The legislative branch of government has responsibilities which
many cases transcend the process of enactment of legislation.
these are the Senate's power of advice and consent with regard to
treaties and nominations. The preeminent role of the legislative
branch, however, is its concern with legislation.
"All legislative Powers" granted to the Federal
government by the
Constitution, as stated in Article I, Section I, are vested in a
Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate
House of Representatives. The Congress meets at least once a year
has been doing so since 1789 in the following locations: from
1789 through August 12, 1790, in Federal Hall, New York, New
from December 6, 1790 through December 2, 1799, in Congress Hall,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvani; and from November 17, 1800, at the
in Washington, D. C.
Since the Constitution prescribes that there be two Senators from
State, the Senate is presently composed of 100 Members. Also
to the Constitution, a Senator must be at least 30 years of age,
been a citizen of the United States for 9 years, and, when
a resident of the State for which the Senator is chosen. The term
office is 6 years and approximately one-third of the total
of the Senate is elected every second year.
The order of business in the Senate is simpler than that of the
House. While the procedure of both bodies is basically founded on
Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice, the practices of the two bodies are at considerable
variance. The order and privileged status of motions and the amending
procedure of the two are at less variance than their method of calling up business.
The business of the Senate (bills and resolutions) is not divided into
classes as a basis for their consideration, nor are there calendar days set aside
each month in the Senate for the consideration of particular bills and
resolutions. The nature of bills has no effect on the order or time of their initial
The Senate, like the House, gives certain motions a privileged
status over others and certain business, such as conference reports, command first
or immediate consideration, under the theory that a bill which has reached
the conference stage has been moved a long way toward enactment and should be
privileged when compared with bills that have only been reported.
At any time the Presiding Officer may lay, or a Senator may
move to lay, before the Senate any bill or other matter sent to the Senate by the
President or the House of Representatives, and any pending question or business
at that time shall be suspended, but not displaced. Included in this
category are veto messages, which constitute privileged business and which may be brought
up at almost any time; however, a Senator cannot be deprived of his right to the
floor for this purpose nor may certain business be interrupted, such as
approving the Journal, while the Senate is dividing "or while a question of order
or a motion to adjourn is pending."
The Senate is a continuing body as contrasted with the House.
Two-thirds of the Senators of an old Congress return to the subsequent new
one without having to be re-elected, but all Representatives must stand for
re-election every two years. Thus the manner and extent of organizing each new Senate
have not been established under the influence of definite breaks between each
Congress as has been the experience of the House, nor have the
parliamentary rules of the Senate been equally subjected to alterations. Representatives
re-adopt their old rules of procedure at the inception of each Congress, often
with slight modification, while Senators have not given a general
reaffirmation to their rules since 1789. The rules adopted by the Senate in the first
Congresses have remained in force continuously, with the exceptions of
particular additions or abolishments from time to time. Any such changes are made by
amending the rules to meet new needs of the body. Changes have not been
frequent, as demonstrated by the fact that a codification of the accumulated alterations
has occurred on only a few different occasions.
The continuity of sessions of the same Congress is provided for
by the Senate rules:
At the second or any subsequent session of a Congress, the
legislative business of the Senate which remained undetermined at the close of the
next preceding session of that Congress shall be resumed and proceeded with in
the same manner as if no adjournment of the Senate had taken place. (Rule
In its rules and practices, the Senate always has emphasized
the importance of maintaining decorum in its proceedings. "At no stage of
the Senate's proceedings may a Senator "refer offensively to any State
of the Union." "No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by
any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or
motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator." "No Senator shall interrupt
another in debate without his consent, and to obtain such consent he shall first
address the Presiding Officer; and no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any
one question in debate on the same day without leave of the Senate, which shall
be determined without debate." "If any Senator, in speaking or
otherwise, transgress the rules of the Senate, the Presiding officer shall, or any
Senator may, call him to order; and when a Senator shall be called to order he
shall sit down, and not proceed without leave of the Senate, which, if granted,
shall be upon motion that he be allowed to proceed in order, which motion
shall be determined without debate."
All proposed legislation, and nearly all formal actions by
either of the two Houses, take the form of a bill or resolution.
A bill is a legislative proposal of a general nature. A bill
may propose either a public or private matter, but both are numbered in the same
sequence. Public bills are the most numerous. Private bills are designed to
affect or benefit specific individuals or groups of individuals. Together, bills
account for a large majority of the total of legislative proposals of each
Congress. The Senate numbers bills in sequence starting with number 1, and each
number is preceded by the designation "S". House bills are similarly
numbered and prefaced by "H.R." Thus, bill number 100 in the Senate is
written S. 100, and in the House, H.R. 100.
Joint resolutions, which have the same effect as bills unless
they are used to propose amendments to the Constitution, are designated
"S.J. Res. ___." Concurrent resolutions, which are designated "S. Con. Res.
___" for Senate concurrent resolutions, are chosen to express the sense
of the Congress to the President or other parties; to attend to
"housekeeping" matters affecting both Houses, such as the creation of a joint
committee; or to carry proposals to correct the language of measures passed by one
House (an engrossment) or both Houses (an enrollment). All concurrent resolutions,
including corrective resolutions, must be agreed to in both the Senate and House.
One House may seek to correct a measure it passed, or both Houses may wish to
correct a measure awaiting the President's signature.
The former may be accomplished merely by specifying what
changes or additions are to be made and requesting the other House to make them, or
requesting the return of the measure to the originating House for that
purpose. Correction of measures already sent to the President, however, are made
after agreement of both Houses to concurrent resolutions requesting return of
the measures from the White House. Such resolutions include a resolve that if and
when a measure is returned, the action of the Presiding Officers of the two
Houses in signing the measure shall be deemed rescinded, and the Secretary of the
Senate or the Clerk of the House is authorized and directed in the
re-enrollment of the measure to make the necessary corrections. The corrected measure (bill
or joint resolution) is then again signed by the Secretary of the Senate or the
Clerk of the House, the Speaker, and the Vice President and again delivered to the
Finally there is the designation of "S. Res. ___" for
Senate resolutions, which are used primarily to express the sense of the Senate
only, or to take care of "housekeeping" matters, including changes in
rules, that apply only to the Senate.
When the question of agreement to, or formal acceptance of, a
resolution is raised, concurrent and simple resolutions are agreed to or
adopted, whereas bills and joint resolutions are passed.
In the House of Representatives, measures have the following
designations: "H.R. ___," for House bills; "H.J.Res. ___," for House
joint resolutions; "H. Con. Res. ___," for House concurrent resolutions;
and "H. Res. ___," for House resolutions. Bills and resolutions
are numbered ad seriatim, in the chronological order in which they are
introduced or submitted.
Senate and House bills and joint resolutions, when passed by
both Houses in identical form and approved by the President, become public or
private law--public laws affect the Nation as a whole; private laws benefit only an
individual or a class thereof. The procedure on each is identical, with the
exception of joint resolutions proposing amendments to the Constitution of the
United States, which under the Constitution must be passed in each House by a
two-thirds vote of the Members present and voting, a quorum being present. They
are not sent to the President for his approval but to the Administrator of the
General Services Administration, who transmits them to the various States.
