[Constitution, Jefferson's Manual, and the Rules of the House of Representatives, 113th Congress]
[House Document 112-161]
[Rules of the House of Representatives]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]
order and priority of business
Third. The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
Fourth. Correction of reference of public bills.
Fifth. Disposal of business on the Speaker's table as provided in
Sixth. Unfinished business as provided in clause 3.
Seventh. The morning hour for the consideration of bills called up by
committees as provided in clause 4.
Eighth. Motions that the House resolve into the Committee of the Whole
House on the state of the Union subject to clause 5.
Ninth. Orders of the day.
found in former clause 1 of rule XXIV (H. Res. 5, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 47).
A correction to a cross reference was effected in the 107th Congress
(sec. 2(x), H. Res. 5, Jan. 3, 2001, p. 26).
Originally the House had no rule prescribing an order of business, but
certain simple usages were gradually established by practice before the
first rule on the subject was adopted in 1811. The rule was amended
frequently to arrange the business to give the House as much freedom as
possible in selecting for consideration and completing the consideration
of the bills that it deems most important. The basic form of the rule
has been in place since 1890 (IV, 3056). The 98th Congress made a
conforming change to the second order of business relating to the
postponement of the vote on approval of the Journal (H. Res. 5, Jan. 3,
1983, p. 34). The 104th Congress added the present third order of
business respecting the Pledge of Allegiance (sec. 218, H. Res. 6, Jan.
4, 1995, p. 468). Before the House recodified its rules in the 106th
Congress, this provision was
The Speaker does not entertain a point of no quorum before the prayer
is offered (VI, 663). Under clause 7 of rule XX, a point of no quorum
may not be entertained unless a question is pending (see Sec. 1027,
In response to serial parliamentary inquiries regarding the pledge of
allegiance to the flag, the Chair advised that (1) under clause 1 of
rule XIV, the third element of the daily order of business is the Pledge
of Allegiance; (2) section 4 of title 4, United States Code, prescribes
the text of the pledge; (3) when the pledge is delivered as the third
element of the daily order of business, the Record reflects the pledge
in its statutory form; and (4) the statute prescribes the manner of
delivery of the pledge (Apr. 27, 2004, pp. 7588, 7600).
Sec. 869. The rule for the order of business in the House.
1. The daily order of business (unless varied by the application of
other rules and except for the disposition of matters of higher
precedence) shall be as follows:
First. Prayer by the Chaplain. l Second. Reading and approval of the
Journal, unless postponed under clause 8 of rule XX.
(3) Special orders reported by the Committee on Rules for
consideration by the House (clause 5 of rule XIII; IV, 3070-3076, 4621).
(4) Consideration of amendments between the Houses after disagreement
(IV, 3149, 3150).
(5) Questions of privilege (rule IX; III, 2521).
(6) Privileged bills reported under the right to report at any time
(clauses 5 and 7 of rule XIII; IV, 3142-3144, 4621).
(7) Call of committees on Wednesdays for bills on House and Union
Calendars (clause 6 of rule XV).
(8) Private business on Tuesday (clause 5 of rule XV).
(9) Motions on the second and fourth Mondays of the month to discharge
committees on public bills and resolutions (clause 2 of rule XV), and
consideration of District of Columbia business (clause 4 of rule XV; IV,
(10) Motions to suspend the rules and pass bills out of the regular
order (clause 1 of rule XV; V, 6790).
(11) Bills coming over from a previous day with the previous question
ordered (V, 5510-5517).
(12) Bills returned with the objections of the President (IV, 3534-
(13) Motions to send a bill to conference (under clause 1 of rule
XXII; Aug. 1, 1972, p. 26153).
In addition to these matters, the House by practice permits its order
of business to be interrupted, at the discretion of the Speaker, for the
reception of messages (V, 6602). Before the 104th Congress, addressing
the House out of order by unanimous consent, the Speaker announced that
on at least two subsequent days he would recognize designated Members
after approval of the Journal to lead the House in the Pledge of
Allegiance to the Flag (Speaker Wright, Sept. 9, 1988, p. 23310).
