[Constitution, Jefferson's Manual, and the Rules of the House of Representatives, 112th Congress]
[House Document 111-157]
[Jeffersons Manual of ParliamentaryPractice]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]
sec. xl--bills, third reading
The usage of the Senate is not to put bills on their passage till
A bill reported and passed to the third reading, cannot on that day be
read the third time and passed; because this would be to pass on two
readings in the same day.
Sec. 492. Obsolete requirements as to reading and
passage of bills.
To prevent bills from being passed by surprise, the House, by a
standing order, directs that they shall not be put on their passage
before a fixed hour, naming one at which the house is commonly full.
But in the Senate of the United States, both of these formalities are
dispensed with; the breviate presenting but an imperfect view of the
bill, and being capable of being made to present a false one; and the
full statement being a useless waste of time, immediately after a full
reading by the Clerk, and especially as every member has a printed copy
in his hand.
None of the restrictions are of effect in the modern practice of the
House. Clause 8 of rule XVI permits a bill to be read a third time and
passed on the same day, and it is in order to proceed with a bill at any
time, unless the absence of a quorum be shown.
In the House there is no practice justifying the presentation of an
abbreviated summary; and the procedure on third reading is definitely
prescribed by clause 8 of rule XVI.
Sec. 493. Obsolete parliamentary law as to third
At the third reading the Clerk reads the bill and delivers it
to the Speaker, who states the title, that it is the third time of
reading the bill, and that the question will be whether it shall pass.
Formerly the Speaker, or those who prepared a bill, prepared also a
breviate or summary statement of its contents, which the Speaker read
when he declared the state of the bill, at the several readings.
Sometimes, however, he read the bill itself, especially on its passage.
Hakew., 136, 137, 153; Coke, 22, 115. Latterly, instead of this, he, at
the third reading, states the whole contents of the bill verbatim, only,
instead of reading the formal parts, ``Be it enacted,'' &c., he states
that ``preamble recites so and so--the 1st section enacts that, &c.; the
2d section enacts,'' &c.
In the House it is in order to commit a bill after the engrossment and
third reading if the previous question is not ordered (V, 5562); and by
clause 2 of rule XIX the House has preserved this opportunity to commit
even after the previous question has been ordered.
Sec. 494. Committal of a bill on third
A bill on the third reading is not to be committed for the matter
or body thereof, but to receive some particular clause or proviso, it
hath been sometimes suffered, but as a thing very unusual. Hakew., 156.
Thus, 27 El., 1584, a bill was committed on the third reading, having
been formerly committed on the second, but is declared not usual.
D'Ewes, 337, col. 2; 414, col. 2.
This practice is never followed in the House.
Sec. 495. Obsolete parliamentary practice as to
When an essential provision has been omitted, rather than erase the
bill and render it suspicious, they add a clause on a separate paper,
engrossed and called a rider, which is read and put to the question
three times. Elsynge's Memo., 59; 6 Grey, 335; 1 Blackst., 183. For
examples of riders, see 3 Hats., 121, 122, 124, 156. Every one is at
liberty to bring in a rider without asking leave. 10 Grey, 52.
In the practice of the House, amendments, whether offered in the House
or coming from the other House, do not come under the rule requiring
Sec. 496. Obsolete requirements as to reading of
It is laid down, as a general rule, that amendments proposed at
the second reading shall be twice read, and those proposed at the third
reading thrice read; as also all amendments from the other House. Town.,
col. 19, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.
This is the proper stage for filling up blanks; for if filled up
before, and now altered by erasure, it would be peculiarly unsafe.
In the House bills are amended after the second reading (IV, 3392),
and before the engrossment and third reading (V, 5781; VII, 1051, 1052)
but not afterwards. Under modern practice of the House, readings are
governed by clause 8 of rule XVI and clause 5 of rule XVIII.
Sec. 497. Amendments before the third
It is with great and almost invincible reluctance that
amendments are admitted at this reading, which occasion erasures or
interlineations. Sometimes a proviso has been cut off from a bill;
sometimes erased. 9 Grey, 513.
The debate on the question whether it should be read a third time, has
discovered to its friends and opponents the arguments on which each side
relies, and which of these appear to have influence with the House; they
have had time to meet them with new arguments, and to put their old ones
into new shapes. The former vote has tried the strength of the first
opinion, and furnished grounds to estimate the issue; and the question
now offered for its passage is the last occasion which is ever to be
offered for carrying or rejecting it.
In the House it is usual to debate a bill before and not after the
engrossment and third reading, probably because of the frequent use of
the previous question, which prevents all debate after it is ordered.
When the previous question is not ordered, debate may occur pending the
vote on passage.
Sec. 498. Debate in relation to the third
At this reading the bill is debated afresh, and for the most part is
more spoken to at this time than on any of the former readings. Hakew.,
<> After the
bill is passed, there can be no further alteration of it in any
point. Hakew., 159.
In the House the bill is usually in the hands of the Clerk. The
Speaker states that ``The question is on the passage of the bill,'' and
puts the question in the form prescribed by clause 6 of rule I.
This principle controls the practice of the House. However, a bill may
be changed if the votes on passage, engrossment, and ordering the
previous question have been reconsidered. In addition, the Clerk may be
authorized to make changes in the engrossed copy by unanimous consent or
by special order of business. Title amendments are transacted following
passage (Sec. 512, infra).
Sec. 499. Putting the question on the passage of a
When the debate is ended, the Speaker, holding the bill in his hand,
puts the question for its passage, by saying, ``Gentlemen, all you who
are of opinion that this bill shall pass, say aye;'' and after the
answer of the ayes, ``All those of the contrary opinion, say no.''