Constitutional amendments are valid when ratified by at least three-fourths of the
Concurrent resolutions have the force of both Houses and must
be approved by them in identical form to be effective. However, they are not
presented to the White House for the President's signature, because they do not
become law. They are not signed by the President nor by the Speaker and the Vice
President. Instead, they are attested by the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of
the House and transmitted after approval to the Administrator of the General
Services Administration for publication in the Statutes at Large.
A House or Senate resolution (H. Res. ___ or S. Res. ___) only
has the force of the House passing it, and action by the one House is all
that is necessary.
Legislation originates in several ways. The Constitution
provides that the President "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information
of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such
Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;..."
The President fulfills this duty either by personally
addressing a joint session of the two Houses or by sending messages in writing to
Congress, or to either body thereof, which are received and referred to the
appropriate committees. The President usually presents or submits his annual message on
the state of the Union shortly after the beginning of a session.
In addition, there are many executive communications sent to
Congress. These are documents signed by the President or by an agency or
department head, and filed or submitted as a report to the Senate as directed by law
or otherwise. These items are numbered sequentially for a Congress and
assigned a prefix EC. They are described only by a brief statement of the contents in
the Congressional Record.
The right of petition is guaranteed the citizens of the United
States by the Constitution, and many individual petitions as well as
memorials from State legislatures are sent to Congress. They are laid before the two
Houses by their respective Presiding Officers or submitted by individual
Members of the House and Senate in their respective bodies, and are usually referred
to the appropriate committees of the House in which they were submitted.
Bills to carry out the recommendations of the President are
usually introduced "by request" by the chairmen of the various
committees or subcommittees thereof which have jurisdiction of the subject matter.
Sometimes the committees themselves may submit and report to the Senate "original
bills" to carry out such recommendations.
The ideas for legislative proposals may come from an individual
Representative or Senator, from any of the executive departments of the
Government, from private organized groups or associations, or from any individual
citizen. However, they can be introduced in their respective Houses only by Senators
and Representatives. When introduced, they are referred to the standing committees
which have jurisdiction over the subject matter.
Members frequently introduce bills that are similar in purpose,
in which case the committee considering them may add to one of the bills the
best features of the others for reporting to the parent body, or draft an
entirely new bill (known as an original bill) and report it in lieu of the
Each day in the Senate begins as the Secretary of the Senate
and the Presiding Officer for that day escort the Chaplain of the Senate or guest
chaplain to the desk. The Chaplain is a clergyman chosen by the Senate,
whose responsibility is to offer the prayer at the opening of each daily session, as
well as to officiate at various ceremonies and respond to Senators' private needs.
As the Senate begins its new day, it is important to note that
the Senate recognizes two meanings for the word "day," the
"calendar" day and the "legislative" day. A calendar day is recognized
as each 24 hour period. Reference may be made to a day certain, as in a
unanimous consent request to vote on passage of a measure on August 4, 1989 (a specific,
determined, or fixed day), or a day not yet determined, as in a unanimous
consent request or rule requiring action "on either of the next two days of
actual session." The references in these cases are to calendar days. A
legislative day is the period of time following an adjournment of the Senate until
another adjournment. A recess (rather than an adjournment) in no way affects a
legislative day; therefore, one legislative day may consume a considerable period of time-
-days, weeks, even months--but one or more adjournments from one day to the
next would cause the calendar and legislative day to coincide.
As used in the Rules of the Senate, a day generally is
recognized as a legislative day unless specified as a calendar day. There is, for example,
the proviso that "no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any one
question in debate on the same legislative day..." in Rule XIX. However, Rule
V, disallowing motions "to suspend, modify or amend any rule..., except
on one day's notice in writing...," although not specifying the type of day,
is interpreted as meaning one calendar day.
The Senate Majority Leader by unanimous consent customarily
provides for a brief period of time (usually 10 minutes each) at the beginning of
each daily session for himself and the Minority Leader to be used at their
discretion for observations on current events or pending legislation, submission and
agreement of various legislative matters, etc. They may yield all or part of their
time to their Senators for sundry purposes. It is with these orders that the
day of the Senate begins.
During the morning hour of each legislative day, Rule VII of
the Senate provides that, after the Journal is read, the Presiding Officer lay
before the Senate messages, reports, and communications of various types.
Measures or matters are transmitted between the two Houses, as
are written messages from one House to the other pertaining to the passage of
measures or other conduct of official business requiring concurrence or notification. The
President of the United States transmits written messages to the Congress,
which are brought to the Chamber and announced to the Senate by a messenger from
the White House. Such messages are numbered sequentially for a Congress and
assigned a prefix PM. They are printed in full in the Congressional Record.
Messages from the President may be received at any stage of Senate proceedings,
except during votes or quorum calls, while the Journal is being read, or
while a question of order or a motion to adjourn is pending.
The Presiding Officer then calls for the "presentation of
petitions and memorials." These are documents memorializing the
Government to do or not to do something. Memorials and petitions when laid before the
Senate are numbered and assigned a prefix POM, and all memorials and petitions from
State, Territorial, and insular possession legislatures or conventions, lawfully
called, are printed in full in the Record when presented. Those received from other
memorialists or petitioners are described only by a brief statement of the
Next the Presiding Officer calls for the filing of reports of
committees, the introduction of bills and joint resolutions, and the submission
of other resolutions. Under recent practices, however, nearly all bills, resolutions,
and committee reports are presented by Senators to the clerks at the
Presiding Officer's desk for processing throughout the day, and without any comments
from the floor.
The Majority Leader customarily secures unanimous consent at
the beginning of each new Congress to allow receipt at the desk of all measures
on days when morning business is conducted. Such permission allows Senators
to bring measures to the desk at any time during the day, instead of following
the procedure as set forth in Rule VII, requiring introduction of bills and
joint resolutions only on a new legislative day during the transaction of morning
business, followed by submission of other resolutions.
Bills and resolutions still may be introduced from the floor,
however, and any Senator, when doing so, usually discusses his proposal when he
presents it. There can be only one prime sponsor of a bill or resolution,
but commonly other Senators are included as co-sponsors.
The Senate's rules make no mention of multiple sponsorship,
which has been a common practice for many years. Though custom permits unlimited
numbers of Senators to sponsor a wide assortment of measures, it prohibits more
than one Member's name to appear on a reported bill or resolution and the printed
report accompanying it. Co-sponsors are often shown on measures as introduced, but
other names may be added, by unanimous consent, at their next printing. Since
its inception, the advisability of multiple sponsorship has been questioned by
many Senators, and others have submitted resolutions to abolish the practice.
The Committee on Rules and Administration has held hearings and favorably
reported measures to amend the Rules to prohibit joint sponsorship, except under
limited conditions, but to date, the full Senate has not voted its approval or
disapproval. A former practice of holding measures at the desk for days, to permit
the addition of names, has often met considerable opposition and was
discontinued in the 1960s.
Measures can be submitted with the phrase "by
request", a term found following the names of the sponsors of bills and resolutions
that are introduced or submitted at the request of the Administration or private
organizations or individuals. Such proposals, though introduced as a courtesy,
are not necessarily favored by the Senators sponsoring them. Drafts of proposed
legislation from the President or an executive agency are usually introduced by
the chairman of the committee of jurisdiction, who may be of the opposition
The motions which "shall be received" under Rule XXII
when "a question is pending" "and which shall have precedence
as they stand arranged" are:
To adjourn to a day certain, or that when the Senate adjourn it
shall be to a day certain. To amend.