Requests of Members for leaves of absence are in practice put before the
House at the time of adjournment (IV, 3151).
object must stand to be observed by the Chair (Nov. 7, 1991, p. 30633;
June 23, 1992, p. 15703). The Speaker, however, usually signifies
objection by declining to put the request of the Member, thus saving the
time of the House. The Speaker's guidelines for recognition for
unanimous-consent requests for consideration of unreported measures are
issued pursuant to clause 2 of rule XVII and are discussed in Sec. 956,
infra. The request for unanimous consent began to be used about 1832
when the House first felt a pressure of business and the necessity of
adhering to a fixed order (IV, 3155-3159). In 1909, by the adoption of
former clause 4 of rule XIII, a Consent Calendar was established, which
was abolished in the 104th Congress (H. Res. 168, June 20, 1995, p.
16574). For discussion of unanimous-consent requests and reservations of
objections, see Sec. 956, infra. Unanimous consent for the immediate
consideration of a measure in the House does not preclude a demand for a
record vote when the Chair puts the question on final passage, because
it merely permits consideration of a matter not otherwise privileged
(Dec. 16, 1987, p. 35816).
Sec. 870. Privileged interruptions of the order of
business in the House.
This rule does not, however, bind the House to a daily
routine because the system of making certain important subjects
privileged (see clause 5 of rule XIII and rule XXII) permits the
interruption of the order of business by matters that, in fact, often
supplant it entirely for days at a time. In the 106th Congress the
recodification acknowledged in the parenthetical of this clause that the
prescribed daily order of business could be superseded by operation of
other rules (H. Res. 5, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 47). But when the order of
business is interrupted by a privileged matter, the business in order
proceeds from the place of interruption (IV, 3070, 3071) unless the
House adjourns. After an adjournment, the House starts anew with the
prayer. Although privileged matters may interrupt the order of business,
they may do so only with the consent of a majority of the House,
expressed as to appropriation bills by the vote on resolving into
Committee of the Whole to consider such bills, and as to matters like
conference reports, questions of privilege, etc., by raising and voting
on the question of consideration. The only exceptions to the principle
that a majority may prevent interruption are contained in clauses 5 and
7 of rule XV, providing for a call of the Private Calendar on the first
Tuesday of each month and a call of committees on Wednesdays. By this
combination of an order of business with privileged interruptions the
House gives precedence to its most important business without at the
same time losing the power by majority vote to go to any other bills on
<> The privileged matters that may interrupt the order of
business include: l (1) General appropriation bills (clause 5 of rule
XIII; IV, 3072). l (2) Conference reports (clause 7(a) of rule XXII; V,
6443) and motions to discharge or instruct conferees (clause 7(c) of
Sec. 872. The interruption of the order of business
by the request for unanimous consent.
When the House has no rule establishing
an order of business, as at the beginning of a session before the
adoption of rules, it is in order for any Member who is recognized by
the Chair to offer a proposition relating to the order of business
without asking consent of the House (IV, 3060). But after the adoption
of the rule for the order of business, interruptions are confined to
matters privileged to interrupt or to cases wherein the House gives
unanimous consent for an interruption. A request for unanimous consent
to consider a bill is in effect a request to suspend the order of
business temporarily (IV, 3059). Therefore any Member, including the
Chair, may object, or reserve the right to object and inquire, for
example, about the reasons for the request, or demand the ``regular
order'' (IV, 3058). Debate under a reservation of objection proceeds at
the sufferance of the House and may not continue after a demand for the
regular order (see, e.g., Speaker Foley, Nov. 14, 1991, p. 32128; Dec.
15, 1995, p. 37142). A Member objecting to a unanimous-consent request
or demanding the regular order when another has reserved the right to
(a) Messages from the President shall be referred to the
appropriate committees without debate.
