[House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House]
[Chapter 5. Assembly of Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]


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                     CHAPTER 5 - ASSEMBLY OF CONGRESS

                              HOUSE PRACTICE

  Sec. 1. In General; Day of Convening
  Sec. 2. Hour of Meeting
  Sec. 3. Place of Meeting
  Sec. 4. Organizational Business--First Session
  Sec. 5. Organizational Business--Second Session
  Sec. 6. Adoption of Rules
  Sec. 7. Procedure Before Adopting Rules
  Sec. 8. Taking Up Legislative Business
        Research References
          1 Hinds Sec. Sec. 1-10; 5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6758-6762
          6 Cannon Sec. Sec. 1-5
          Deschler Ch 1
          Manual Sec. Sec. 60, 245


  Sec. 1 . In General; Day of Convening

                                 Generally

      The Constitution provides that each regular session of Congress 
  shall begin on January 3 unless Congress by law appoints a different 
  day. U.S. Const. amend. XX, Sec. 2. A joint resolution, which is not 
  considered privileged, is used for such appointment. For laws 
  appointing a different day for assembling, see Manual Sec. 243. The 
  joint resolution may originate either in the House or in the Senate. 
  93-1, Dec. 17, 1973, p 42059; 95-1, Dec. 15, 1977, p 38948.
      The President has the constitutional authority to convene the 
  Congress earlier than on the day it has fixed for its reconvening. He 
  may exercise this authority on ``extraordinary occasions'' by 
  convening either or both Houses. U.S. Const. art. II, Sec. 3. A number 
  of early Congresses were convened by Presidential proclamation. 1 
  Hinds Sec. Sec. 10, 12. The last session so convened was in the 76th 
  Congress. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 2.1.
      A privileged concurrent resolution providing for the adjournment 
  of a Congress sine die may contain a provision providing for a recall 
  of either House or of both Houses by their respective leaderships. 
  Pursuant to the authority of such a resolution, Speaker Gingrich 
  recalled the House on December 17, 1998, on notice of one week. Manual 
  Sec. 84.

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      For a catalog of provisions in concurrent resolutions authorizing 
  the recall of the House or both Houses, see Manual Sec. 84 and 
  Adjournment.

                            Pro Forma Meetings

      Upon completion of the legislative business for a session, the 
  House may schedule pro forma meetings for the remainder of the 
  constitutional term. 96-1, Dec. 14, 1979, p 36200. For example, as the 
  first session of the 96th Congress drew to a close, the House, by 
  unanimous consent, agreed to convene every third day for the remainder 
  of the session, including a final pro forma meeting immediately before 
  the constitutional expiration of the session at noon on January 3, 
  1980. 96-1, Dec. 20, 1979, p 37317. Similarly, in the 102d Congress, 
  pursuant to the concurrent resolution that placed the two Houses in an 
  intrasession adjournment from November 27, 1991, until January 3, 
  1992, the House convened at 11:55 a.m. on that day for its final 
  meeting of the first session. Alternatively, the House may recess 
  pursuant to a rule reported from the Committee on Rules at the end of 
  a session for periods not in excess of three days. Manual Sec. 83.
      On January 3 of an even-numbered year, in the absence of a law 
  appointing a different convening date, the Speaker may either (1) 
  announce the adoption of a simple motion to adjourn the last day of 
  the first session just before noon to declare the House adjourned sine 
  die so that the second session may convene at noon (102-2, Jan. 3, 
  1992, p 36367) or (2) unilaterally declare the House adjourned sine 
  die just before noon (without a simple motion) so that the second 
  session may convene at noon (105-2, Jan. 3, 1996, p 35).


  Sec. 2 . Hour of Meeting

                        Generally; Hourly Schedules

      Each House has plenary power over the time of its meetings during 
  the session. If the time of meeting has not been set previously by 
  resolution, the House, by long-standing practice having the force of a 
  standing order, meets each day at noon. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 3. However, 
  it is the customary practice of the House to adopt a resolution 
  establishing times for its daily meetings. Manual Sec. 621.
      Convening times are selected to provide sufficient committee time 
  for hearings and markups early in the session, and sufficient floor 
  time later for authorization and appropriation bills. Resolutions 
  setting daily meeting times are considered privileged, even though 
  they are not reported from the Committee on Rules, because they are 
  incidental to the organization of the House. 97-2, Jan. 25, 1982, p 
  62. However, subsequent resolutions changing

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  the hour of meeting, unless reported as privileged from the Committee 
  on Rules, require unanimous consent for consideration (although ad hoc 
  arrangements from day to day may be effected by privileged motion 
  under rule XVI clause 4). 95-2, June 29, 1978, p 19507.

