[Deschler's Precedents, Volume 5]
[Chapter 18. Discharging Matters From Committees]
[§ 1. In General; Motion to Discharge]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]


[Page 3207-3215]
 
                               CHAPTER 18
 
                  Discharging Matters From Committees
 
Sec. 1. In General; Motion to Discharge


    The House, by rule, has made provisions for discharging matters 
from committees. Under Rule XXVII clause 4,(1) a Member may 
file with the Clerk a motion to discharge a committee from the 
consideration of a public bill or resolution referred to it 30 
legislative days prior thereto. The rule may also be invoked to 
discharge a resolution pending in the Committee on Rules for more than 
seven legislative days providing for consideration of a measure 
favorably reported by a standing committee or pending before such 
committee for 30 legislative days.(2)
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 1. House Rules and Manual Sec. 908 (1979).
 2. See Sec. Sec. 2.4, 2.5, infra.
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    The primary purpose of the discharge petition is to extract from a 
committee, for House action, legislation opposed by a majority of the 
committee members or where a committee fails to act.
    The motion must be in writing and signed by a majority of the 
Members, and this has been interpreted to mean that the motion requires 
the signatures of 218 Members of the House.(3) Delegates may 
not sign a discharge petition. The signatures on the motion may not be 
made public until the requisite number of Members have signed 
it.(4) The death or resignation of a signatory of the motion 
does not invalidate his signature,(5) but for a Member 
elected in a special election to fill a vacancy to sign a petition, the 
signature of his predecessor must be removed.(6)
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 3. See Sec. Sec. 1.2, 1.3, infra. The requirement of ``a majority of 
        Members'' was placed in the discharge rule in the 69th 
        Congress. Prior to that time, fewer signatures had been 
        required on a discharge petition. For the history of the rule, 
        see 7 Cannon's Precedents Sec. 1007.
 4. See Sec. 1.7, infra.
 5. See Sec. l.5, infra.
 6. See Sec. 1.4, infra.
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    When the requisite number of signatures are obtained, the motion is 
entered on the Journal, printed with the signatures thereto in the 
Congressional Record, and referred to the Calendar of Motions to 
Discharge Committees.(7) A reported bill is no longer 
susceptible to the motion, though reported in the interval between 
completed signing of the petition and the calling up of the 
motion.(8)
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 7. See Sec. 1.9, infra.
 8. See Sec. 1.13, infra.
            A motion to discharge a committee from further 
        consideration of a bill or resolution operates, when agreed to, 
        upon the bill or resolution as originally referred to the 
        committee rather than as it may have been amended in the 
        committee before the committee acted upon it adversely. 75 
        Cong. Rec. 4705, 72d Cong. 1st Sess., Feb. 25, 1932.

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[[Page 3208]]

    See Chapter 21 (Order of Business; Special Orders), Sec. 16, for 
discussion on discharge by the Committee on 
Rules.
                          -------------------

Announcement of Filing of Motion

Sec. 1.1 A Member sometimes announces to the House the filing, pursuant 
    to Rule XXVII clause 4, of a motion to discharge a committee.

    On June 17, 1952,(9) Mr. Paul W. Shafer, of Michigan, 
announced to the House his filing with the Clerk of a motion to 
discharge the Committee on the Judiciary from further consideration of 
a resolution proposing the impeachment of the President.
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 9. 98 Cong. Rec. 7424, 82d Cong. 2d Sess.
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Signatures on Motion

Sec. 1.2 A motion to discharge a committee from the further 
    consideration of a bill was held to require the signatures of 218 
    Members of the House.

    On Apr. 15, 1936,(10) the Speaker (11) 
responded to a parliamentary inquiry of Mr. Gerald J. Boileau, of 
Wisconsin, relative to the number of signatures necessary to effectuate 
a petition under the discharge rule of the House:
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10. 80 Cong. Rec. 5509, 5510, 74th Cong. 2d Sess.
11. Joseph W. Byrns (Tenn.).
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        . . . [T]he Chair is constrained to hold that under the 
    ``discharge rule'' of the House, requiring ``a majority of the 
    total membership of the House'', the exact number of 218 Members 
    was intended, and is necessary before a discharge petition is 
    effective, and no less number will suffice, irrespective of 
    temporary vacancies due to death, resignation, or other causes.