All but the last four of these motions are not debatable.
The motion to adjourn should be distinguished from a
resolution to adjourn both houses of Congress. Neither is debatable. The Senate may
adjourn for as long a period of time as it sees fit, up to the
Constitutional limitation of three days, without the consent of the other House, or it
may adjourn for only a few minutes and reconvene on a new legislative day in
the same calendar day.
The motion to lay on the table is a simple way of taking
final action on pending business on which the Senate wishes to take a negative
position. It is applicable to a bill and amendments thereto as well as to certain
motions. An amendment can be laid on the table without prejudice to the bill to
which it was offered, but an amendment to the amendment would also go to the table.
Since the motion is not debatable, the question can be brought to a vote in a
hurry. The motion is used generally to reach a final disposition on motions to
reconsider or appeals from the decision of the chair. While the motion is
applicable to pending business, it is not commonly used for the disposition
of legislation--bills are generally either voted up or down. The preamble to a bill
or resolution may be laid on the table without carrying the bill or
resolution with it.
The motion to postpone indefinitely is the next in order, but
it is rarely used to dispose of bills except in the case of companion
bills, i.e., the Senate passes a House-passed bill and indefinitely postpones
a companion Senate bill which has been reported and placed on the calendar. It
is a way of effecting a final disposition of a measure. The motion to postpone to a
day certain is also used by the Senate. These motions are debatable and
amendable and take precedence over a motion to refer or commit. A motion to
take up another bill while unfinished business is pending has precedence over
a motion to postpone the unfinished business to a day certain.
A motion to recommit a bill to committee with instructions to
report the bill back forthwith with an amendment, if agreed to, requires that
the committee report the bill back to the Senate immediately with that
proposed amendment which is then before the Senate for consideration.
The last of this series of motions which shall be received
under Rule XXII, "when a question is pending," and in the order
listed above, is "to amend." Any bill, or amendment thereto, before
the Senate is open to amendment.
"If, at any time during the daily sessions of the
Senate, a question shall be raised by any Senator as to the presence of a
quorum, the Presiding Officer shall forthwith direct the Secretary to call the roll
and shall announce the result, and these proceedings shall be without
debate." "Whenever upon such roll call it shall be ascertained that a quorum is
not present, a majority of the Senators present may direct the Sergeant at
Arms to request, and, when necessary, to compel the attendance of the absent
Senators, which order shall be determined without debate; and pending its
execution, and until a quorum shall be present, no debate nor motion, except to
adjourn, shall be in order."
The Senate proceeds under the assumption that a quorum is
present unless the question is raised; in that case, the bells are rung to
inform the "absentee" Senators and the Presiding Officer directs a call of the
roll. All decisions incident thereto are made without debate, and if a quorum is
not present by the time the results from the roll call are announced, a
majority of the Senators present may direct the Sergeant at Arms to request or compel
the attendance of the absent Senators. Senators may be forced to attend,
unless granted a "leave of absence" or by authority of the Senate,
even if a quorum is present. Senators who do not reach the chamber when the
roll is being called in time to answer to their names may gain recognition after
the call and have their presence or vote recorded, provided the results have
not been announced.
Under the practice of the Senate, anyone, once recognized,
can request a quorum call, but a Senator who has the floor cannot be forced to
yield to another for that purpose. The chair is not permitted to count in
order to ascertain the presence of a quorum; it must be determined by roll call.
There is no limit to the number of requests for quorum calls
that may be made during the course of a day; a request is generally held
dilatory if no business has transpired since the last one, and it is not in order
immediately after a roll call vote showing that a quorum is present. The
reception of a message from the House has not been ruled as the transaction of
business sufficient to justify a quorum call. The following have been ruled to be
business: the ordering of engrossment and third reading of a joint
resolution, presentation and reference of a communication, granting of permission to
insert an article in the Record, objection to a bill under call of the calendar
under Rule VIII, the making of a motion or ordering of the yeas and nays,
voting on motions to recess, adjourn, and lay on table and on an appeal from
the decision of the chair, the offering of an amendment, agreeing to a motion
for an executive session, and submitting a report out of order.
A motion may be made to request attendance of those absent,
and instructions to compel their attendance may be added. Such a motion is not
debatable. A quorum call on various occasions has been withdrawn by
unanimous consent while the roll was being called; but when an announcement of no
quorum has been made, it is not in order to vacate the call even by unanimous
consent. In the absence of a quorum, neither debate nor the transaction
of business, including motions (except the motion to adjourn), is in order; it is
not even in order to move to recess.
Rule XII, relating to voting, provides:
1. When the yeas and nays are ordered, the names of Senators
shall be called alphabetically; and each Senator shall, without debate,
declare his assent or dissent to the question, unless excused by the Senate, and
no Senator shall be permitted to vote after the decision shall have been
announced by the Presiding Officer, but may for sufficient reasons, with unanimous
consent, change or withdraw his vote. No motion to suspend this rule shall be in
order, nor shall the Presiding Officer entertain any request to suspend it by
2. When a Senator declines to vote on call of his name, he
shall be required to assign his reasons therefor, and having assigned them, the
Presiding Officer shall submit the question to the Senate: "Shall the
Senator, for the reasons assigned by him, be excused from voting?" which
shall be decided without debate; and these proceedings shall be had after the
roll call and before the result is announced; and any further proceedings
in reference thereto shall be after such announcement.
Any one of the several methods of voting utilized by the
Senate may be resorted to for final disposition of any amendment or bill or
question. The methods are: voice vote, division, and yea and nay. The yeas and nays
may be ordered when the request is seconded by 1/5 of a presumptive quorum,
but frequently the Presiding Officer does not bother to count; he merely
takes a glance at the "showing" of hands and orders the call;
simultaneously the bells ring in both the Senate wing of the Capitol and the Senate
office buildings. The names of the Senators are called in their alphabetical
order. Voting and changes of votes are in order until the decision has been
announced by the chair.
A Senator can change his vote at any time before the result
is announced. In the case of a veto, a yea and nay vote is required by the
Constitution. Otherwise, the Senators may utilize any of the methods. After
the result of a vote has been announced, a request for a division or yea
and nay vote comes too late; the announcement that the "ayes (or nays) seem
to have it" is not a final result. The yeas and nays may be demanded
prior to announcement of the results of a division vote.
Where less than a quorum votes and the number of pairs
announced are not sufficient to make a quorum, it is the duty of the chair to order a
quorum call; the vote is valid if a quorum was present, even if a quorum did
not vote, provided that a number of those not voting, sufficient to make a
quorum, announced they were present but paired.
"Pairing" is the practice that has been developed
in both houses to enable Representatives and Senators to register their
opinion on any particular issue or issues when they are unavoidably absent from the
chamber on public or private business. By the use of "pairs" a
Senator (or Representative) favoring a particular issue, and who is absent when a
roll-call vote is taken on it, may make his opinion effective by contracting
(pairing) with a colleague opposing the issue that neither of the Senators will vote.
"Pairs" are not counted as yeas or nays in the official tabulation of
the roll call for the purpose of determining the adoption or rejection of
the issue being voted on.
