[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 Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]
sec. xxvi--bills, commitment
This paragraph is to a large extent obsolete. Bills are referred in
the first instance by the Speaker to standing committees as prescribed
by the rules (rule XII), and references of reported bills to the proper
calendar of the House are also made under direction of the Speaker
(clause 2 of rule XIII). Reference of a matter under consideration is
made by a motion to refer that specifies the committee and may provide
for a select committee of a specified number of persons (IV, 4402). But
such committee is appointed only by the Speaker (clause 11 of rule I).
Clause 2 of rule XIX provides that the Speaker may entertain a motion
to commit to a standing or select committee with or without instructions
pending or following the ordering of the previous question.
Sec. 401. Parliamentary law (largely obsolete) as to
reference of bills to committees.
If on motion and question it be decided
that the bill shall be committed, it may then be moved to be referred to
Committee of the Whole House, or to a special committee. If the latter,
the Speaker proceeds to name the committee. Any member also may name a
single person, and Clerk is to write him down as of the committee. But
the House have a controlling power over the names and number, if a
question be moved against any one; and may in any case put in and put
out whom they please.
This provision is inapplicable in the House because committees have
majority and minority representation (IV, 4467, 4477, footnote).
Sec. 402. Obsolete provisions as to constitution of
Those who take exceptions to some particulars in the bill
are to be of the committee, but none who speak directly against the body
of the bill; for he that would totally destroy will not amend it,
Hakew., 146; Town., col., 208; D'Ewes, 634, col. 2; Scob., 47; or as is
said, 5 Grey, 145, the child is not to be put to a nurse that cares not
for it, 6 Grey, 373. It is therefore a constant rule ``that no man is to
be employed in any matter who has declared himself against it.'' And
when any member who is against the bill hears himself named of its
committee he ought to ask to be excused. Thus, March 7, 1806, Mr. Hadley
was, on the question being put, excused from being of a committee,
declaring himself to be against the matter itself. Scob., 46.
Following introduction, reference, and numbering, bills are sent to
the Government Printing Office for printing. Printed copies of all bills
are distributed in accordance with law (44 U.S.C. 706) and copies are
made available to the committee to which referred.
Sec. 403. Delivery of bills to committees.
The Clerk may
deliver the bill to any member of the committee, Town, col. 138; but it
is usual to deliver it to him who is first named.
This procedure is rarely followed in the House, because the order of
business does not provide for such a motion.
Sec. 404. Obsolete provision for ordering a committee to
withdraw and bring back a bill.
In some cases the House has ordered a
committee to withdraw immediately into the committee chamber and act on
and bring back the bill, sitting the House. Scob., 48. * * *
Sec. 405. Commital with directions to report
When a bill is under consideration, however, the House may
on motion commit it with instructions to report forthwith with certain
specified amendment (V, 5548, 5549), in which case the chair of the
committee reports at once without awaiting action of the committee (V,
5545-5547; VIII, 2730, 2732) and the bill is in order for immediate
consideration (V, 5550; VIII, 2735).
Sec. 406. Discharge of a committee.
The motion to discharge
a committee from the consideration of an ordinary legislative
proposition is not privileged under the rules (IV, 3533, 4693; VIII,
2316), but if a matter involves a question of privilege (III, 2585,
2709; VIII, 2316), or is privileged under the rule relating to
resolutions of inquiry (clause 7 of rule XIII; III, 1871; IV, 4695) or
is provided privilege under statutes enacted under the rulemaking power
of the House (see Sec. 1130, infra), the motion to discharge is
admitted. The motion is not debatable (III, 1868; IV, 4695), except as
follows: (1) under statutory procedures; (2) under clause 2 of rule XV;
and (3) under modern practice of the House, a motion to discharge a
vetoed bill (Mar. 7, 1990, p. 3620; Sept. 19, 1996, p. 23815). The
motion may be laid on the table (V, 5407; VI, 415), but the question of
consideration may not be demanded against it (V, 4977).
