[House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House] [Chapter 54. Unanimous-Consent Agreements] [From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov] [[Page 881]] CHAPTER 54 - UNANIMOUS-CONSENT AGREEMENTS HOUSE PRACTICE Sec. 1. In General; Effect of Agreement Sec. 2. Recognition of Members for Requests Sec. 3. Timeliness Sec. 4. Stating the Request; Withdrawal Sec. 5. Objecting to the Request Sec. 6. Reserving Objections Sec. 7. Particular Uses Relative to Business of the House Sec. 8. Particular Uses Relative to Business of the Committee of the Whole Sec. 9. Limitations on Requests; Grounds for Denial of Recognition Sec. 10. Modification or Revocation of Agreement Research References 4 Hinds Sec. Sec. 3058-3060, 3155-3159 7 Cannon Sec. Sec. 758-763 Deschler Ch 23 Sec. Sec. 42-48 Manual Sec. Sec. 528, 872, 950, 956, 978, 993 Sec. 1 . In General; Effect of Agreement Generally A request for unanimous consent is in effect a motion to suspend the order of business temporarily. Granting the request permits some action that is not in dispute and to which no Member has any objection. Manual Sec. 872; 4 Hinds Sec. Sec. 3058, 3059; 8 Cannon Sec. 2794. An objection by any Member terminates the request. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 45.6. The practice of the House in allowing some action to be taken by unanimous consent began in the 1830's, when the House, responding to the increased pressure of legislative activity, unanimously agreed to a special order permitting it to consider a bill which was not in the regular order of business. 4 Hinds Sec. 3155. This use has now become commonplace. In the modern practice of the House, many items of business are considered as a result of unanimous-consent requests. The device also is used to facilitate [[Page 882]] consideration of measures by waiving the reading or limiting or extending the time for debate. Sec. Sec. 7, 8, infra; see also Consideration and Debate. Availability in the Committee of the Whole Unanimous-consent requests are in order both in the House and, to a lesser extent, in the Committee of the Whole. For example, the Committee may by unanimous consent permit the withdrawal of an amendment under rule XVIII clause 5, limit debate other than general debate set by the House, or provide that a bill be considered as read and open to amendment unless in conflict with a House order or special rule. Manual Sec. 993; 8 Cannon Sec. 2553. However, unanimous consent may not be requested in the Committee of the Whole on matters properly cognizable only in the House. Manual Sec. 993; Deschler Ch 23 Sec. Sec. 48.15, 48.16; Sec. 8, infra. Sec. 2 . Recognition of Members for Requests Generally; Speaker's Guidelines The recognition of Members to offer unanimous-consent requests is in the discretion of the Chair. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 45.4. A Member seeking unanimous consent must be recognized by the Chair for a stated purpose, and a Member so recognized may not seek the further consent of the House for some other purpose. Thus, a Member may not be recognized to consider a particular bill where he has been recognized only to proceed for one minute. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 48.3. The Speaker has announced and enforced a policy of conferring recognition for unanimous-consent requests for the consideration of unreported bills and resolutions only when assured that the majority and minority floor and committee leaderships have no objection. This policy minimizes attempts to force Members to go on record as objecting to a variety of unanimous-consent requests. The policy has been extended to the following:
Requests relating to reported bills. Requests for immediate consideration of matters (separately unreported) comprising a portion of a measure already passed by the House. Requests to consider a motion to suspend the rules and pass an unreported bill (on a nonsuspension day). Requests to permit consideration of (nongermane) amendments to bills. Requests to permit expedited consideration of measures on subsequent days, as by waiving the requirement that a bill be referred to committee for 30 legislative days before a motion to discharge may be presented under rule XV clause 2. Requests relating to Senate-passed bills on the Speaker's table, including one identical to a House-passed bill and a Senate concurrent resolution to correct an enrollment. [[Page 883]] Constituent parts of a single request combining final disposition of several separate measures. Manual Sec. 956. In addition, with respect to unanimous-consent requests to dispose of Senate amendments to House bills on the Speaker's table, the Chair will entertain such a request only if made by the chairman of the committee with jurisdiction, or by another committee member authorized to make the request. Manual Sec. 956; Deschler Ch 21 Sec. 1.23. The Speaker's enforcement of this policy of recognition is not subject to