                     Adjournments to a Different Hour

      The meeting hour may be subsequently changed on certain days of 
  the week pursuant to the adoption of a resolution setting forth the 
  new convening time. 95-1, June 30, 1977, p 21685. The House may by 
  unanimous consent vacate a previous order providing for the House to 
  meet at a certain time and agree to meet at a different time. Deschler 
  Ch 1 Sec. Sec. 3.12, 3.13. The motion that when the House adjourns it 
  adjourn to a day and time certain also may be used to enable the House 
  to meet at an hour different from that provided by the standing order. 
  For a general discussion of this motion (which is a privileged motion 
  at the Speaker's discretion), see Adjournment.

                       Emergency Convening Authority

      During any recess or adjournment of not more than three days, if 
  the Speaker is notified by the Sergeant-at-Arms of an imminent 
  impairment of the place of reconvening, then he may, in consultation 
  with the Minority Leader, postpone the time for reconvening within the 
  three-day limit prescribed by the Constitution. In the alternative, 
  the Speaker in such case may reconvene the House before the time 
  previously appointed solely to declare the House in recess within that 
  three-day limit. Rule I clause 12(c).


  Sec. 3 . Place of Meeting

      Under article I, section 5, clause 4 of the Constitution, neither 
  House may, without consent of the other, adjourn ``to any other Place 
  than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.'' The requirement 
  for consent has been interpreted to apply to the seat of government, 
  which has been, since 1800, the District of Columbia. Therefore, the 
  House may convene sit in another place within the District of Columbia 
  without the consent of the Senate. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 4.1. Under rule 
  I clause 12(d), the Speaker may convene the House in a place at the 
  seat of government other than the Hall of the House whenever, in his 
  opinion, the public interest shall warrant it.
      In the 107th Congress, the two Houses authorized joint leadership 
  recall from an adjournment ``at such place and time as they may 
  designate whenever, in their opinion, the public interest shall 
  warrant it'' (permitting recall from an adjournment to a place outside 
  the District of Columbia). 107-1, H. Con. Res. 251, Oct. 17, 2001, p 
  ____; 107-1, S. Con. Res. 85, Nov.

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  16, 2001, p ____. In the 108th Congress, the two Houses granted 
  blanket joint leadership authority to assemble the 108th Congress at a 
  place outside the District of Columbia whenever the public interest 
  shall warrant it. 108-1, H. Con. Res. 1, Jan. 7, 2003, p ____.
      The President may convene Congress at places outside the seat of 
  government during hazardous circumstances. 2 USC Sec. 27; Deschler Ch 
  1 Sec. 4.


  Sec. 4 . Organizational Business--First Session

                          Functions of the Clerk

      Under rule II clause 2(a), the Clerk from the prior Congress 
  (including one appointed pursuant to section 75a01 of title 2, United 
  States Code), creates a roll of the Representatives-elect and calls 
  the House to order at the beginning of a new Congress. 2 USC Sec. 26; 
  Manual Sec. 643. In the event of the Clerk's absence or incapacity, 
  the Sergeant-at-Arms from the prior Congress creates the roll and 
  calls the House to order. 2 USC Sec. 26; Manual Sec. 656. After the 
  opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, the Clerk:

    Announces the receipt of credentials of Members-elect.
    Causes a quorum to be established, by roll call by State, by 
         electronic device.
    Announces the filing of credentials of Delegates-elect and of 
         the Resident Commissioner.
    Recognizes for nominations for Speaker.
    Appoints tellers for the roll call vote (alphabetical by 
         surname) for Speaker.
    Announces the vote.
    Appoints a committee to escort the Speaker to the Chair.