For discussion of committee procedure generally, see Sec. 792, infra.
In the House the standing committees usually meet in their committee
rooms, but there is no rule requiring them to meet there, and in the
absence of direction by the House, committees designate the time and
place of their meetings (VIII, 2214).
the consent of the chair, call a meeting of the
committee on the same day (VIII, 2213). For restrictions on committee
action during a joint meeting or joint session, see clause 2(i) of rule
Standing committees fix regular weekly, biweekly, or monthly meeting
days for the transaction of business (not less frequently than monthly,
under clause 2(b) of rule XI), and additional meetings may be called by
the chair as deemed necessary or by a majority of the committee in
certain circumstances (clause 2(c) of rule XI). If a committee has a
fixed date of meeting, a quorum of the committee may convene on such
date without call of the chair and transact business regardless of the
absence of the chair (VIII, 2214). A committee meeting being adjourned
for lack of a quorum, a majority of the members of the committee may
Sec. 407. Meetings and action of committees.
* * * A
committee meet when and where they please, if the House has not ordered
time and place for them, 6 Grey, 370; but they can only act when
together, and not by separate consultation and consent--nothing being
the report of the committee but what has been agreed to in committee
No measure or recommendation shall be reported from any committee
unless a majority of the committee were actually present (clause 2(h) of
rule XI). A report is sometimes authorized by less than a majority of
the whole committee, some members being silent or absent (II, 985, 986).
In a rare instance a majority of a committee agreed to a report, but
disagreed on the facts necessary to sustain the report (I, 819). In the
situation in which a committee finds itself unable to agree to a
positive recommendation, being equally divided, it may report the fact
to the House (I, 347; IV, 4665, 4666) and may include evidence, majority
and minority views (III, 2403), minority views alone (II, 945), or
propositions representing the opposing contentions (III, 2497; IV,
For each record vote in committee on amending or reporting a public
measure or matter, the report to the House must disclose the total
number of votes cast for and against and the names of those voting for
and against (clause 3 of rule XIII). A resolution alleging that a
committee report on a bill contained descriptions of recorded votes on
certain amendments as prescribed by clause 3(b) of rule XIII that
deliberately mischaracterized the amendments, and directing the chair of
the committee to file a supplemental report to change those
descriptions, qualified as a question of the privileges of the House
(May 3, 2005, p. 8417).
It is the duty of the chair of each committee to report or cause to be
reported promptly any measure approved by the committee and to take or
cause to be taken necessary steps to bring the matter to a vote (clause
2 of rule XIII); and a report must be filed within seven days following
the submission of a written request, signed by a majority of the
committee members, directing such filing (clause 2 of rule XIII).
It is not essential that the report of a committee be signed (II,
1274; VIII, 2229), but the minority or other separate views are signed
by those concurring in them (IV, 4671; VIII, 2229).
3117); but the validity of a report may not be
questioned after the House has voted to consider it (IV, 4598), or after
actual consideration has begun (IV, 4599; VIII, 2223, 2225).
Objection being made that a report had not been authorized by a
committee and there being doubt as to the validity of the authorization,
the question as to the reception of the report is submitted to the House
(IV, 4588-4591). But the Speaker may decide the question if satisfied of
the validity or of the invalidity of the authorization (IV, 4584, 4592,
4593; VIII, 2211, 2212, 2222-2224). And in a case wherein it was shown
that a majority of a committee had met and authorized a report the
Speaker did not heed the fact that the meeting was not regularly called
(IV, 4594). A bill improperly reported is not entitled to its place on
the calendar (IV,
majority of the committee constitutes a quorum for business. Elsynge's
Method of Passing Bills, 11.