appeal. ``Floor leadership'' in this context has been construed to apply only to the Minority Leader and not to the entire hierarchy of minority leadership, where the Chair had been assured that the Minority Leader had been consulted. It is not a proper parliamentary inquiry to ask the Chair to indicate which side of the aisle has failed under the Speaker's guidelines to clear a unanimous-consent request, but the Chair may indicate his general cognizance of a failure of clearance for the Congressional Record. For a discussion of recognition for unanimous-consent requests to vary procedures in the Committee of the Whole governed by a special order adopted by the House, see Manual Sec. 993; Sec. 8, infra. Sec. 3 . Timeliness Unanimous-consent requests must be timely. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 45.4. They cannot be entertained: In the House after the House has voted to go into the Committee of the Whole. 4 Hinds Sec. 4727. When the absence of a quorum has been announced in the House. 6 Cannon Sec. Sec. 660, 686, 689. During proceedings incident to securing a quorum of the Committee of the Whole. 8 Cannon Sec. 2379. During the pendency of a unanimous-consent request by another Member. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 48.1. An objection to a unanimous-consent request must be timely. It is ordinarily too late to object to a unanimous-consent request after the Chair has asked if there is objection and has announced that he hears none. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 45.3. Thus, when unanimous consent has been given for the consideration of a bill, amendments may be offered and may not be prevented by a subsequent objection of a Member. 5 Hinds Sec. 5782. [[Page 884]] Sec. 4 . Stating the Request; Withdrawal A Member seeking the unanimous consent of the House on some matter should rise and address the Chair. One request may not include alternatives (6 Cannon Sec. 709; Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 43.2) or include a request made contingent upon another (6 Cannon Sec. 709). It is the Speaker's statement of the request as put to the House that is controlling, and he may refuse to recognize an objection to the request made before his statement of the request. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. Sec. 43.1, 45.2. A Member may withdraw a unanimous-consent request at any time before House action thereon, and unanimous consent to do so is not required. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 43.4. Sec. 5 . Objecting to the Request Generally An objection to a unanimous-consent request terminates the request, even if the objecting Member attempts to subsequently withdraw his objection. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 45.6. Because a request for unanimous consent is in effect a request to suspend the order of business temporarily, a demand for the ``regular order'' may be made at any time while the request is being stated and requires the request to be disposed of immediately. Manual Sec. 381; 4 Hinds Sec. 3058. An objection to a unanimous-consent request may be made by any Member, including the Speaker or the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole. 8 Cannon Sec. 3383; Deschler Ch 23 Sec. Sec. 42, 45.5. A Delegate may also object. Manual Sec. 675; 6 Cannon Sec. 241. When objecting to a unanimous-consent request, a Member must rise from his seat and be identified for the Congressional Record. Manual Sec. 872; 2 Hinds Sec. 1137. If the Chair repeats the request, the objection is properly made to the request as put by the Chair, not as put by the Member making the request. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 45.2. Sec. 6 . Reserving Objections A Member may reserve the right to object to a unanimous-consent request and by so doing obtain the floor. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 42. However, recognition for this purpose is within the discretion of the Speaker, and he may refuse to permit debate under the reservation and put the question on the request. Manual Sec. 872; Deschler Ch 23 Sec. Sec. 46.1, 46.2. A Member reserving the right to object to a unanimous-consent request holds the floor under that reservation subject to a demand for the regular [[Page 885]] order by any Member or by the Chair. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 46.6. A Member controlling the floor under a reservation of the right to object loses the floor if the request is withdrawn or if the regular order is demanded. 6 Cannon Sec. Sec. 287, 288; Deschler Ch 23 Sec. Sec. 46.3, 46.4. If the regular order is demanded by a Member standing on his feet, the reserving Member must either object or withdraw his reservation. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 46.6. Sec. 7 . Particular Uses Relative to Business of the House The unanimous-consent procedure is commonly used to change the regular order or waive the application of a particular rule. Under this practice, the House may waive the requirement of a rule unless the rule in question specifies that it is not subject to waiver, even by unanimous consent. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 42. The unanimous-consent procedure is applied across a wide range of House business. Unanimous-consent Requests Involving Consideration or Adoption or Passage of a Measure Unanimous consent may be used to provide for the consideration of a measure in the House, to vary the consideration of a measure in the House that is being considered under the general rules of the House or under an existing special order of business, or to adopt or pass a measure. For example, unanimous-consent requests may be used as follows: To call up for consideration a nonprivileged measure. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 47.4. To consider a bill under the general rules of the House. Deschler-Brown Ch 29 Sec. 3.4. Note: If on the Union Calendar, the bill will then normally be considered in the Committee of the Whole. However, the bill may be called up pursuant to the agreement and then by unanimous consent considered in the House as in the Committee of the Whole. 4 Hinds Sec. 4923. To provide a special order for the consideration of certain business (such as motions to suspend the rules on a day not set aside for suspensions). 4 Hinds Sec. Sec. 3165, 3166; 7 Cannon Sec. Sec. 758-760. To alter the terms of a special order. 7 Cannon Sec. 763. To transact other business on a day set apart for a special purpose. 5 Hinds Sec. 7246. To agree to transact no business during a stated period. 7 Cannon Sec. Sec. 760, 761. To take from the Speaker's table a House bill with Senate amendments and to consider those amendments in the House. Manual Sec. 528a. [[Page 886]] To permit the House to recede from its own amendment to a Senate amendment before the stage of disagreement. 89-2, Apr. 18, 1966, p 8207. To permit consideration in the House on any subsequent day of a bill to be introduced by the Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations. 97-2, June 23, 1982, p 14989. To waive all points of order against consideration in the House of an unreported joint resolution providing further continuing appropriations for the current fiscal year, consider it as read for amendment, close it to amendment by ordering the previous question to passage without intervening motion except debate and one motion to recommit. 107-2, Sept. 26, 2002, p ____. To discharge the Committee of the Whole from further consideration of a bill being read for amendment under a special order, and provide that certain amendments be considered as agreed to. 98-1, Nov. 18, 1983, p 34160. To consider a measure on the Union Calendar in the House by waiving all points of order against consideration, self-execute a compromise substitute in lieu of the committee amendments, and close the measure to amendment by ordering the previous question on the bill, as amended, to passage without intervening motion except debate and one motion to recommit with or without instructions. 106-2, Apr. 13, 2000, p ____. To consider a measure on the Union Calendar in the Committee of the Whole under the five-minute rule, waive points of order against the committee substitute as original text. 106-2, Apr. 13, 2000, p ____. To adopt or pass, in a single request, several measures, including any amendments thereto. See, e.g., 107-2, Nov. 14, 2002, p ____. To enlarge the time for debate on a motion to suspend the rules. 8 Cannon Sec. 3414. To specify the time at which a measure is to be called up-- either immediately or on a subsequent day. 106-1, July 22, 1999, p ____. Unanimous-Consent Requests to Effect a Variety of Business of the House In addition to facilitating consideration of legislative matters, unanimous-consent requests may used be as follows: To swear in a Member-elect pending arrival of his credentials. 6 Cannon Sec. 12. To increase the number of Members on a standing committee. 8 Cannon Sec. 3381. To refer a bill for the payment of a private claim against the government to a committee other than the Judiciary or International Relations. Rule XII clause 2(d). To correct a reference to committee. Manual Sec. 714. To permit a committee additional time to file a report. 8 Cannon Sec. 2783. [[Page 887]] To insert extraneous material in the Congressional Record or to permit Members to revise and extend their remarks or to vacate such permission. 5 Hinds Sec. 6990; Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 47.11. To postpone consideration of a measure, such as a resolution from the Committee on Rules, or to postpone certain votes thereon. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 47.8. To entertain a proposition for a recess. 8 Cannon Sec. 3357. Note: Rule I clause 12 permits the Speaker, without unanimous consent, to declare a ``short'' recess when no business is pending or an ``emergency'' recess when notified of an imminent threat. To suspend the order of business to permit the House to vacate an action taken on a bill. 6 Cannon Sec. 711. To withdraw papers accompanying bills after they have been submitted to the House. 