                            Election of Speaker

      The first order of business after the ascertainment of a quorum at 
  the opening of a new Congress is ordinarily the election of the 
  Speaker. Manual Sec. 27. Pursuant to statute and precedent, 
  nominations for election of the Speaker are of the highest privilege 
  and take precedence over a question of the privileges of the House 
  relating to the interim election of a Speaker pro tempore pending an 
  ethics investigation of a nominee for Speaker. 2 USC Sec. 25; Manual 
  Sec. 27; 1 Hinds Sec. 212.
      Candidates for the office are nominated by the chairmen of the 
  Democratic Caucus and the Republican Conference. Deschler Ch 1 
  Sec. 6.1. The Speaker is elected by a majority of Members-elect 
  present and voting by surname. Manual Sec. 27. He was at first elected 
  by ballot but, since 1839, has been chosen by viva voce vote by 
  surname in response to a call of the roll. 1 Hinds Sec. 187; Deschler 
  Ch 1 Sec. 6. Although the Clerk appoints tellers for

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  the election, the House, and not the Clerk, determines what method of 
  voting to use. Manual Sec. 27; Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 6. On two occasions, 
  by special rules, Speakers were chosen by a plurality of votes; but in 
  each case the House by majority vote adopted a resolution declaring 
  the result. 1 Hinds Sec. Sec. 221, 222. The House has declined to 
  choose a Speaker by lot. 1 Hinds Sec. 221.

                    Status and Rights of Members-elect

      Where the certificate of election of a Member-elect, in due form, 
  is on file with the Clerk, he is entitled as of right to be included 
  on the Clerk's roll. Page v. United States, 127 U.S. 67 (1888). Those 
  Members whose names appear on the Clerk's roll are entitled to vote 
  for a new Speaker at the beginning of a Congress and to participate in 
  other organizational business before the administration of the oath. 
  They may debate propositions, propose motions, offer resolutions, and 
  make points of order. Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 2. When sworn in, Members may 
  be named to serve on House committees and may introduce bills. Manual 
  Sec. 300; 4 Hinds Sec. Sec. 4477, 4483, 4484.
      All Members-elect whose credentials have been received by the 
  Clerk are included on the first roll call on opening day to establish 
  a quorum. Members-elect not responding to that call and not appearing 
  to take the oath when it is administered en masse on opening day are 
  not included on further roll calls until they have taken the oath. 
  Generally, see Oaths. Pursuant to article I, section 2 of the 
  Constitution, because the House is composed of Members elected by the 
  people of the several States and because the House elects its Speaker, 
  the Delegates-elect and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico are 
  not constitutionally qualified to vote in the House for Speaker. 
  Therefore, the Clerk does not include them on the roll. Manual 
  Sec. 675.

                           Notices and Messages

      At the beginning of a new Congress, the House by various 
  resolutions: (1) directs that a message be sent to the Senate to 
  inform that body that a quorum of the House has been established and 
  that the Speaker and Clerk have been elected, (2) establishes a select 
  committee to notify the President that a quorum of the House has 
  assembled and is ready to receive any communication he may wish to 
  make, and (3) directs the Clerk to inform the President of the 
  selection of the Speaker. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 7.


  Sec. 5 . Organizational Business--Second Session

      At the beginning of a second session of a Congress, the House is 
  ordinarily called to order by the Speaker, although, where the Office 
  is vacant,

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  the House may be called to order by the Clerk. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 5. 
  Alternatively, the House may be called to order by a previously 
  designated Speaker pro tempore. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 7.4. Under rule I 
  clause 8(b)(3), adopted in the 108th Congress, the Speaker is required 
  to deliver to the Clerk a list of Members in the order in which each 
  shall act as Speaker pro tempore in the case of a vacancy in the 
  Office of Speaker. A Speaker pro tempore designated under this rule 
  also may convene the second session of a Congress. Following the 
  opening prayer, the Speaker orders, without motion, a call of the 
  House to establish a quorum. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 7.5. The call of the 
  House may be taken by electronic device, but the Speaker may elect not 
  to use the electronic system for that purpose. Deschler Ch 20 Sec. 4.
      Members-elect, elected to fill vacancies occurring in the first 
  session, are not included on the roll call to ascertain the presence 
  of a quorum when the second session convenes. Their names are included 
  on the roll only after their certificates of election have been laid 
  before the House and the oath has been administered to them. 
  Similarly, the names of those Members who resigned during adjournment 
  are stricken from the roll and are not called to establish a quorum. 
  Deschler Ch 2 Sec. 4.10.