Where a question was raised regarding a chair's alteration of a
committee amendment, the Speaker indicated that the proper time to raise
a point of order was when the unprivileged report was called up for
consideration (or when before the Committee on Rules for a special order
of business) and not when filed in the hopper (May 16, 1989, p. 9356). A
resolution including an allegation that the chair deliberately and
improperly refused to recognize a legitimate and timely objection by a
member of the committee to dispense with the reading of an amendment and
resolving that the House disapproves of the manner in which the chair
conducted the markup and finding that the bill considered at that markup
was not validly ordered reported was held to constitute a question of
the privileges of the House (July 18, 2003, pp. 18698; July 23, 2003, p.
A majority quorum is required in certain circumstances, such as
reporting a measure or recommendation (clause 2(h) of rule XI);
authorizing a subpoena (clause 2(m) of rule XI); closing a meeting or
hearing under clauses 2(a) and 2(g) of rule XI (except as provided under
clause 2(g)(2)(A) with respect to certain hearing procedures);
requesting immunity for a witness (18 U.S.C. 6005); releasing executive-
session material (clause 2(k)(7) of rule XI); and proceeding in open
session after an assertion under clause 2(k)(5) of rule XI. Each
committee may fix the number of its members, but not less than two, to
constitute a quorum for taking testimony and receiving evidence; and
except for the Committees on Appropriations, the Budget, and Ways and
Means, a committee may fix the number of members to constitute a quorum,
which shall be not less than one-third of its members, for taking
certain other actions (clause 2(h) of rule XI).
A quorum of a committee may transact business and a majority of the
quorum, even though it be a minority of the whole committee, may
authorize a report (IV, 4586), but an actual quorum of a committee must
be present to make action taken valid (VIII, 2212, 2222), unless the
House authorizes less than a quorum to act (IV, 4553, 4554). A quorum of
a committee must be present when alleged perjurious testimony is given
in order to support a charge of perjury. Christoffel v. United States,
338 U.S. 84 (1949). The absence of a quorum of a committee at the time a
witness willfully fails to produce subpoenaed documents is not a valid
defense in a prosecution for contempt if the witness failed to raise
that objection before the committee. United States v. Bryan, 339 U.S.
323 (1950); United States v. Fleischman, 339 U.S. 349 (1950).
Sec. 408. Authorization of reports of committees.
has adhered to the principle that a report must be authorized by a
committee acting together, and a paper signed by a majority of the
committee acting separately has been ruled out (IV, 4584; VIII, 2210-
2212, 2220; see also clause 2(h) of rule XI).
In the 95th Congress, clause 2(g)(2) of rule XI was amended to
prohibit the exclusion of noncommittee members from nonparticipatory
attendance in any closed hearing, except in the Committee on Ethics,
unless the House by majority vote authorizes a committee or subcommittee
to close its hearings to noncommittee members (H. Res. 5, 95th Cong.,
Jan. 4, 1977, pp. 53-70). Formerly, a committee could close its doors in
executive session meetings to persons not invited or required, including
Members of the House who were not members of the committee (III, 1694;
IV, 4558-4565; see discussion at IV, 4540).
Sec. 410. Presence of a Member of the House in a select
Any Member of the House may be present at any select
committee, but cannot vote, and must give place to all of the committee,
and sit below them. Elsynge, 12; Scob., 49.
In the House committees may recommend amendments to the body of a bill
or to the title but may not otherwise change the text.
or other paper originating with them, they proceed
by paragraphs, putting questions for amending, either by insertion or
striking out, if proposed; but no question on agreeing to the paragraphs
separately; this is reserved to the close, when a question is put on the
whole, for agreeing to it as amended or unamended. But if it be a paper
referred to them, they proceed to put questions of amendment, if
proposed, but no final question on the whole; because all parts of the
paper, having been adopted by the House, stand, of course, unless
altered or struck out by a vote. Even if they are opposed to the whole
paper, and think it cannot be made good by amendments, they cannot
reject it, but must report it back to the House without amendments, and
there make their opposition.