After all amendments to an original amendment to a bill have
been disposed of, the question recurs on the adoption of the amendment as
amended, if amended. After all amendments to a bill have been acted on, the
question recurs on third reading and passage of the bill. After the Senate acts
on an amendment or on a bill, or almost any question on which the Senate has
voted, any Senator voting on the side that prevailed may offer a motion to
reconsider the vote by which that action was taken. A Senator voting in the
minority cannot move to reconsider a yea and nay vote; if he did not vote he may.
SENATE OFFICIALS ON THE FLOOR
Various officials are present on the floor of the Senate when
it convenes, including the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate,
the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the Senate, the Sergeant at Arms, the
Legislative Clerk, the Journal Clerk, the Parliamentarian of the Senate, the
Secretaries for the Majority and the Minority, the Official Reporters of
Debate, and the Pages.
The Secretary of the Senate is the elected official of the
Senate responsible for management of many legislative and administrative
services. The Secretary is the disbursing officer for the Senate. The official seal
of the Senate is in the custody of, and its use is prescribed by, the
Secretary. In the absence of the Vice President, and pending the election of a
President pro tempore, the Secretary performs the duties of the chair.
The Assistant Secretary is the chief assistant to the
Secretary of the Senate. The Assistant Secretary performs the functions of the
Secretary in the latter's absence, and in the event of the death or resignation of the
Secretary would act as Secretary in all matters except those duties as
disbursing officer of the Senate.
On the day after the first organization of the Senate, a
Doorkeeper was chosen whose title was eventually changed to Sergeant at Arms. His
duties are to execute the Senate's orders as to decorum on the floor and in
the galleries. He is responsible for the enforcement of all rules made for
the regulation of the Senate wing of the Capitol. He also is the custodian
of all properties under the dominion of the Senate and supervises the
messengers, pages and other workers who serve the Senate. If the Senate decides to
issue warrants of arrest for its absent Members, it is the duty of the
Sergeant of Arms to bring those Senators into custody.
Article 1, section 5, paragraph 3 of the Constitution
provides that "Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time
to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment
require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House and any
question shall, at the Desire of one-fifth of those Present be entered on the
Journal." The Journal Clerk is charged with maintaining the Senate
Journal under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate.
The Legislative Clerk is responsible for reporting all bills,
messages from the House, conference reports, and amendments to the Senate.
All record votes are taken by the Legislative Clerk and his assistants.
An appointed official of the Senate, the Parliamentarian
functions under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate. The
Parliamentarian's chief duty and responsibility is to advise the Presiding Officer on
parliamentary aspects of Senate activity. The Parliamentarian advises Senators and
senatorial committee staffs, and is called upon by other branches of Government,
the press, and the public for information regarding procedural aspects of
The Official Reporters of Debates prepare the material
concerning business of the Senate for inclusion in the Congressional Record. All
proceedings in the Senate Chamber are reported verbatim by a staff of
Official Reporters, who are under the supervision of the Editor in Chief. The
Editor in Chief is the editor of all matter contained in the Senate
proceedings. In addition to the verbatim proceedings in the Senate Chamber, the office
of the Official Reporters processes for inclusion in the Congressional Record
a description of the morning business conducted by the Senate (measures
introduced, messages from the President and the House of Representatives,
co-sponsors, communications received, and notices of hearings), and additional or
unspoken statements of Senators. The Official Reporters of Debates are appointed
by the Secretary of the Senate.
The Secretary for the Majority is an elected officer of the
Senate who is responsible for providing many support services to the
majority party leaders and members of the Senate. The floor-related duties of the
Secretary include supervising the cloakroom, briefing Senators on votes and
issues that are under consideration on the floor, obtaining pairs for
Senators, and polling Senators when the Leadership so desires. Additionally, the
Secretary is responsible for assigning Senate Chamber seats to the majority party
Members; maintaining a file of committee assignment requests; staffing the
committee which arranges majority party committee assignments; recommending to the
Leadership majority party candidates for appointment to boards, commissions, and
international conferences; maintaining records of such appointments;
providing a repository for official minutes of majority party conferences and
meetings of the Policy Committee, Steering Committee, and committee chairmen;
monitoring the nominations on the Executive Calendar; and other duties as directed by
The Secretary for the Minority also is an elected officer of
the Senate, and performs corresponding duties for the minority party leaders
and other Senators.
The Republican Legislative Scheduling Office provides floor
assistance to Republican Senators. The staff serves as a liaison between
Republican Senators and the Republican leadership in dealing with Senators'
legislative interests, unanimous consent requests, time agreements, and the
scheduling of the Senate's proceedings. When the Republicans are in the majority, the
Republican Legislative Scheduling Office also schedules Republican Senators to
preside over the Senate.
Floor assistance for Democratic Senators is provided by the
staff of the Democratic Policy Committee. This staff is available to provide
information regarding the scheduling of legislation and to act as liaison between
the legislative committees and the Democratic leadership. Assistance is given
in the arrangement of unanimous consent requests on time agreements, amendments,
and procedural issues on legislation being debated by the Senate. In
addition, the staff provides advice on general parliamentary situations.
The Democratic Policy Committee provides other services to
Democratic Senators, including detailed voting records for each Democratic
Senator, an annual report on the major achievements of the session; an extensive index
of record votes on legislation, both chronologically and by subject matter,
and briefings on major bills and amendments.
Its counterpart, the Senate Republican Policy Committee,
provides similar services for Republican Senators: maintenance of a research
library; publication of legislative notices summarizing bills and resolutions on
the Senate Calendar and proposed amendments thereto; publication of detailed
analysis of all Senate record votes plus indexes, annual abstracts, and lists of
voice votes; publication of the weekly Republican Counsel's Report; publication of
policy papers on major issues; development of Republican legislative
initiatives; research, legislative analysis, and speech writing for Republican
Senators upon request; personnel placement and counselling; briefing officials from
State and local governments on national issues; assisting new Senators with
staff orientation; producing the information on the special television channel
containing in-house updates on the Senate schedule; and assistance to the party
leader in preparation of the End-of-Year Report.
Senate pages, male and female, when appointed, must be
juniors in high school. They may not be appointed or serve after attaining the age of
17, except that if they are serving and enrolled in the Page School, they may
continue their service through the session of the Senate in which the Page
Riding Page Service is provided by a separate service,
through the Senate Post Office, several times a day for delivery of Senators'
letters to major Federal agencies in the District of Columbia only.
SENATE COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION
Senate committees are appointed by resolution at the
beginning of each Congress, with power to continue and act until their successors are
appointed. All Senate committees are created by the Senate. At present, Senate
committees include 16 standing committees, 3 select committees, and 1 special
committee. Standing committees are charged to report by bill or otherwise on
matters within a defined jurisdiction and generally to study and review, on a
comprehensive basis, certain matters relating thereto. Select and special
committees have varying powers and obligations, and increasingly have been
given legislative jurisdiction. In current practice, the committee chairman is
a member of the majority party. He or she is chosen by order of the Senate,
and is usually, but not always, the senior Member in point of service of the
majority Members of the committee.
Senate Members may also serve, along with House Members, on
joint committees, whose duties and responsibilities are set forth in the
respective resolutions or laws creating them. There are currently 4 joint committees
of the Congress. Conference committees, appointed when there is disagreement
to a measure after passage by both Houses, are composed of Members of both the
Senate and House, like joint committees, but votes in a conference committee
are not as a body, but as two delegations.