5 Hinds Sec. 7259. To file a report or to file minority views while the House is not in session. 8 Cannon Sec. 2252. To withdraw a report from a standing committee. 8 Cannon Sec. 2312. To allow a Member to proceed in order after the Chair has ruled his words out of order. Manual Sec. 961. To change unparliamentary words spoken in debate or to withdraw or delete such words from the Congressional Record. 8 Cannon Sec. Sec. 2538, 2540; Deschler Ch 23 Sec. Sec. 47.9, 47.10. To address the House for one minute before offering a motion. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 47.7. Sec. 8 . Particular Uses Relative to Business of the Committee of the Whole Unanimous-consent requests are frequently used in the House and in the Committee of the Whole to vary the rules governing consideration of a measure. However, the Committee of the Whole may by unanimous consent permit only minor variances from a special order of business adopted by the House. The variances must be congruent with the special order governing consideration of the measure in the Committee of the Whole. Manual Sec. 993. The following unanimous-consent requests may be considered in the Committee of the Whole: To dispense with the first reading of a bill. 8 Cannon Sec. 2436. To dispense with the reading of an amendment. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 47.2. To withdraw a pending amendment. Rule XVIII clause 4; Manual Sec. 978. To offer a perfecting amendment in the Committee of the Whole to an amendment that has already been agreed to. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 47.3. To return to a portion of a bill passed in the reading for amendment. 8 Cannon Sec. 2929. [[Page 888]] To permit a supporter of an amendment to claim debate time allocated by special order to an opponent, where no opponent seeks recognition. Manual Sec. 993. To shorten the time set by special order for debate on a particular amendment. Manual Sec. 993. To lengthen the time set by special order for debate on a particular amendment under terms of control congruent with those set by the order of the House. Manual Sec. 993. To permit one of two committees controlling time for general debate pursuant to a special order to yield control of its time to the other. Manual Sec. 993. To permit the offering of pro forma amendments for the purpose of debate under a ``modified-closed'' special order limiting both amendments and debate thereon but not specifically preempting pro forma amendments. Manual Sec. 993. To close debate on titles of a bill that have not been read. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 47.1. To close or limit debate under the five-minute rule and to modify that time limit. Manual Sec. 987. To permit the reading of an amendment considered as read by special order. Manual Sec. 993. Unanimous-consent requests are limited in the Committee of the Whole because debate and the amendment process are normally restricted by the terms of a special order or by the standing rules of the House. The Committee may permit only minor variances that are congruent with the controlling special order of the House. Unanimous-consent requests for material alterations must be made in the House. Manual Sec. 993. The following unanimous-consent requests are not in order in the Committee of the Whole: To change the scheme for control or duration of general debate specified by the House. Manual Sec. 993. To entertain a motion to reconsider. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 39.12. To excuse a Member from voting in the Committee of the Whole. Deschler-Brown Ch 30 Sec. 3.3. To permit an amendment to be offered to the underlying bill where a special rule permitted its consideration only as a perfecting amendment to a committee amendment. Manual Sec. 993. To permit a substitute to be read for amendment by section where the special rule did not so provide. Manual Sec. 993. To restrict ``en blocking'' authority granted in a special order. Manual Sec. 993. To preempt the Chair's discretion under rule XVIII clause 6 to postpone and cluster votes or to schedule further consideration of a pending measure to a subsequent day. Manual Sec. 993. To postpone a vote on an appeal of a ruling of the Chair. Manual Sec. 993. [[Page 889]] To permit an amendment to an amendment rendered unamendable by a special order or to permit an amendment to an amendment already adopted. Manual Sec. 993. To permit consideration of an amendment out of the order specified in a special rule. Manual Sec. 993. To permit consideration of an additional amendment or to authorize a supplemental report from the Committee on Rules in lieu of the original report referred to in the special order. Manual Sec. 993. To permit another to offer an amendment vested in