(b) Communications addressed to the House, including reports and
communications from heads of departments and bills, resolutions, and
messages from the Senate, may be referred to the appropriate committees
in the same manner and with the same right of correction as public bills
and public resolutions presented by Members, Delegates, or the Resident
(c) Motions to dispose of Senate amendments on the Speaker's table
may be entertained as provided in clauses 1, 2, and 4 of rule XXII.
ably reported and not required to be considered in the Committee of the
Whole House on the state of the Union may be disposed of by motion. Such
a motion shall be privileged if offered by direction of all reporting
committees having initial jurisdiction of the House measure.
(d) Senate bills and resolutions substantially the same as House
measures already favor
A rule to govern disposition of business on the Speaker's table (to be
distinguished from the table of the House, which is the Clerk's table)
was adopted in 1832. In 1880 and 1885 efforts were made to so modify the
rule as to prevent delays in business on the Speaker's table, but it was
not until 1890 that the present rule was adopted (IV, 3089). Before the
House recodified its rules in the 106th Congress, this provision and
clause 2 of rule XXII occupied a single clause (formerly clause 2 of
rule XXIV) (H. Res. 5, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 47).
Sec. 873. Disposal of
business on the Speaker's table.
2. Business on the Speaker's table shall be disposed of as follows:
to conference by unanimous consent, special rule, or suspension of the
rules (VI, 732) (although a motion to send to conference may be
privileged under clause 1 of rule XXII). The Speaker's authority under
this clause includes the discretionary authority to refer from the
Speaker's table Senate amendments to House-passed bills, to standing
committees, under any conditions permitted under current clause 2 of
rule XII (formerly clause 5 of rule X) for referral of introduced bills;
the Speaker may for example impose a time limitation for consideration
only of a portion of the Senate amendment, not germane to the original
House bill, by the standing committee with subject-matter jurisdiction,
without referring the remainder of the Senate amendment to the House
committee with jurisdiction over the original House bill (Speaker
O'Neill, H.R. 31, Mar. 26, 1981, p. 5397). The Speaker announced his
policy regarding referral of nongermane Senate amendments to committee
(Jan. 3, 1983, p. 54; Jan. 6, 1987, p. 21); and his policy regarding
recognition for unanimous-consent requests to dispose of Senate
amendments at the Speaker's table (Apr. 26, 1984, p. 10194; Feb. 4,
1987, p. 2676) discussed in Sec. 956, infra. A Senate bill to come
before the House directly from the table must conform to the conditions
prescribed by the rule (IV, 3098, 3099; VI, 727, 734, 737), and must
have come to the House after and not before the House bill
``substantially the same'' and not involving an expenditure (IV, 3103)
has been placed on the House Calendar (IV, 3096; VI, 727, 736, 738) or
Private Calendar (IV, 3102). In the event the House bill has passed
before the Senate bill is received, the Senate bill may nevertheless be
disposed of on motion directed by the committee (VI, 734, 735). The
House bill must be correctly on the House Calendar (VI, 736). In
determining whether the House bill is substantially the same as the
Senate bill, amendments recommended by the House committee must be
considered (VI, 734, 736). The rule applies to private as well as to
public Senate bills (IV, 3101), and to concurrent resolutions as well as
to bills (IV, 3097). Although a committee must authorize the calling up
of the Senate bill (VI, 739), the actual motion need not be made by a
member of the committee (IV, 3100). The authority of a committee to call
up a bill must be given at a formal meeting of the committee (VIII,
2211, 2212, 2222).
A House bill returned with Senate amendments involving a new matter of
appropriation, whether with or without a request for a conference, may
be referred directly to a standing committee (VI, 731), and on being
reported therefrom is referred directly to the Committee of the Whole
(IV, 3094, 3095, 3108-3110). However, the usual practice is to take the
bill from the Speaker's table and concur, concur with an amendment, or
3350). A portion of the annual message has been referred directly to a
select committee (V, 6628). A message other than an annual message is
usually referred directly to a standing committee by direction of the
Speaker (IV, 4053; VIII, 3346), but may be referred by the House itself
on motion by a Member (V, 6631; VIII, 3348), and such motion is
privileged (VIII, 3348). This reference may be to a select as well as to
a standing committee (V, 6633, 6634).