Sec. 411. Power of committees over the body and title of a
The committee have full power over the bill or other paper committed
to them, except that they cannot change the title or subject. 8 Grey,
In the House it has generally been held that a select or standing
committee may not report a bill unless the subject matter has been
referred to it (IV, 4355-4360), except that under the modern practice
reports filed from the floor as privileged pursuant to clause 5 of rule
XIII have been permitted on bills and resolutions originating in certain
committees and not formally referred thereto. Pursuant to this paragraph
some committees have originated drafts of bills for consideration and
amendment before the introduction and referral of a numbered bill to
committee(s). In the older practice the Committee of the Whole
originated resolutions and bills (IV, 4705); but the later development
of the rules governing the order of business would prevent the offering
of a motion to go into Committee of the Whole for such a purpose, except
by unanimous consent.
Hats., 90. In numerous assemblies this restraint is doubtless
important. But in the Senate of the United States, though in the main we
consider and amend the paragraphs in their natural order, yet
recurrences are indulged; and they seem, on the whole, in that small
body, to produce advantages overweighing their inconveniences.
Sec. 412. Parliamentary law governing consideration of
bills, etc., in committees.
The paper before a committee, whether select
or of the whole, may be a bill, resolutions, draught of an address, &c.,
and it may either originate with them or be referred to them. In every
case the whole paper is read first by the Clerk, and then by the
chairman, by paragraphs, Scob., 49, pausing at the end of each
paragraph, and putting questions for amending, if proposed. In the case
of resolutions or distinct subjects, originating with themselves, a
question is put on each separately, as amended or unamended, and no
final question on the whole, 3 Hats., 276; but if they relate to the
same subject, a question is put on the whole. If it be a bill, draught
of an address,
In the House, amendments to House bills are made before the previous
question is ordered, pending the engrossment and third reading (IV,
3392; V, 5781; VII, 1051), and to Senate bills before the third reading
(IV, 3393). Amendments may be offered to any part of the bill without
proceeding consecutively section by section or paragraph by paragraph
(IV, 3392). In Committee of the Whole, bills are read section by section
or paragraph by paragraph and after a section or paragraph has been
passed it is no longer subject to amendment (clause 5 of rule XVIII;
Sec. 980, infra; July 12, 1961, p. 12405).
Sec. 413. Order of amending bills in the House.
order in considering and amending any paper is, to begin at the
beginning, and proceed through it by paragraphs; and this order is so
strictly adhered to in Parliament, that when a latter part has been
amended, you cannot recur back and make an alteration in a former part.
mated that he should afterwards
propose a correspondent amendment in the body of the resolution. It was
objected that a preamble could not be taken up till the body of the
resolution is done with; but the preamble was received, because we are
in fact through the body of the resolution; we have amended that as far
as amendments have been offered, and, indeed, till little of the
original is left. It is the proper time, therefore, to consider a
preamble; and whether the one offered be consistent with the resolution
is for the House to determine. The mover, indeed, has intimated that he
shall offer a subsequent proposition for the body of the resolution; but
the House is not in possession of it; it remains in his breast, and may
be withheld. The Rules of the House can only operate on what is before
them. The practice of the Senate, too, allows recurrences backward and
forward for the purpose of amendment, not permitting amendments in a
subsequent to preclude those in a prior part, or e converso.
On this head the following case occurred in the Senate, March 6, 1800:
A resolution which had no preamble having been already amended by the
House so that a few words only of the original remained in it, a motion
was made to prefix a preamble, which having an aspect very different
from the resolution, the mover inti
1970, pp. 18668-71). The House
considers an amendment reported from the Committee of the Whole to the
preamble of a Senate joint resolution following disposition of amendment
to the text and pending third reading (May 25, 1993, p. 11036).