Sec. 1.3 The motion to discharge a pay raise bill was signed by the 
    required number of Members.

    On June 3, 1960,(12) the following proceedings occurred:
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12. 106 Cong. Rec. 11837, 86th Cong. 2d Sess.
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        Mr. [John W.] McCormack [of Massachusetts]: Mr. Speaker, a 
    parliamentary inquiry.

        The Speaker Pro Tempore: (13) The gentleman will 
    state it.
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13. Francis E. Walter (Pa.).
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        Mr. McCormack: My inquiry is whether or not the discharge 
    petition

[[Page 3209]]

    on the pay raise bill has received the required number of 
    signatures, to wit, 219.
        The Speaker Pro Tempore: According to the Journal clerk the 219 
    signatures have been obtained.

    Parliamentarian's Note: In the 86th Congress, the total membership 
of the House was 436 due to the election for the first time of a 
Representative from the newly admitted State of Alaska.

Sec. 1.4 The death of a Member who had signed a discharge petition does 
    not invalidate the signature, and such signature stands as the 
    legislative act of such deceased Member unless withdrawn by his 
    successor.

    On May 31, 1934,(14) Mr. Donald H. McLean, of New 
Jersey, attempted to sign a discharge petition when he was informed 
that, since a requisite number of Members (145) had already signed, 
additional signatures could not be affixed. Since one of the signatures 
on the petition was of a Member recently deceased (Mr. George F. Brumm, 
of Pennsylvania), Mr. McLean asked Speaker Henry T. Rainey, of 
Illinois, if the signature of the deceased was valid. The following 
colloquy then took place:
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14. 78 Cong. Rec. 10159, 73d Cong. 2d Sess. In the 72d and 73d 
        Congresses, only 145 signatures were required. See 7 Cannon's 
        Precedents Sec. 1007.
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        Mr. McLean: I understand that one of the signers was that of 
    the late Representative Brumm, of Pennsylvania, who died a few days 
    ago. There is a question as to the effectiveness of his signature, 
    and the question of the effectiveness of his signature is proper 
    for consideration at this time.
        The Speaker: Under the rule no signature can be withdrawn 
    except by the Member himself.
        Mr. McLean: Does the Chair rule that the signature of Mr. Brumm 
    must stand?
        The Speaker: The signature can only be removed by the Member, 
    by Mr. Brumm himself, as a Representative of the Thirteenth 
    District of Pennsylvania. When his successor is elected, in all 
    probability his successor would have that right.
        Mr. McLean: Then, Mr. Speaker, I understand that without my 
    signature the petition is effective?
        The Speaker: The gentleman is correct, 145 names being now 
    properly on it.

Sec. 1.5 Where a motion to discharge a committee had been signed by a 
    former Member, his successor, desiring to sign his own name, by 
    unanimous consent had his predecessor's name removed.

    On Jan. 16, 1950,(15) the following colloquy occurred:
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15. 96 Cong. Rec. 436, 81st Cong. 2d Sess. For further examples, see: 
        94 Cong. Rec. 1993, 2001, 80th Cong. 2d Sess., Mar. 3, 1948; 92 
        Cong. Rec. 10464-91, 79th Cong. 2d Sess., July 30, 1946; and 92 
        Cong. Rec. 1968, 79th Cong. 2d Sess., Mar. 5, 1946.
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[[Page 3210]]

        Mr. [John F.] Shelley [of California]: Mr. Speaker, my 
    predecessor, the Honorable Richard J. Welch, signed Discharge 
    Petition No. 15. I desire to have my name entered on this petition. 
    I ask unanimous consent that his name be taken off the petition so 
    that I may sign it.
        The Speaker: (16) Is there objection to the request 
    of the gentleman from California?
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16. Sam Rayburn (Tex.).
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        There was no objection.

    Parliamentarian's Note: Under the current practice, a Member 
elected to fill a vacancy may remove the name of his predecessor in 
order to affix his own name.

Sec. 1.6 Where the name of a Member has been inadvertently removed from 
    a discharge petition as printed in the Record, it may again be 
    placed thereon by unanimous consent.