Sec. 874. Matters on Speaker's table for action by the
House or by the Speaker alone.
Such portions of messages from the Senate as
require action by the House, all messages from the President except
those transmitting objections to bills (IV, 3534-3536), and all
communications and reports from the heads of departments go to the
Speaker's table when received, to be disposed of under this rule. Simple
resolutions of the Senate that do not require any action by the House
are not referred (VII, 1048). All of the President's messages are
referred. Such portions of Senate messages (House bills with Senate
amendments) that do not require consideration in Committee of the Whole
may be laid before the House for action. Communications from the
President, other than messages; all portions of Senate messages
requiring consideration in Committee of the Whole (IV, 3101); and Senate
bills of all kinds (with the exception noted in the rule) may be
referred to the appropriate standing committees under direction of the
Speaker without action by the House (IV, 3107, 3111; VI, 727). Under
clause 2 of former rule XXIV (current rule XIV), the Speaker may
temporarily retain custody of an executive communication addressed to
the Speaker (or may pursuant to former clause 1 of rule IV (current
clause 3(a) of rule II) order the Sergeant-at-Arms to assume custody)
pending House disposition of a special order reported from the Committee
on Rules relating to a referral of the communication to committee (Sept.
9, 1998, p. 19769).
Sec. 875. Reference of President's messages from the
A message of the President on the Speaker's table is
regularly laid before the House only at the time prescribed by the order
of business (V, 6635-6638). Although it is always read in full and
entered on the Journal and the Congressional Record (V, 6963), the
accompanying documents are not read on demand of a Member or entered in
the Journal or Record (V, 5267-5271; VII, 1108). The annual message of
the President is usually referred to the Committee of the Whole House on
the state of the Union by the House on motion (V, 6631). In the earlier
practice it was distributed to appropriate standing committees by
resolutions reported from the Committee on Ways and Means (V, 6621,
6622) but since the first session of the 64th Congress the practice has
been discontinued (VIII,
The first rule relating to unfinished business was adopted in 1794.
Changes were made in 1860 and 1880, but the rule finally became
unsatisfactory, because of delays caused by it, and in 1890 the present
form was adopted (IV, 3112). Before the House recodified its rules in
the 106th Congress, this provision was found in former clause 3 of rule
XXIV (H. Res. 5, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 47). A clerical correction to a cross
reference was effected in the 107th Congress (sec. 2(x), H. Res. 5, Jan.
3, 2001, p. 26).
but may be again raised on a subsequent day when the matter is again
called up as unfinished business (VIII, 2438). If the House adjourns
during the consideration of a report from the Committee on Rules,
further consideration of the report becomes the unfinished business on
the following day, and debate resumes from the point where interrupted
(Sept. 27, 1993, p. 22609; Sept. 28, 1993, p. 22719). When the House
adjourns on the second legislative day after postponement of a question
under clause 8 of rule XX without resuming proceedings thereon, the
question remains unfinished business on the next legislative day (Oct.
1, 1997, p. 20922; Oct. 2, 1997, p. 20991). When the House adjourns
while a motion to instruct under clause 7(c) of rule XXII is pending,
the motion to instruct becomes unfinished business on the next day and
does not need to be renoticed (Oct. 1, 1997, p. 20894).
Sec. 876. Unfinished business.
3. Consideration of
unfinished business in which the House may have been engaged at an
adjournment, except business in the morning hour and proceedings
postponed under clause 8 of rule XX, shall be resumed as soon as the
business on the Speaker's table is finished, and at the same time each
day thereafter until disposed of. The consideration of all other
unfinished business shall be resumed whenever the class of business to
which it belongs shall be in order under the rules.