In the practice of the House the preamble of a joint resolution is
amended after the engrossment and before the third reading (IV, 3414; V,
5469, 5470; VII, 1064), but the preamble of the joint resolution is not
voted on separately in the later practice even if amended, because the
question on passage covers the preamble as well as the resolving clause
(V, 6147, 6148; Oct. 29, 1975, p. 34283). After an amendment to the
preamble has been considered it is too late to propose amendments to the
text of the bill (VII, 1065). In Committee of the Whole, amendments to
the preamble of a joint resolution are considered following disposition
of any amendments to the resolving clause (Mar. 9, 1967, pp. 6032-34;
Mar. 22, 1967, pp. 7679-83; May 25, 1993, p. 11036). Where a simple
resolution of the House has a preamble, the preamble may be laid on the
table without affecting the status of the accompanying resolution (V,
5430). Amendments to the preamble of a concurrent or simple resolution
are considered in the House following the adoption of the resolution
(Dec. 4, 1973, p. 39337; June 8,
Sec. 414. Preamble amended after the body of the bill or
resolution has been considered.
To this natural order of beginning at the
beginning there is a single exception found in parliamentary usage. When
a bill is taken up in committee, or on its second reading, they postpone
the preamble till the other parts of the bill are gone through. The
reason is, that on consideration of the body of the bill such
alterations may therein be made as may also occasion the alteration of
the preamble. Scob., 50; 7 Grey, 431.
Clause 2 of rule XIII provides that it shall be the duty of the chair
of each committee to report or cause to be reported promptly any measure
approved by the committee and to take or cause to be taken necessary
steps to bring the matter to a vote; and in any event, the report of a
committee must be filed within seven calendar days (exclusive of days
when the House is not in session) after a majority of the committee has
invoked the procedures of clause 2 of rule XIII. In the House a
committee may order its report to be made by the chair (IV, 4669), or by
any other member of the committee (IV, 4526), even one from the minority
party (IV, 4672, 4673; VIII, 2314). A committee report may be filed by a
Delegate (July 1, 1958, p. 12870). Only the chair makes a report for the
Committee of the Whole (V, 6987).
Sec. 415. Directions of a committee for making of its
When the committee is through the whole, a Member moves that the
committee may rise, and the chairman report the paper to the House, with
or without amendments, as the case may be. 2 Hats., 289, 292; Scob., 53;
2 Hats., 290; 8 Scob., 50.
same class of business (VIII, 2213), but a session
adjourned without having secured a quorum is a dies non and not to be
counted in determining the admissibility of a motion to reconsider
(VIII, 2213). This provision does not prevent a committee from reporting
a bill similar to one previously reported by such committee (VIII,
This provision of the parliamentary law has been held to prevent the
use of the motion to reconsider in Committee of the Whole (IV, 4716-
4718; VIII, 2324, 2325) but it is in order in the House as in the
Committee of the Whole (VIII, 2793). The early practice seems to have
inclined against the use of the motion in a standing or select committee
(IV, 4570, 4596), but there is a precedent that authorized the use of
the motion (IV, 4570, 4596), and on June 1, 1922, the Committee on Rules
rescinded previous action taken by the committee authorizing a report.
In the later practice the motion to reconsider is in order in committee
so long as the measure remains in possession of the committee and the
motion is not prevented by subsequent actions of the committee on the
measure, and may be entered on the same day as action to be reconsidered
or on the next day on which the committee convenes with a quorum present
to consider the
Sec. 416. As to reconsideration of a vote in
When a vote is once passed in a committee it cannot be altered
but by the House, their votes being binding on themselves. 1607, June 4.
This practice is still in force as to Senate bills of which the
engrossed copies cannot be in any way interlined or altered by House
committees. Original copies of House bills are not referred to
committees but are maintained indefinitely by the Clerk. Both House and
Senate bills are now printed as referred, and committees may thus report
either with proposed amendments. In the official papers (signed
engrossed copies), the engrossed House amendments to a Senate bill would
still be shown as a separate message attached to the Senate engrossed
bill when returned to the Senate.
Sec. 417. Method of noting amendments to a bill in
The committee may not erase, interline, or blot the bill
itself; but must, in a paper by itself set down the amendments, stating
the words which are to be inserted or omitted, Scob., 50, and where, by
references to page, line, and word of the bill. Scob., 50.