Rule XXVI on committee procedure provides that each committee
adopt rules (not inconsistent with the Standing Rules of the
governing the procedure of such committee. It provides also that
rules of each committee shall be published in the Congressional
not later than March 1 of each year, except that if any such
is established on or after February 1 of a year, the rules of
committee during the year of establishment shall be published in
Record within 60 days. An amendment to a committee's rules shall
published in the Record not later than 30 days after the adoption
Committees as a rule have regular meeting days, but they may meet
the call of their chairmen or upon the request of a majority at
times. At these meetings matters on the committee calendar are
the order of business, but any matter within the committee's
jurisdiction may be considered--for example, an investigation of
agency of the Government over which the committee has
a hearing at which an official discusses policies and operations
Once a bill has been introduced and has been referred by the
Officer with the advice of the Parliamentarian, the clerk of the
committee enters it upon the committee's Calendar of Business.
committee may refer its pending bills to its subcommittees for
and reports thereon. Most of the committees have standing
subcommittees, and frequently ad hoc subcommittees are appointed
study and report on particular pieces of legislation or to make a
study of a certain subject.
Committees or subcommittees generally hold hearings on all major
controversial legislation before drafting the proposal into a
form for reporting to the Senate. The length of hearings and the
number of witnesses testifying vary, depending upon the time
available, the number of witnesses wanting to be heard, the
the committee to hear witnesses, etc. Recommendations of the
Administration, in conjunction with the Office of Management and
Budget, are sought by the committees on nearly all major
but they are in no way obligated to accept such recommendations.
For example, the Department of Agriculture's Office of
and Public Affairs, providing liaison between the department and
Congress, would be addressed on a bill relating to inspection of
livestock, meat, and agricultural products, and the Office of
Congressional Affairs of the General Services Administration
asked to comment on proposed legislation affecting small
disadvantaged business, and related subcontracting programs. The
responses are often used in support of or against matters pending
before the Senate by being quoted on the floor or being inserted
the Record by Senators during debate.
A subcommittee makes reports to its full committee, and the
adopt such reports without change, amend them in any way it
reject them, or adopt an entirely different report.
At a committee's "mark up" session, usually held just
reporting a bill or resolution back to the full Senate, the
makes its final decisions about the content and form of the
The full committee then may report it to the Senate favorably
without amendments, submit an adverse report thereon, or vote not
report on anything.
The measure can be reported with committee amendments which may
insert, (b) strike, (c) strike part of the bill and insert other
language, or (d) strike the entire text and insert a complete
substitute, thereby rejecting in toto the language of the measure
it was referred to, considered by, and reported by the Senate
committee. The desired changes in the measure are indicated in
reprinted measure by use of italic type for additions and
for strike-outs, in contrast to the original introduced form of
measure which is printed in roman type.
Included may be additions, corrections, or modifications to the
preamble of a resolution--the part(s) of a measure prefaced by
word "Whereas," which precedes the resolving clause.
These are voted
on after passage or adoption of the measure. Such clauses, which
introductory statements declaring the reasons for and the intent
the legislation, if amended, would reflect changes or
contained in the text of the measure. Also, the title may be
Committees need not act on all bills referred to them. Under the
Senate's rules, a Senator may enter a motion to discharge a
from the further consideration of any bill, but this is rarely
By unanimous consent, some bills are discharged from one
sent to another. If a motion to discharge is agreed to, the bill
thereby taken out of the jurisdiction of that committee and
the Senate Calendar of Business. It may subsequently be referred
The chairman, or some other member of the committee
designated for that purpose, reports bills to the Senate, and when reported they are
placed on the Senate Calendar of Business, unless unanimous consent is given for
The action taken by the committee appears on the copy of the
bill reported, and a written report, which is numbered ad seriatim, nearly
always accompanies the bill. The reports, like the bills, are printed by the
Government Printing Office for distribution.
A reported bill passes through the same channels in the
Secretary's Office as an introduced bill, for notation of the proper entries in
the Senate's official records. The bill also is reprinted, showing the
calendar and report numbers, the name of the Senator reporting it, the date, and
whether the committee ordered it reported with or without amendment. Committee
members may write their own minority, supplemental, and/or additional views on
the bill, and these statements are printed as a part of the committee
report on the measure.
CONSIDERING MEASURES ON THE SENATE
The Senate's Majority and Minority Leaders, as the spokesmen
for their parties, and in consultation with their respective policy committees,
implement and direct the legislative schedule and program.
Most measures are passed either on the call of the Calendar
or by unanimous consent procedure. The more significant and controversial
matters are considered, when possible, under unanimous consent agreements limiting
debate and controlling time on the measure, amendments thereto, and debatable
motions relating to it. This is done because otherwise debate is unlimited.
Measures may be brought up on motion by a simple majority vote if they have been on
the Calendar one legislative day. Such a motion to proceed is usually made by
the Majority Leader or his designee and is usually debatable. The motion
to proceed to the consideration of a measure on the Calendar is usually
only made if there has been objection to a unanimous consent request to proceed
to its consideration.
On highly controversial matters, the Senate frequently has to
resort to cloture to work its will. Under Rule XXII, if three-fifths of the
Senators duly chosen and sworn (60 if the Senate is at full membership of 100)
vote in the affirmative, further debate on the question shall be limited to no more
than one hour for each Senator, and the time for consideration of the matter
shall be limited to 30 additional hours, unless increased by another
three-fifths vote. On a measure or motion to amend the Senate Rules, it takes
two-thirds of the Senators present and voting, a quorum being present, to
Under Rule VIII, which governs the consideration of bills on
the call of the Senate Calendar, there is supposed to be a Calendar call each
day at the end of the morning business. Under current practice, however,
this very rarely occurs; instead, the Calendar is usually called, if at all,
pursuant to a unanimous consent order. Rule VII makes a call of the
Calendar mandatory on Monday if the Senate had adjourned after its prior sitting.
This requirement may only be waived by unanimous consent, and it has become
the regular practice of the leadership to request that the requirement be waived
THE AMENDMENT PROCESS
Once a bill or resolution is before the Senate, it is subject
to the amendatory process, both by the committee reporting it and by individual
Senators offering amendments from the floor. A committee amendment reported as
a total substitute (striking all after the enacting clause and inserting new
language for the entire bill) for the pending measure is always voted on last,
inasmuch as once a total substitute is agreed to, further amendments are
precluded. With this exception, however, committee amendments take priority
and are considered in order as they appear in the printed copy of the measure
before the Senate. The only amendments from the floor in order during the
consideration of these committee amendments are amendments to the committee
amendments or sometimes to the part of the bill the committee amendments would
Once the committee amendments have been disposed of, however,
any Senator may propose amendments to any part of the bill not already
amended, and while an amendment is pending, an amendment to the amendment is in
order. By precedent, an amendment to an amendment to an amendment, being an
amendment in the third degree, is not in order. However, the first amendment in the
nature of a substitute for a bill, whether reported by a committee or offered by an
individual Senator, is considered an original question and is amendable in two
There are certain special procedures in the Senate which
limit the amendatory process. For example, during the consideration of general
appropriation bills, amendments are subject to the strictures of Rule XVI under
which it is not in order to offer non-germane amendments or amendments
proposing new or general legislation or increasing the amount of an appropriation if
that increase has not been previously authorized or estimated for in the
President's budget. Likewise, when operating under a general unanimous consent
agreement in the usual form on a bill or resolution, amendments must be
germane. Germaneness of amendments is also required once the Senate has invoked
cloture; in addition, any amendments considered under cloture must have been
submitted in writing before the Senate's vote on cloture.
