[Constitution, Jefferson's Manual, and the Rules of the House of Representatives, 114th Congress]
[114th Congress]
[House Document 113-181]
[Jeffersons Manual of ParliamentaryPractice]
[Pages 260-264]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]


                      sec. xl--bills, third reading

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. Hakew., 153.
[[Page 261]] The usage of the Senate is not to put bills on their passage till noon. 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. 493. Obsolete parliamentary law as to third reading. 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.
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. [[Page 262]] These restrictions are not in effect in the modern practice of the House and therefore a bill may be read a third time and passed on the same day. Clause 8 of rule XVI provides for the third reading by title and not by the presentation of an abbreviated summary.
Sec. 494. Committal of a bill on third reading. 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.
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. 495. Obsolete parliamentary practice as to riders. 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.
This practice is never followed in the House.
Sec. 496. Obsolete requirements as to reading of amendments. 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.
[[Page 263]] 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 different readings.
Sec. 497. Amendments before the third reading. 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.
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. 498. Debate in relation to the third reading. 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., 153.
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. [[Page 264]] 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. 499. Putting the question on the passage of a bill. 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.'' Hakew., 154.
<> 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 custody 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).