered anytime after it has been reported by (or 
  discharged from) a committee to which it was referred. 6 Cannon 
  Sec. 414; Deschler Ch 24 Sec. 8.13. It may not be called up as 
  privileged before being referred to committee. Manual Sec. 866. The 
  privilege of the resolution is not affected by an adverse report. 
  Indeed, an adverse report on the resolution is itself submitted as 
  privileged. 6 Cannon Sec. Sec. 404, 410.
      The reported resolution retains its privilege after being referred 
  to the calendar. 6 Cannon Sec. 407. If it is ruled out because it was 
  submitted through the hopper, it may be immediately resubmitted from 
  the floor without loss of privilege. 6 Cannon Sec. 419.

                              Who May Call Up

      Normally, when a resolution of inquiry has been reported by 
  committee within the 14-day time frame, only an authorized member of 
  that committee may call up the resolution for consideration. 6 Cannon 
  Sec. 413; Sec. 4, supra. By reporting a resolution of inquiry, even 
  adversely, within 14 legislative days, the committee of jurisdiction 
  retains control of the resolution, and a Member not authorized by the 
  committee cannot call up the resolution. Manual Sec. 867; 8 Cannon 
  Sec. 2310. Where the resolution has been referred to two committees, 
  but neither reports, the resolution could be discharged by majority 
  vote and called up by any Member. If one committee reports, the other 
  committee could be discharged by motion, but only the reporting 
  committee could call it up. If both committees report, the resolution 
  could be called up by direction of one or both of the committees.

                    Three-day Availability Requirement

      The consideration of a resolution of inquiry in the House is 
  ordinarily subject to the three-day availability requirement of rule 
  XIII clause 4. Man

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  ual Sec. 850. However, the House has considered it on the day reported 
  where no point of order was raised, or pursuant to a unanimous-consent 
  request. Deschler Ch 24 Sec. Sec. 8.13, 8.14.

                              Debate; Motions

      The Member calling up a privileged resolution of inquiry is 
  recognized to control one hour of debate, whether the resolution is 
  reported from committee or is before the House pursuant to a motion to 
  discharge. Manual Sec. 867.
      A motion to table will lie against a pending resolution of 
  inquiry, whether reported favorably or adversely. Deschler Ch 15 
  Sec. 2. The motion to table is preferential. Manual Sec. 914. The 
  motion may be offered by the manager of the resolution before or after 
  debate on the resolution. Manual Sec. 867.

                           Effect of Adjournment

      A resolution of inquiry undisposed of by the House at adjournment 
  at the end of the day retains its privilege and is the unfinished 
  business when that class of business is again in order under the 
  rules. 6 Cannon Sec. 412. On that day, the resolution may be called up 
  and debated de novo. 96-1, June 14, 1979, p 14951; 96-1, June 15, 
  1979, p 15027.


  Sec. 6 . Privilege of Resolution

      For a resolution of inquiry to have privileged status, or for the 
  motion to discharge to have that status, the resolution must be 
  addressed to the President or to a member of his Cabinet. 3 Hinds 
  Sec. 1861; 6 Cannon Sec. 406. To be privileged, the resolution should 
  not present a preamble. 3 Hinds Sec. Sec. 1877, 1878; 6 Cannon 
  Sec. Sec. 422, 427. It must seek facts rather than opinions and may 
  not require an investigation. 3 Hinds Sec. Sec. 1872-1874; 6 Cannon 
  Sec. Sec. 427, 429, 432; Sec. 7, infra. A resolution may be held to 
  require an investigation where it calls for information that is not 
  within the purview of the executive to whom the resolution is 
  addressed. 3 Hinds Sec. 1874; 6 Cannon Sec. 410. The point of order 
  that a resolution of inquiry is not privileged should be raised after 
  the resolution has been read but before debate thereon. See Points of 
  Order; Parliamentary Inquiries.


  Sec. 7 . -- Resolutions Calling for Opinions

      To enjoy privileged status, a resolution of inquiry should seek 
  factual information only. It may not be considered as privileged if it 
  calls for an opinion or for such facts as would inevitably require the 
  statement of an

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  opinion to answer the inquiry. Manual Sec. 866; 3 Hinds 
  Sec. Sec. 1872, 1873; 6 Cannon Sec. 413; Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2. A 
  request for documents only is normally construed not to require an 
  expression of opinion.
      Resolutions of inquiry have lost their privileged status because 
  they sought opinions rather than facts, for example:

     The names of those certifying to an appointment unless the 
         disclosure would be ``distressing'' to anyone named. 72-1, Feb. 
         5, 1932, p 3453.
     An ``analysis'' of a country's past and present military 
         capability. 92-1, July 7, 1971, p 23816.
     The rationale for American involvement in South Vietnam. 
         Deschler Ch 15 Sec. 2.1.
     The extent of damage to facilities struck by bombs. Deschler 
         Ch 15 Sec. 2.7.


  Sec. 8 . Executive Branch Responses

      Resolutions of inquiry ordinarily have been complied with pursuant 
  to principles of comity between the branches of government. Deschler 
  Ch 15 Sec. Sec. 2, 3. Responses submitted to the House by the officer 
  named in the resolution are laid before the House and referred to the 
  committee or committees reporting the resolution. 96-2, Sept. 17, 
  1980, p 25887.
      The House rules contain no specific provision for enforcing 
  resolutions of inquiry, and there have been a number of instances in 
  which the officer named has refused or declined to provide some or all 
  of the information sought. For examples of conflicts with the 
  executive branch over resolutions of inquiry, see Manual Sec. 868; 6 
  Cannon Sec. Sec. 434, 435. In such cases the House may renew its 
  inquiry or demand a further or more complete answer. 3 Hinds 
  Sec. Sec. 1890, 1891; 6 Cannon Sec. 435. For the power of the House to 
  issue subpoenas and to enforce them pursuant to contempt procedures, 
  see Contempt.