  Sec. 6 . Adoption of Rules and Separate Orders

      The Constitution gives each House the power to determine the rules 
  of its proceedings. U.S. Const. art. I, Sec. 5, cl. 2. The Supreme 
  Court has interpreted this clause to mean that the House possesses 
  broad power to adopt its own procedural rules. United States v. 
  Ballin, 144 U.S. 5 (1892). This power cannot be restricted by the 
  rules or statutory enactments of a preceding House. Thus, the adoption 
  of the three-day availability rule by the 91st Congress did not bind 
  the 92d Congress. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 10.1.
      The rules of the House for each Congress are adopted by 
  resolution. See, e.g., 105-1, Jan. 7, 1997, p ____. Ordinarily, the 
  House adopts the rules of the prior Congress but with various 
  amendments. 5 Hinds Sec. 6742. Separate orders also may be adopted in 
  the same resolution. Separate orders are not amendments to the 
  standing rules but have the same force and effect for a Congress or 
  portion thereof. See, e.g., 108-1, H. Res. 5, Jan. 7, 2003, p ____. 
  The House in the 106th Congress adopted a recodified version of the 
  rules of the House in existence at the close of the 105th Congress, 
  which rewrote and renumbered the rules, many without substantive 
  change. 106-1, Jan. 6, 1999, p ____.
      A resolution adopting rules is subject to the motion for the 
  previous question. The resolution is subject to amendment if the 
  previous question is voted down. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 9.6. The 
  resolution is not subject to a de

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  mand for a division of the question absent prior adoption of a special 
  rule permitting a division of the resolution. Manual Sec. 60; Deschler 
  Ch 1 Sec. 10.8.
      The motion to commit is permitted after the previous question has 
  been ordered on the resolution adopting the rules but is not 
  debatable. It is the prerogative of the minority to offer a motion to 
  commit even before the adoption of the rules. However, at that point 
  the proponent need not qualify as opposed to the resolution. Manual 
  Sec. 60; Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 9. Such a motion to commit is not 
  divisible. However, if it is agreed to and more than one amendment is 
  reported back pursuant thereto, then separate votes may be had on the 
  reported amendments. The motion to refer also has been permitted upon 
  the offering of a resolution adopting the rules, and before debate 
  thereon, subject to the motion to lay on the table. Manual Sec. 60; 5 
  Hinds Sec. 5604.
      As with other House-passed measures, the House may by unanimous 
  consent direct the Clerk, in the engrossment of a House resolution 
  providing for the adoption of rules, to make certain technical 
  corrections in the text of the resolution. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 10.12.


  Sec. 7 . Procedure Before Adopting Rules

      Before the adoption of formal rules, the House operates under 
  general parliamentary law, as modified by certain customary House 
  rules and practices and by portions of Jefferson's Manual. Manual 
  Sec. 60; 5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6761-6763; 8 Cannon Sec. 3386. Statutes 
  incorporated into the rules of the prior Congress do not control the 
  proceedings of the new House. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 10.1. They must be 
  re-adopted as part of the rules of the new House in the resolution 
  adopting those rules.
      Before the adoption of rules by the House, rules that embody 
  practices of long-established custom will be enforced as if already in 
  effect. 6 Cannon Sec. 191. Thus, before adoption of the rules, the 
  Speaker may maintain decorum by directing a Member who has not been 
  recognized in debate beyond an allotted time to be removed from the 
  well or by directing the Sergeant-at-Arms to present the mace as the 
  traditional symbol of order. Manual Sec. 60.
      Procedures common to general parliamentary law applicable in the 
  House before the adoption of its formal rules include:

    The motion for a call of the House. 4 Hinds Sec. 2981; Deschler 
         Ch 1 Sec. 9.
    Points of order of no quorum. Manual Sec. 60.
     The motion to refer, subject to the motion to table. Manual 
         Sec. 60.
    Demands for the yeas and nays. 5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6012, 6013; 
         Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 9.
    The motion for the previous question, which takes precedence 
         over a motion to amend. 5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 5451-5455.