Sec. 877. Construction of rule as to unfinished
This clause should be understood in light of clause 8 of rule XX,
which permits the Chair to postpone record votes on certain questions to
a designated time within two legislative days (see Sec. 1030, infra).
The ``business in which the House may be engaged at an adjournment''
means, literally, business in the House, as distinguished from the
Committee of the Whole; and it further means business in which the House
is engaged in its general legislative time, as distinguished from the
special periods set aside for classes of business, like the morning hour
for calls of committee, Tuesdays for private bills, etc. In general, all
business unfinished in the general legislative time goes over as
unfinished business under the rule, but there are a few exceptions.
Thus, a motion relating to the order of business does not recur as
unfinished business on a succeeding day, even though the yeas and nays
may have been ordered on it (IV, 3114). The question of consideration,
also, when not disposed of at an adjournment, does not recur as
unfinished business on a succeeding day (V, 4947, 4948),
Sec. 878. Effect of previous question.
When the House
adjourns before voting on a proposition on which the previous question
has been ordered, either directly or by the terms of a special order
(IV, 3185), the matter comes up the next day as unfinished business (V,
5510-5517; VIII, 2691; Aug. 2, 1989, p. 18187). If several bills come
over in this situation, they have precedence in the order in which the
several motions for the previous question were made (V, 5518). When the
previous question is ordered on a bill undisposed of at adjournment on
Friday, the bill comes up for disposition on the next legislative day
(VIII, 2694). A bill going over from Calendar Wednesday with the
previous question ordered on it should be disposed of on the next
legislative day (VII, 967). A bill coming over from a preceding day with
the previous question ordered was of equal privilege with business on
the former Consent Calendar (VII, 990).
(c) Private bills considered on Tuesdays.
(d) District of Columbia bills.
(e) Bills brought up under the rule setting apart days for motions to
suspend the rules, motions to discharge committees, and bills under
consideration after a committee has been discharged.
A bill brought up in the morning hour and undisposed of when the call
ceases for the day remains as unfinished business in the morning hour
(IV, 3113, 3120), i.e., it is considered when the House next goes to a
call of committees. Business unfinished when the Committee of the Whole
rises remains unfinished, to be considered first in order when the House
next goes into Committee of the Whole to consider that business (IV,
unless called up (IV, 3307; VII, 879). Unless postponed under clause 8
of rule XX, a motion to suspend the rules that is undisposed of on one
suspension day goes over as unfinished business to the next suspension
day, individual motions going over to a committee day, and vice versa
(V, 6814-6816; VII, 1005; VIII, 3411, 3412).
On District of Columbia day business unfinished on the preceding
District day is in order for consideration, but does not come before the
Sec. 879. Business unfinished in periods set apart
for classes of business.
The rule excepts by its terms certain classes of
business that are considered in periods set apart for classes of
business, viz: l (a) Bills considered in the morning hour and on
Calendar Wednesday for the call of committees. l (b) Bills in Committee
of the Whole.
The morning hour is one of the oldest devices of the rules for
devoting an early portion of the session to a specific class of
business. Until 1885 it was the hour for the reception of reports from
committees. In 1890 it was provided that reports should be filed with
the Clerk, and the morning hour was by this rule devoted to a call of
committees for the consideration of House Calendar bills (IV, 3181).
Since the adoption of the Calendar Wednesday rule (clause 6 of rule XV),
the morning hour has been used but rarely. Before the House recodified
its rules in the 106th Congress, this provision was found in former
clause 4 of rule XXIV (H. Res. 5, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 47).
for which the call was interrupted is concluded, the call is resumed
unless there be other interrupting business or the House adjourns (IV,
3133). A bill once brought up on the call continues before the House in
that order of business until disposed of (IV, 3120), unless withdrawn by
authority of the committee before action that puts it in possession of
the House (IV, 3129); and may not be made a special order for a future
day by a motion to postpone to a day certain (IV, 3164). In order to be
called up in this order a bill must properly be on the House Calendar
(IV, 3122-3126), and a bill on the Union Calendar may not be brought up
on call of committees under this clause (VI, 753). If the authority of
the committee to call up a bill is disputed, the Chair does not consider
it a duty to decide the question (IV, 3127) but may base the decision on
statements from the chair and other members of the committee (IV, 3128).