    On Apr. 18, 1946,(17) Mr. Lyndon B. Johnson, of Texas, 
propounded a unanimous-consent request:
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17. Cong. Rec. (daily ed.), 79th Cong. 2d Sess.
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        Mr. Speaker, in the Record of yesterday, April 17, the Members 
    who signed discharge petition No. 20 have their names printed. I 
    signed the petition, and my name appeared as the one hundred and 
    ninetieth signature. The Journal clerk has informed me that through 
    some error at the desk my name was eliminated. I ask unanimous 
    consent that my name be restored to the petition and be printed in 
    the permanent Record.

    There was no objection to the request.

Examination of Petition

Sec. 1.7 While a Member has the right to examine a discharge petition, 
    he does not have the right to read to the House the names signed on 
    such petition.

    On Mar. 15, 1946,(18) a point of order was raised 
against the request of Mr. John E. Rankin, of Mississippi, that the 
Clerk provide him with a discharge petition on the Clerk's desk:
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18. 92 Cong. Rec. 2329, 79th Cong. 2d Sess.
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        Mr. [John J.] Cochran [of Missouri]: Mr. Speaker, a point of 
    order.

        The Speaker: (19) The gentleman will state it.
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19. Sam Rayburn (Tex.).
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        Mr. Cochran: As I understand the rules of the House, it is not 
    permissible to give out anything contained in a petition on the 
    Clerk's desk until the petition has the required number of signers. 
    Then it automatically is printed in

[[Page 3211]]

    the Record with the signatures thereon.
        The Speaker: It is certainly a violation of the rules to do 
    that.
        Mr. Rankin: I have not given out anything. Do not get excited. 
    I merely asked for the petition. I have a right to look at it, as a 
    Member of the House.
        The Speaker: The gentleman has the right to look at it but he 
    does not have the right to read any of the names on the petition.

    Parliamentarian's Note: Only Members may examine the petition in 
the custody of the Journal clerk, while the House is in session, and 
they may not reveal the names of Members who have signed or not signed.

Withdrawal of Petition

Sec. 1.8 By unanimous consent, a discharge petition filed with the 
    Clerk has been withdrawn.

    On Mar. 28, 1939,(20) Mr. Hamilton Fish, Jr., of New 
York, asked for unanimous consent to withdraw a motion to discharge the 
Committee on Rules filed with the Clerk on a previous day. There was no 
objection to the request.
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20. 84 Cong. Rec. 3461, 76th Cong. 1st. Sess.
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Placing Motions on Calendar

Sec. 1.9 Motions to discharge committees are placed on the calendar 
    when they receive the requisite number of signatures.

    On Apr. 30, 1936,(21) Mr. Gerald J. Boileau, of 
Wisconsin, propounded a parliamentary inquiry as follows:
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21. 80 Cong. Rec. 6464, 74th Cong. 2d Sess. For a further illustration 
        see 82 Cong. Rec. 1517, 75th Cong. 2d Sess., Dec. 14, 1937.
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        Mr. Boileau: I am advised by the Clerk that 218 Members have 
    signed the petition to discharge the Rules Committee from further 
    consideration of the resolution bringing up the Frazier-Lemke bill 
    for consideration on the floor. May I ask the Speaker whether or 
    not the petition is now completed and the matter on the calendar?
        The Speaker: (22) The motion is now on the calendar 
    under the rules of the House.
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22. Joseph W. Byrns (Tenn.).
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Effect of Inter-session Adjournment

Sec. 1.10 A discharge petition on the Clerk's desk awaiting signatures 
    carries over from session to session in the same Congress.

    On Dec. 19, 1945,(1) during House debate incident to the 
consideration of a House joint resolution (2) changing the 
date of meet
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 1. 91 Cong. Rec. 12346, 79th Cong. 1st Sess.
 2. H.J. Res. 294.
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[[Page 3212]]

ing of the second session of the current Congress, Mr. John H. Folger, 
of North Carolina, addressed an inquiry to the Chair as follows:

        Mr. Folger: I have a discharge petition on the desk, No. 10, in 
    which I am very, very much interested. I have no objection to this 
    adjournment until the 14th [of January, 1946] unless I have to go 
    back and get that signed anew. Will that carry over?
        The Speaker: (3) It will carry over.
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 3. Sam Rayburn (Tex.).
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        Mr. Folger: If it will I am all right.
        The Speaker: Everything remains on the calendar just as it is 
    now.