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    The motion to amend after rejection of the previous question 
         (Deschler Ch 3 Sec. 10.10), with any amendment being subject to 
         the point of order that it must be germane (Deschler Ch 1 
         Sec. 12.7).
     The practice that Members may engage in debate only when 
         recognized, such recognition being at the discretion of the 
         Speaker. Manual Sec. 60.
    The hour rule for debate on a question. Deschler Ch 1 
         Sec. 12.3.
    Losing the right to resume after yielding the floor. 5 Hinds 
         Sec. Sec. 5038-5040.
    Recognition for an amendment after the defeat of the previous 
         question, under the hour rule, with the proponent of the 
         amendment controlling the time. Deschler Ch 23 Sec. 22.4.
    The nondebatable motion to commit after ordering of the 
         previous question. Manual Sec. 60; 5 Hinds Sec. 6758. Proponent 
         of the motion to commit need not qualify as opposed to the 
         resolution. Manual Sec. 60.
    Withdrawal of a resolution before action is taken thereon. 
         Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 10.6.
    The motion to lay on the table. 5 Hinds Sec. 5390; Deschler Ch 
         1 Sec. 9.
    The motion to postpone to a day certain. Deschler Ch 1 
         Sec. 10.7.
    The motion to adjourn. 1 Hinds Sec. 89; Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 9.

      Specific standing rules of the House held not applicable before 
  adoption of its formal rules include:

    The rule permitting 40 minutes of debate after the moving of 
         the previous question on a matter on which there has been no 
         debate. 5 Hinds Sec. 5509.
    The three-day availability rule for the consideration of 
         committee reports. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 12.9.


  Sec. 8 . Taking Up Legislative Business

                                 Generally

      Congress is not assembled until both the House and Senate are in 
  session with a quorum present. 6 Cannon Sec. 5. Once the two Houses 
  have assembled, elected officers, sworn Members, and adopted rules, 
  the resumption of legislative business is in order. 1 Hinds 
  Sec. Sec. 130, 140, 237; Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 11. In rare instances a 
  major bill has been considered and passed even before the completion 
  of organization by the adoption of rules. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 12.8. 
  However, a bill will not be considered in the House before the 
  administration of the oath to Members-elect because of the statutory 
  requirement that the oath precede the consideration of general 
  business. 2 USC Sec. 25. As a matter of long-established custom, the 
  two Houses usually do not begin transacting legislative business at 
  the beginning of a Congress until after the President has delivered 
  his state of the Union message. 1 Hinds Sec. Sec. 81, 122-125; 
  Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 11. However, on two occasions the House, as part of 
  the resolution adopting its standing rules, adopted a special order 
  providing for the immediate consideration of a bill introduced that

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  day. 104-1, Jan. 4, 1995, p 463; 106-1, Jan. 6, 1999, p ____. On 
  occasion the House has convened for its second session on January 3, 
  or on another day by law, but then conducted no legislative business 
  (including approval of its Journal or referral of bills) for several 
  days. Manual Sec. 84.

                               Old Business

      Upon convening for a second or subsequent session during the term 
  of a Congress, the House resumes all business that was pending before 
  the House or its committees at the adjournment sine die of the 
  preceding session. Rule XI clause 6; Manual Sec. 814; 5 Hinds 
  Sec. 6727. Similarly, conference business between the two Houses 
  continues over an adjournment between the first and second sessions of 
  a Congress. 5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6760-6762. However, because past 
  proceedings of one Congress do not bind its successor, business 
  remaining at the end of one Congress does not carry over to the 
  beginning of a new Congress. Deschler Ch 1 Sec. 11.
      Bills may be placed in the hopper on opening day and are referred 
  as expeditiously as possible following adoption of the rules. However, 
  due to the large number of bills introduced on opening day, the 
  Speaker may delay their referral but print the referral as having been 
  made on opening day. 106-1, Jan. 6, 1999, p ____.