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Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Amending Process in the House of Representatives

Christopher M. Davis
Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process

Most amendments that Representatives propose to legislation on the House floor are offered in Committee of the Whole. Measures considered under suspension of the rules are not subject to floor amendments, and few amendments are proposed to bills and resolutions considered in the House, or in the House as in Committee of the Whole.

The House’s procedures recognize distinctions between first and second-degree amendments, between perfecting and substitute amendments, and among amendments in the forms of motions to strike, to insert, and to strike out and insert. An amendment in the nature of a substitute proposes to replace the entire text of a bill or resolution. All amendments must be germane to the text they would amend, and they are subject to other general prohibitions such as that against proposing only to re-amend language that already has been fully amended. Additional restrictions apply to appropriations and tax amendments, and the budget process creates various other points of order that Members may make against certain amendments. In general, a Member must make a point of order against an amendment before debate on it begins, unless that point of order is waived by a special rule.

Under an open amendment process in Committee of the Whole, measures usually are considered for amendment one section or paragraph at a time. Members must offer their amendments to the appropriate part of a bill when it has been read or designated. Each amendment is debated under the five-minute rule, providing five minutes for the Member offering the amendment and five minutes for a Members in opposition. After this first 10 minutes of debate, Members may obtain additional time for debate by offering pro forma amendments in the form of motions to strike the last word or the requisite number of words. Unless barred by the terms of a special rule reported by the House Committee on Rules, each amendment in Committee of the Whole may be amended by a perfecting amendment or a substitute amendment or both. A substitute for an amendment also is amendable. After the Committee of the Whole disposes of the last amendment to be offered to the bill, it rises and the House then votes again on all the amendments the Committee has approved. A recommittal motion usually offers a final opportunity to amend a bill or joint resolution before the House votes on passing it.

Date of Report: November 2, 2012
Number of Pages: 47
Order Number: 98-995
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