Bills Reported After Motion Has Been Placed on Calendar

Sec. 1.11 The motion to discharge a committee from the further 
    consideration of a bill does not apply to a bill that has been 
    reported by a committee during the interval between the placing of 
    the motion to discharge on the calendar and the day when such 
    motion is called up for action in the House.

    On Aug. 5, 1949,(4) the Committee on Post Office and 
Civil Service reported a bill (5) thus rendering ineffective 
a previously calendared motion to discharge the committee from further 
consideration of the bill.(6)
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 4. 95 Cong. Rec. 10878, 81st Cong. 1st Sess.
 5. H.R. 4495, providing additional benefits for certain postmasters, 
        officers, and employees in the postal field service.
 6. See 95 Cong. Rec. 9966, 81st Cong. 1st Sess., July 21, 1949, where 
        the motion to discharge the Committee on Post Office and Civil 
        Service received the requisite number of signatures.
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    Parliamentarian's Note: A motion to discharge the Committee on 
Rules from further consideration of a resolution (7) making 
this bill a special order of business was subsequently signed by the 
requisite number of Members.(8) This resolution was reported 
by the Committee on Rules on Sept. 27, 1949,(9) before the 
motion could be called up for action in the House.
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 7. H. Res. 319.
 8. See 95 Cong. Rec. 12103, 81st Cong. 1st Sess., Aug. 23, 1949, where 
        the motion to discharge the Committee on Rules received the 
        requisite number of signatures.
 9. 95 Cong. Rec. 13365, 81st Cong. 1st Sess.
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21-day Rule Distinguished

Sec. 1.12 The discharge rule authorizes the use of the motion against 
    the Committee on Rules in a proper case. However, the so-called 
    ``21-

[[Page 3213]]

    day'' rule, which was in effect in the 89th Congress, whereby 
    resolutions pending before the Committee on Rules could be called 
    up for consideration, on discharge calendar days, was held to be 
    unrelated to the motion to discharge under Rule XXVII.

    On Sept. 13, 1965,(10) after a House Resolution 
(11) was called up pursuant to Rule XI clause 23 (the 21-day 
rule), a point of order was raised by Mr. Durward G. Hall, of Missouri:
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10. 111 Cong. Rec. 23618, 89th Cong. 1st Sess.
11. H. Res. 478, providing for consideration of a bill, H.R. 9460, 
        establishing a national foundation on the arts.
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        Mr. Hall: Mr. Speaker, I make a point of order against the 
    consideration of this bill by the House based on clause 4 of rule 
    27, the last line in section 908, the second paragraph, says:

            Recognition for the motions shall be in the order in which 
        they have been entered on the Journal.

    Responding to the point of order, the Speaker (12) said:
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12. John W. McCormack (Mass.).
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        The Chair will state that the gentleman is talking about an 
    entirely different rule than is the situation now. . . .
        The Chair would advise the gentleman from Missouri that the 
    House is operating under Rule XI clause 23.

Validity of Committee Report as Affecting Eligibility for Discharge

Sec. 1.13 Where the House had laid on the table a resolution presented 
    as a question involving the privileges of the House challenging the 
    validity of a committee's action in reporting a bill, the Chair 
    overruled a point of order that the bill was not properly before 
    the House because it had not been read in committee prior to 
    reporting. The discharge rule does not apply to a bill that has 
    been reported by a committee during the interval between the 
    placing of a completed motion to discharge on the calendar and the 
    day when such motion is called up in the House.

    On Apr. 23, 1934,(13) the Committee on Banking and 
Currency reported a bill, H.R. 7908,(14) for
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13. 78 Cong. Rec. 7151-61, 73d Cong. 2d Sess.
14. The bill concerned payments of assets in closed banks.
            The Committee on Banking and Currency had first reported 
        this bill on Apr. 12. The motion to discharge the committee 
        received the requisite number of signatures on Apr. 13. On Apr. 
        20, by direction of the Speaker, the Committee of the Whole 
        House on the state of the Union was discharged from further 
        consideration of the bill; the Speaker held that the purported 
        report on said bill was invalid in that the Committee on 
        Banking and Currency had ordered the report made while the 
        House was in session and that therefore the bill was still with 
        the committee. The bill was again reported by the Committee on 
        Banking and Currency on Apr. 23, as indicated above.
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[[Page 3214]]