When all committee amendments and all Senators' floor
amendments have been disposed of, the bill is ordered engrossed and read a third
time, which step ends the amendatory process. The third reading is by title
only. The question is then put upon passage of the bill, which requires a simple
majority vote. If a resolution has a preamble, it may be agreed to, amended,
or stricken out after the resolution has been adopted. The title to a
bill is also acted upon after its passage; the title may be amended if
amendments made to the bill necessitate such a change. At any time before its
passage, a bill may be laid on the table or postponed indefinitely, either of
which motions has the effect of killing the bill; Alternatively, a bill may be
made a special order for a day certain, which requires a two-thirds vote;
laid aside temporarily; recommitted to the committee which reported the bill;
referred to a different committee; or displaced by taking up another bill by a
Most bills are passed by a voice vote only, but where a doubt
is raised in such a case, the Presiding Officer, or any Senator, before
the result is announced, may request a division of the Senate to determine the
question. Before the result of a voice or division vote has been announced, a
roll-call vote may be had upon the demand of one-fifth of the Senators present,
but at least 11--one fifth of the presumptive quorum of 51.
In the case of a yea-and-nay vote, any Senator who voted with
the prevailing side or who did not vote may, on the same calendar day or on
either of the next two days the Senate is actually in session, make a
motion to reconsider the question. On a voice vote or division vote, however, any
Senator may make the motion. If made before other business intervenes, it may
be proceeded with and is debatable. It may be laid on the table without
prejudice to the main question and is a final disposition of the motion. A
majority vote determines questions of reconsideration. If the motion is agreed to,
another vote may be taken on the question reconsidered; if disagreed to, the
first decision of the Senate is affirmed. The making of such a motion is
privileged but may not be made while another matter is pending before the
Only one motion to reconsider the same question is in order.
Such a motion, under rule XXI, may be withdrawn by the mover by leave of the
Senate, which may be granted by a majority vote or by unanimous consent. A
bill cannot be transmitted to the House of Representatives while a motion to
reconsider remains unacted upon.
ENGROSSMENT AND TRANSMITTAL TO THE
The printed bill used at the desk by the Senate during its
consideration is the official desk copy, showing the amendments adopted, if
any. Once it is endorsed as having passed, it is sent to the Secretary's
Office and delivered to the Bill Clerk. After making the proper entries on his
records and the data retrieval system, the Bill Clerk turns it over to the
Enrolling Clerk who makes an appropriate entry on his records and sends it to
the Government Printing Office to be printed on special white paper in the
form in which it passed the Senate. This printed Act is attested by the
Secretary as having passed the Senate as of the proper date, and is termed the
official engrossed bill.
After the passage of a bill by one body, it technically
becomes an Act (not yet effective as a law), but it nevertheless continues to
generally referred to as a bill.
Engrossed bills are transmitted, or "messaged", to
the House of Representatives by one of the clerks in the Secretary's
Office, who is announced by one of the House's officials. Upon being recognized by the
Speaker, the clerk announces that the Senate has passed a bill (giving its
number and title) in which the concurrence of the House is requested.
Upon receipt of such a message from the Senate, the Speaker
refers the measures contained therein to appropriate committees. If, however, a
substantially similar House bill already has been favorably reported by a
committee, the Senate bill, unless it creates a charge upon the Treasury,
may remain on the Speaker's table instead of being referred to committee. It
may subsequently be taken up or its text may be substituted for that of the
House bill when consideration of the latter occurs.
HOUSE COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION
Senate bills and resolutions when messaged to the House may
be referred by the Speaker to the appropriate House committee, just as he
refers all bills and resolutions introduced in the House. If referred, they
are processed in much the same fashion as in the Senate--that is, endorsed for
reference, recorded in the Journal, listed in the Congressional Record, and
printed by the Government Printing Office for distribution. House committees, like
Senate committees, have committee calendars of business and regular meeting days
(but may also meet on the call of their chairman) for the consideration of
business pending before them.
The procedure of House committees in considering and
reporting bills also is much the same as that of the Senate committees; for
example, they too have standing subcommittees and ad hoc subcommittees. In contrast
to the Senate, however, House rules allow the Speaker, under some
circumstances, to refer a bill to two or more committees in sequence, or to refer
parts of the same bill to different committees, when more than one committee
has jurisdiction over the subject matter contained in the bill.
After all House committees having jurisdiction have concluded
consideration of a bill, it may be reported to the House with or without
amendments. A written report accompanies each reported measure. When reported from
committee, a bill is placed on the Union or House Calendar, if a public
bill, or on the Private Calendar. The House also has a Corrections Calendar,
on which are placed bills that are expected to enjoy considerably more
than majority support on the floor, and a calendar of motions to discharge
committees from further consideration of bills referred to them.
HOUSE FLOOR ACTION
The House rules designate special legislative days which have
been established to expedite certain types of unprivileged business. The
special legislative days are: Calendar Wednesday (every Wednesday), District of
Columbia (the second and fourth Mondays), suspension of the rules (every
Monday and Tuesday), and the Corrections Calendar (the first and third Mondays).
Private Calendar business, if any, is considered on the first and third
Tuesdays of each month, and discharge motions on the second and fourth Mondays.
Generally speaking, after the regular routine business each
morning, including the approval of the Journal, the House proceeds to the
consideration of whatever bills or resolutions are to be acted on that day. The order
varies somewhat, as follows: (1) On days set aside for certain procedures,
such as suspension motions on Mondays and Tuesdays, bills and resolutions are
called up in pursuance of the procedure, as defined by House rules in each instance;
(2) under unanimous consent, bills are called up in pursuance of such requests
made and granted by the House, regardless of the regular rules of procedure;
and (3) privileged matters, such as general appropriation bills and conference
reports, may be called up by the Members in charge of them at almost any time
after they have lain over for three days, providing the Representative in
charge is recognized by the Speaker.
The House also can determine the order of its business and
decide what bill to take up by adopting a special rule (simple House
resolution) reported by the Rules Committee. The procedure for consideration of such
measures is defined in each instance in the special rule. A special rule to call
up a bill may be debated for an hour before it is voted on. Bills called up
under special rules are usually major or controversial pieces of
Bills which are first considered in the Committee of the
Whole House on the State of the Union are considered for amendment under the
5-minute rule, after which the Committee of the Whole reports them back to the
House for action on any amendments that may have been adopted, and then for
the vote on final passage.
In the House, as in the Senate, bills are read three times
before they are passed. After a Senate bill is passed by the House, with or
without amendment, it is returned to the Senate; if there are amendments, the
amendments are engrossed before being messaged to the Senate. All House
engrossments are printed on blue paper.
