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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Regular Appropriations Bills: Terms of Initial Consideration and Amendment in the House, FY1996-FY2013

Jessica Tollestrup
Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process

Each year, Congress considers appropriations measures that provide funding for various federal government activities. Such measures are commonly referred to as “regular” appropriations bills. In recent years, the House has typically considered a regular appropriations bill after first reaching agreement on the procedural terms of its consideration, most frequently through the adoption of a special rule, or occasionally through a unanimous consent agreement (UCA). Rarely have regular appropriations bills been considered as privileged business.

This report examines the terms under which the regular appropriations bills are typically brought up and initially considered on the House floor, as well as the practices of the House with regard to amendment opportunities and the waiver of points of order, for FY1996 to FY2013 (104
th-112th Congresses).

House Rule XIII, clause 5(a) allows a motion to be made to provide for consideration of a general appropriations measure. When a regular appropriations bill is considered as a privileged measure by this method, this procedure generally permits any amendments thereto that comply with the rules of the House to be considered. Providing for consideration by a special rule or UCA, however, allows this amending process to be altered. Such alterations can place preconditions on the offering of amendments, directly prescribe the amendments that will be in order, waive points of order against amendments, or place time limits on consideration.

For FY1996 to FY2013, the means used for consideration of most regular appropriations bills provided for some type of “open” amending process allowing an unrestricted number of amendments to be offered that comply with House rules. Such processes also often waived points of order against certain amendments, and, less frequently, required that amendments be preprinted in the Congressional Record in advance of consideration. The Legislative Branch Appropriations bill was the one most frequently considered under a “structured” amendment process. On all but one occasion, the means used for initiating consideration of Legislative Branch bills during this period specified a list of amendments that could be offered and waived points of order against those amendments. Structured processes were used for other types of bills on three occasions through the 110
th Congress, and on 13 occasions during the 111th Congress. A “closed” process allowing no amendments was used on only one occasion, for consideration of the FY2004 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. Other practices during this period have included the imposition of time caps on consideration of the bill, sections of the bill, or amendments.

The standing rules of the House place certain restrictions on when a measure is eligible for consideration and what content may be considered. The House sometimes chooses to “waive” or set aside its standing rules during the consideration of certain measures or matters through a special rule or UCA. For FY1996 to FY2013, the practice of providing broad waivers for “points of order against consideration” evolved considerably—from providing no waivers or only waivers of specific rules, to providing blanket waivers of all points of order against consideration or blanket waivers with exceptions. This change in procedural practice, however, does not necessarily reflect changes in the content of the bills. The practice of providing waivers for Rule XXI, clause 2, with exceptions for specified language in the bill, often referred to as the “Armey Protocol,” steadily increased during this period, until the FY2008 regular appropriations bills. For the FY2008 to FY2011 bills, only waivers that covered the entire measure were used. Most recently, a waiver with specified exceptions was provided on four occasions in the 112
th Congress.

Date of Report: April 23, 2013
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R42933
Price: $29.95

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