Sec. 880. The morning hour for the call of
4. After the unfinished business has been disposed of, the Speaker
shall call each standing committee in regular order and then select
committees. Each committee when named may call up for consideration a
bill or resolution reported by it on a previous day and on the House
Calendar. If the Speaker does not complete the call of the committees
before the House passes to other business, the next call shall resume at
the point it left off, giving preference to the last bill or resolution
under consideration. A committee that has occupied the call for two days
may not call up another bill or resolution until the other committees
have been called in their turn.
Sec. 881. Procedure in the morning
Originally the morning hour was a fixed period of 60 minutes (IV, 3118); but
under the present rule it does not terminate until the call is exhausted
or until the House adjourns (IV, 3119), unless the House on motion made
at the end of 60 minutes votes to go into Committee of the Whole House
on the state of the Union (clause 5 of rule XIV; IV, 3134), or unless
other privileged matter intervenes (IV, 3131, 3132). Before the
expiration of the 60 minutes the Speaker has declined to permit the call
to be interrupted by a privileged report (IV, 3132) or by unanimous
consent (IV, 3130). Where the business
This portion of the rule was adopted in 1890 as part of the plan for
enabling the House at will to go at any time to any public bill on its
calendars (IV, 3134). Before the House recodified its rules in the 106th
Congress, this provision was found in former clause 5 of rule XXIV (H.
Res. 5, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 47).
acted on by the House, other motions to go into Committee to consider
other bills are in order (IV, 3136). The motion to go into Committee
generally may be made by the individual Member (IV, 3138), but when it
is proposed to designate a particular bill the Member must have the
authority of a committee (IV, 3138). The amendment to the motion to
consider a particular bill must refer to a bill on the Union Calendar
(IV, 3139). This order of business is used entirely for nonprivileged
bills and is not used in the House for consideration of bills in
Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union if otherwise
privileged under clause 5 of rule XIII.
6. <> All questions relating to the priority of business
shall be decided by a majority without debate.
Sec. 882. Interruption of the call of committees by
motion to go into Committee of the Whole House on the state of the
5. After consideration of bills or resolutions under clause 4 for one
hour, it shall be in order, pending consideration thereof, to entertain
a motion that the House resolve into the Committee of the Whole House on
the state of the Union or, when authorized by a committee, that the
House resolve into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the
Union to consider a particular bill. Such a motion shall be subject to
only one amendment designating another bill. If such a motion is decided
in the negative, another such motion may not be considered until the
matter that was pending when such motion was offered is disposed of.
This provision was adopted in 1803 to prevent obstructive debate (IV,
3061). Before the House recodified its rules in the 106th Congress, this
provision was found in former rule XXV (H. Res. 5, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 47).
The question of consideration under clause 3 of rule XVI and the motion
that the House resolve itself into the Committee of the Whole are not
debatable (VIII, 2447; IV, 3062, 3063).
This rule may not be invoked to establish an order of business or to
inhibit the Speaker's power of recognition (Speaker Albert, July 31,
1975, p. 26249). It has been held that appeals from decisions of the
Chair as to priority of business are not debatable under this rule (V,
Sec. 883. Conditions of the motion to go into
Committee of the Whole at the end of one hour.
The phrase ``one hour'' has been
interpreted to include a shorter time in the case that the call of
committees shall have exhausted itself before the expiration of one hour
(IV, 3135); but not otherwise (IV, 3141). After the House has been in
Committee of the Whole under this order and has risen and reported, and
the report has been