MESSAGES AND AMENDMENTS BETWEEN THE
Senate Action on House Amendments
Senate bills returned with House amendments are held at the
desk and almost always are subsequently laid before the Senate by the
Presiding Officer upon request or motion of a Senator (usually the Majority Leader
or the manager of the bill). The Presiding Officer may also do this upon his
own initiative, but this is rarely done. After the House message has been
laid down, the House's amendments may be considered individually or, by unanimous
consent, en bloc. Any one off the following motions relating to the amendment
or amendments may then be offered, taking precedence in the order named :
(1) a motion to refer the amendments to a standing committee of the Senate,
(2) a motion to amend the amendments; (3) a motion to agree to the
amendments; and (4) a motion to disagree to the amendments and ask a conference with the
House. Usually number (4) includes authority for the Presiding Officer to
appoint conferees on the part of the Senate, although the power to name
conferees is in the Senate, not in the Chair. The number of conferees named
varies widely. The usual range is 7 to 11, but occasionally a larger number is
appointed, especially in the case of general appropriation bills or omnibus bills
such as reconcilation measures.
In the case of motion number (2), the amendments made by the
Senate to the House amendments are transmitted to the House, with a request
for its concurrence therein. If the House concurs or agrees in all the amendments
(the words being used synonymously), the legislative steps in the passage of
the bill are completed. The House, however, may amend the Senate amendments to the
House amendments, this being the second, and therefore the last, degree in
which amendments between the Houses may be made. The House amendments, if any,
are transmitted to the Senate, usually with a request for concurrence
therein. As in the case of the original House amendments, the Senate may agree to
some, disagree to others, or ask for a conference with the House thereon.
A conference may be requested at any stage of the
consideration of these amendments between the houses. If, instead, the Senate agrees to all the
House amendments to the Senate bill or to the Senate's amendments to House
amendments, such action brings the two Houses into complete agreement, and
likewise completes the legislative steps.
If the Senate refers the House amendments to a standing
committee, the committee, after consideration, may recommend action indicated in
motions (2), (3), or (4), and may make such a motion accordingly on the Senate
Bills Originating in the House
If a bill or resolution originates in the House, it follows
the same steps as set forth above, except in reverse, i.e.; a House
committee considers it first; it is passed by the House; it is messaged to the
Senate and referred to a Senate committee; the committee reports it to the Senate
and it is then acted on by that body. If amended, it is returned to the
House for its concurrence in the Senate amendments.
CONFERENCE COMMITTEES AND
When the Senate requests a conference or agrees to the
House's request for a conference and names its conferees, it informs the House of
its action by message. After the second House agrees to the conference,
appoints conferees, and apprises the first House of its action by message, all
the papers relating to the measure sent to conference (referred to as the
"official papers") are transmitted to the conference. This includes the original
engrossed bill, engrossed amendments, and the various messages of transmittal
between the Houses.
Since the conferees of each House vote as a unit, the House,
like the Senate, may appoint as many conferees as it chooses to meet with the
Senate conferees to reconcile the differences between the two Houses--the sole
purpose of a conference. Thus, having a larger number of conferees than
the other House does not provide an advantage.
After deliberation, the conferees may make one or more
recommendations; for example, (1) that the House recede from all or certain of its
amendments; (2) that the Senate recede from its disagreement to all or
certain of the House amendments and agree to the same; or (3) that the
conference committee report an inability to agree in all or in part. Usually,
however, there is compromise.
Conferees dealing with an amendment or a series of amendments
are more limited in their options than conferees dealing with a bill passed by
the second House with an amendment in the nature of a substitute. They can
only deal with the matters in disagreement. They cannot insert new matter or
leave out matter agreed to by both Houses, and if they exceed their authority,
a point of order will lie against the conference report. Each House may
instruct its conferees, but this is rarely done. Such instructions are not binding
since conferences are presumed to be full and free--one House cannot restrict
the other House's conferees.
Where one House passes a bill of the other House with an
amendment in the nature of a substitute and the measure then goes to
conference, the conferees have wider latitude since the entire matter is in conference.
They may report a third version on the same subject matter; all of its
provisions, however, must be germane modifications of either the House or Senate
version, or it will be subject to a point of order.
SENATE AND HOUSE ACTION ON CONFERENCE
The recommendations of the conferees are incorporated in a
written report and a joint statement of managers, made in duplicate, both of
which must be signed by a majority of the conferees of each House. If there
are amendments upon which they were unable to agree, a statement to this
effect is included in the report. These are referred to as amendments is
disagreement. The conferees cannot report parts of amendments in disagreement. For
example, conferees must report in full agreement or disagreement when a bill had
gone to conference after one House had amended it with a complete substitute for
the other House's text.
One report, together with the papers if the House is to act
on it first, is taken by the House conferees, or managers, as they are termed
in that body, and subsequently presented by them to the House, with an
accompanying explanatory statement as to its effect upon the matters involved. The
report must lie over three days in the House before it may be considered,
except during the last six days of a session. The Senate conferees take the
other copy which is presented for printing under the requirements of the
Legislative Reorganization Act, as amended in 1970. To save time and expense, this
requirement is frequently waived in the Senate by unanimous consent.
Normally, the House agreeing to a conference on a bill acts
first on conference report, but either House can act first if it has the official
papers. Conference reports are privileged in both the Senate and the House. They
cannot be amended, but must be voted upon in their entirety. If amendments in
disagreement were reported by the conferees, they are acted on after the
conference report is adopted and may be subject to amendment. After adoption by
the first House, the conference report is transmitted with the official papers
to the other House with a message announcing its action.
Assuming action by the House first, the Senate conferees
could then present their report and ask for its immediate consideration. It does
not have to lie over for three days in the Senate, as it does in the
House, and the motion to proceed to its consideration is not debatable; thus the
Senate may act immediately. A motion to recommit a conference report may not
be made in the second House acting on the report since the conferees of the
first House were discharged when their body agreed to the report.
If conferees reach a complete agreement on all of the House
amendments to a Senate bill, and the House adopts that report, the adoption
of the report by the Senate completes the legislative action on the bill.
If, however, there were amendments upon which an agreement had not been reached
by the conferees, the adoption of the report by both Houses leaves the
parliamentary status of these particular amendments in disagreement the same as if
no conference had been held.
If the amendments on which an agreement could not be reached
were House amendments, and the House acted first on the report, it could then recede
from its amendments, eliminating the amendments in disagreement; then, if the
Senate were to adopt the report, the bill would be cleared for the President's
signature. If they were Senate amendments and the House acted first, the House
could concur in the Senate amendments or concur in them with amendments. If
the Senate amendments were concurred in by the House, that would clear the
amendments in disagreement, and when the Senate agreed to the conference report, the bill
would be cleared for the President's signature. If the House should concur in
the Senate amendments reported in disagreement with its own House amendments, after
the Senate agreed to the report, it could concur in the House amendments to the
Senate amendments which would clear the bill for the President's signature.
If the amendments reported in disagreement are not so
disposed of, a further conference on these amendments could be requested by one
House and agreed to by the other. When this happens, the two Houses usually
appoint the same conferees. Until all the amendments in disagreement are
reconciled by the two Houses, the bill cannot be presented to the President.
If a conference report is rejected by one of the Houses, it
so notifies the other body by message and usually requests another
conference; however, it may merely notify the second body of its action without
requesting a further conference, leaving further steps to be taken by the other
House. Endorsements showing these various legislative steps, and when taken, are
made on the engrossed bill.
