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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bypassing Senate Committees: Rule XIV and Unanimous Consent

Michael L. Koempel
Senior Specialist in American National Government

Christina Wu
Research Associate

Most bills and joint resolutions introduced in the Senate, and many House-numbered bills and joint resolutions received by the Senate after House passage, are referred to committee. Provisions of Senate Rule XIV and unanimous consent, however, allow the Senate to bypass a measure’s referral to committee. Unanimous consent can also be used to truncate a committee’s consideration of a measure.

Rule XIV requires measures to be read twice before referral to committee. By objecting after the second reading under Rule XIV, a Senator, normally the majority leader (or another Senator in the majority leader’s stead), acting on his own initiative or at the request of any Senator, prevents referral to committee. The measure is placed directly on the Senate Calendar of General Orders. Unanimous consent is also used to bypass referral and place measures on the calendar. Although placing a measure directly on the calendar may facilitate calling it up later for consideration on the Senate floor, placement on the calendar does not guarantee floor consideration.

The Senate also regularly uses unanimous consent to consider and pass noncontroversial legislation that has not been referred to committee. Unanimous consent can also be used to truncate a committee’s consideration of a noncontroversial measure referred to it, normally by discharging a committee from further consideration of measure referred to it, and for the Senate to then pass the measure. The Senate leadership uses an informal process called “clearance” (or “hotlining”) to determine if any Senator would object to a specific bill or joint resolution being considered and passed by unanimous consent.

On major legislation, the majority leader also typically attempts to obtain unanimous consent to proceed to the consideration of a measure, whether or not it was referred to or reported by a committee.

This report examines the framework of these alternatives applicable to bills and joint resolutions. Procedures applicable to concurrent and simple resolutions are not examined here. Use of a germane, relevant, or nongermane amendment instead of a bill or joint resolution is also not examined. This report will not be updated again in the 113
th Congress unless Senate procedures change.

Date of Report: November 6, 2013
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: RS22299
Price: $29.95

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