a specified Member. Manual Sec. 993. To permit a division of the question on an amendment rendered indivisible by a special order. Manual Sec. 993. To extend the time limitation for consideration of amendments beyond that set by a special order requiring the Chair to put the question on the pending amendments at the expiration of certain hours of consideration. Manual Sec. 993. To prohibit the offering of an amendment otherwise in order. Manual Sec. 980. Sec. 9 . Limitations on Requests; Grounds for Denial of Recognition It cannot be assumed that the House has authority to waive any rule by unanimous consent. Sometimes the rule itself contains a specific provision that it cannot be suspended by unanimous consent. The rules specifically prohibit the use of the unanimous-consent procedure as follows: To permit unauthorized persons to be admitted to the House floor. Rule IV clause 2. To bring to the attention of the House an occupant of the galleries. Rule XVII clause 7. To delete the name of the first sponsor of a bill or resolution. Rule XII clause 7(b)(2). In addition, there are many rules that are not subject to waiver by unanimous consent under the practice of the House. Deschler-Brown Ch 29 Sec. 11.1. For example, the following unanimous-consent requests are not in order in the House: To permit a Member to have his vote recorded after the announcement of the result. Deschler-Brown Ch 30 Sec. 36.1. To extend a five-minute special-order speech or to extend a special-order speech beyond midnight. Manual Sec. 950. To permit a Member to give a second one-minute speech. Manual Sec. 950. To revise and extend arguments in the Congressional Record on points of order (it being essential that the Chair's ruling be responsive to arguments actually made). Manual Sec. 628. [[Page 890]] To insert in the Congressional Record a colloquy between Members that did not actually occur. Manual Sec. 692. Requests Denied Recognition at the Speaker's Discretion The Speaker may decline to recognize for a unanimous-consent request which is improper or inappropriate under the particular circumstances, as where proper notice cannot be given to interested Members. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 48.2. He may do so by exercising his discretionary power of recognition. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 42. Thus the Speaker may decline to recognize for a unanimous-consent request: To permit a Member to address the House on a private bill being considered on the Private Calendar. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 48.8. To permit the House to rerefer a bill to a committee whose chairman has not been consulted on the matter. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 48.5. To consider a measure after the Members have been informed that there will be no further legislative business for the day. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. Sec. 48.6, 48.7. To reduce to five minutes the time for the first vote in a series of postponed votes, because the bell and light system would not give adequate notice of the initial five-minute vote. Manual Sec. 1030. To direct the clerk of a committee, without its approval, to bring to the well of the House certain documents in the custody of that committee. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 48.4. For a discussion of the Speaker's guidelines for conferring recognition for unanimous-consent requests for the consideration of certain measures, see Sec. 2, supra. Sec. 10 . Modification or Revocation of Agreement An agreement entered into by unanimous consent may be modified or vacated by unanimous consent at the pleasure of the House. 7 Cannon Sec. 946. Thus, by unanimous consent, the House may vacate a previous unanimous-consent agreement permitting all Members to revise and extend their remarks on a particular measure. 98-1, Nov. 15, 1983, p 32746. A unanimous-consent agreement also may be revoked pursuant to a majority vote on a resolution reported from the Committee on Rules as to the order of business. 8 Cannon Sec. 3390. It has been held that a so-called ``gentleman's agreement''--that is, a unanimous-consent agreement not to take up a bill during a particular period--is not subject to subsequent revision, even by unanimous consent. Such agreements are said to be observed ``with scrupulous care,'' especially when Members have left the floor with the understanding that the bill will [[Page 891]] not be considered in their absence. 6 Cannon Sec. 710a. In the modern practice of the House, however, the Speaker will not entertain a unanimous-consent request to preclude him from recognizing for consideration of a certain matter. Agreement to such a request would render the restriction an order of the House. The Speaker prefers to retain the scheduling of legislation as the prerogative of the majority leadership, subject to the Speaker's guidelines for unanimous-consent requests as discussed in section 2, supra.