which a motion to discharge was pending on the Calendar of Motions to 
Discharge Committees. Despite the reporting of the measure by the 
Committee on Banking and Currency, Mr. Clarence J. McLeod, of Michigan, 
attempted to call up the motion to discharge the committee on H.R. 
7908. It developed in the debate that Mr. McLeod and Mr. Jesse P. 
Wolcott, of Michigan, viewed the reporting of the bill by the committee 
as void ab initio on the grounds that the committee ordered the 
reporting of the measure at a time when it sat during a session of the 
House without the permission of the House and also because the measure 
reported was not read before the committee. In fact, argued the 
proponents of the discharge motion, the bill that was reported by the 
committee was a committee substitute, the text of the bill H.R. 9175, 
which the committee had inserted after striking all after the enacting 
clause of the original bill which had been the subject of the discharge 
petition signed by the requisite number of Members.(15)
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15. At that time, only 145 signatures were required on a discharge 
        petition. Rule XXVII clause 4, House rules (1934).
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    After the Speaker (16) sustained a point of order 
against the calling up of the motion to discharge the committee, on the 
basis that ``inasmuch as the Committee on Banking and Currency has 
reported the bill, that the effect of that action nullifies the motion 
to discharge and makes it inoperative,'' (17) Mr. Carroll L. 
Beedy, of Maine, raised a point of order against the bill as reported 
by the committee because it had never been read for amendment in the 
committee and was, he argued, not regularly before the House. Mr. Beedy 
stated:
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16. Henry T. Rainey (Ill.).
17. 78 Cong. Rec. 7161, 73d Cong. 2d Sess., Apr. 23, 1934.
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        Mr. Speaker, I make the point of order that the amendment to 
    the McLeod bill, so called, was not introduced in the House until 
    the 17th of April subsequent to the time when any bill of the kind 
    was ever read for amendment in the committee. This fact is 
    undenied.
        The bill that was reported never was read for amendment in the 
    committee.

[[Page 3215]]

    It is not legally or validly upon the calendar of the House. While 
    the decision of the Chair well presents the fact, assuming that the 
    bill were legally before the House, the Chair has not touched upon 
    the question as to whether it may be in order to call up the 
    discharge rule if the bill attempted to be reported by the 
    committee concerned was not regularly before the House, not having 
    been considered according to the rules of the House.
        Mr. Speaker, I make the point of order, therefore, that the 
    bill alleged to have been reported is not legally reported, is in 
    violation of the rules of the House and of the committees of the 
    House, and has no valid standing in the House.

    In overruling the point of order, the Speaker advised that he had 
no knowledge as to what had occurred in committee, stating:

        The Speaker: The House passed on that question a few moments 
    ago in a resolution raising the question of the privileges of the 
    House, and passed upon the question adversely to the position taken 
    by the gentleman from Maine.
        The Chair has no information as to what occurred in the 
    committee. The only thing the Chair knows is that the McLeod bill, 
    bearing the number it has always borne and with the same title, and 
    with some amendments in which the Chair is not interested, has been 
    reported out, is on the calendar, and can be taken up under the 
    general rules of the House when an opportunity presents itself.
        The Chair overrules the point of order.(18)
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18. Id.
            Immediately prior to the calling up of the motion to 
        discharge, the validity of the actions taken by the Committee 
        on Banking and Currency leading up to the reporting of the bill 
        on Apr. 23 had been called to the attention of the House. Mr. 
        Beedy had submitted as a question of the privileges of the 
        House a resolution, H. Res. 349, questioning whether the House 
        should receive the report. The resolution stated certain events 
        which occurred in the committee on Apr. 21 which were not in 
        accordance with the rules of the House. Mr. John E. Rankin 
        (Miss.) had made a point of order that the resolution did not 
        present a question of the privileges of the House. Mr. Thomas 
        L. Blanton (Tex.) made the further point of order that the 
        resolution was an attempt to impeach the actions of the 
        committee. The Speaker held that the resolution did present a 
        question of privilege. The resolution was then laid on the 
        table without debate.
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    An appeal from the Speaker's ruling was laid on the 
table.(19)
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19. See H. Jour. 431, 73d Cong. 2d Sess., Apr. 23, 1934.
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    Parliamentarian's Note: The point of order in the preceding 
precedent is probably based upon Sec. 412 of Jefferson's Manual, which 
had been mentioned earlier in the debate as requiring a reading for 
amendment of a bill in committee.

[[Page 3216]]