When the two Houses reach a complete agreement on all the
amendments, the papers are delivered to the Enrolling Clerk of the House
where the bill originated. The Enrolling Clerk prepares a copy of the bill in the form
as finally agreed upon by the two Houses and sends it to the Government
Printing Office for "enrollment," which means historically
"written on parchment." The original papers on the bill are retained in the files of
the originating House until the end of a Congress, when they are sent to the
SIGNATURES OF SPEAKER AND VICE
Upon receipt of an enrolled bill from the Government Printing
Office, either the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House
endorses it, certifying where the bill originated. If, after examination by the
Enrolling Clerk of that House, the bill is found to be in the form agreed upon
by both Houses, a slip is attached thereto stating that the bill, identified
by number and title, has been examined and found truly enrolled. It is then
presented to the Speaker of the House for his signature, which is
announced in open session. Usually, enrolled bills are signed first by the Speaker. The
bill is then transmitted by messenger to the Senate, where it is signed by
the Vice President.
Under the rules of the House, the Committee on House
Oversight is charged, when an enrolled bill has been duly signed by the Speaker and
the Vice President, to present the same, when the bill has originated in the
House, to the President of the United States for his signature "and report the
fact and date of such presentation to the House." If it is a Senate
bill, this responsibility of presenting the bill to the President falls on the
Secretary of the Senate.
An error discovered in a bill after the legislative steps in
its passage have been completed may be corrected by authority of a concurrent
resolution, provided the bill has not yet been approved by the President. If the
bill has not been enrolled, the error may be corrected in the enrollment; if it
has been enrolled and signed by the Presiding Officers of the two Houses, or by
the Speaker, such action may be rescinded by a concurrent resolution
agreed to by the two Houses, and the bill correctly re-enrolled. If it has been
presented to the President, but not acted upon by him, he may be requested by
a concurrent resolution to return it to the Senate or the House for
correction. If, however, the President has approved the bill, and it has thereby
become a law, any amendment thereof can only be made by the passage of another
bill, which must take the same course as the original.
PRESIDENTIAL ACTION--APPROVAL OR VETO
The President, under the Constitution, has 10 days (Sundays
excepted) after the bill has been presented to him in which to act upon it.
If the subject matter of the bill is within the jurisdiction of a department
of the Government, or affects its interests in any way, he may in the meantime,
at his discretion, refer the bill to the head of that department for
investigation and a report thereon. The report of such official may serve as an aid to
the President in reaching a decision about whether or not to approve the
bill. If the President does approve it, he signs the bill, giving the date, and
transmits this information by messenger to the Senate or the House, as the case might
be. In the case of revenue and tariff bills, the hour of approval is usually
indicated. The enrolled bill is delivered to the Archivist of the United
States, who designates it as a public or private law, depending upon its purpose,
and gives it a number. Public and private laws are numbered separately and
serially. An official copy is sent to Government Printing Office to be used in
making the so-called slip law print.
In the event the President does not desire to approve a bill,
but is unwilling to veto it, he may, by not returning it within the 10-day
period after it is presented to him, permit it to become a law without his
approval. The Archivist makes an endorsement on the bill that, having been presented
to the President of the United States for his approval and not having been
returned to the House of Congress in which it originated within the time
prescribed by the Constitution, it has become a law without his approval.
Where the 10-day period extends beyond the date of the final
adjournment of Congress, the President may, within that time approve and
sign the bill, which thereby becomes a law. If, however, in such a case, the
President does not approve and sign the bill before the expiration of the
ten-day period, it fails to become a law. This is what is known as a pocket
veto. The United States Court of Appeals, in the case of KENNEDY v. SAMPSON,
511 F.2d 430 (D.C. Cir., 1974), held that a Senate bill could not be
pocket-vetoed by the President during an "intrasession" adjournment of Congress to
a day certain for more than three days, where the Secretary of the Senate
had been authorized to receive Presidential messages during such adjournment. In
the case of BARNES v. KLINE, 759 F.2d 51 (D.C. Cir., 1985), the Court held the
same with regard to an intersession adjournment.
If the President does not favor a bill and vetoes it, he
returns it to the House of origin without his approval, together with his
objections thereto (referred to as the "veto message"). It should be
noted that after the final adjournment of the 94th Congress, 1st session, the
President returned two bills, giving Congress the opportunity to reconsider and
"override" the vetoes.
The constitutional provision for reconsideration by the
Senate is met, under the precedents, by the reading of the veto message, spreading
it on the Journal, and adopting a motion (1) to act on it immediately, (2) to
refer it, with the accompanying papers, to a standing committee: (3) to
order that it lie on the table, to be subsequently considered, or (4) to order
its consideration postponed to a definite day. The House's procedures are much
If, upon reconsideration by either House, the House of origin
acting first, the bill does not receive a two-thirds vote, the President's
veto is sustained and the bill fails to become a law.
If a bill which has been vetoed is passed upon
reconsideration by the first House by the required two-thirds vote, an endorsement to this
effect is made on the back of the bill, and it is then transmitted, together
with the accompanying message, to the second House for its action thereon. If
likewise reconsidered and passed by that body, a similar endorsement is made
thereon. The bill, which has thereby been enacted into law, is not again
presented to the President, but is delivered to the Administrator of the General Services
Administration for deposit in the Archives, and is printed, together with
the attestations of the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of
its passage over the President's veto.
THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET PROCESS
The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act was
enacted in 1974 as a means for Congress to establish national budget priorities
and the appropriate level of total revenues, expenditures, and debt for each
year. Moreover, it provided for strict time limits in dealing with Presidential
attempts to impound funds already appropriated either through deferrals or
The Act has been amended so as to curb the practice of
imposing unfunded Federal mandates on States and local governments, as well as to give
the President line item veto authority with respect to appropriations, new
direct spending, and limited tax benefits. There has also been added to the
statutes a provision allowing the two Houses of Congress to vote in an expeditious
manner to reject rules issued by executive agencies.
Congress acts on a concurrent resolution on the budget in the
spring of each year. This resolution sets levels of new budget authority and
spending, revenue, and debt levels. However, Congress may adopt a later budget
resolution that revises or reaffirms the most recently adopted budget
One of the mechanisms Congress uses to enforce projected
budget authority and spending, revenue, and debt levels is called the
reconciliation process. Under reconciliation, Congress in a budget resolution directs
one or more legislative committees to report bills or recommend changes
in laws that will achieve the levels of spending and revenues set by the budget
resolution. The directions to the committees specify the total amounts
that must be changed but leave to the discretion of the committees decisions about
the changes that must be made to achieve the required levels.
If only one committee has been directed to recommend changes,
that committee reports its reconciliation legislation directly to the floor
for consideration. If, however, more than one committee has been directed to
make changes, the committees report the recommended changes to the Committee on
the Budget. That committee then reports an omnibus reconciliation bill to
the floor for consideration by the whole Senate or House.
EXECUTIVE BUSINESS AND EXECUTIVE
Executive Matters Generally
The executive business of the Senate consists of nominations
and treaties submitted to the Senate by the President of the United States
for its "advice and consent." This business of the Senate is handled
separately from its legislative business.
Treaties are referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Nominations are referred to one of the various committees of the Senate;
usually this is the committee that handled the legislation creating the position.
When committees report treaties or nominations to the Senate, they are placed
on the Executive Calendar, as distinct from the Calendar of Business, on which
legislation is placed. These two calendars are printed separately.
When the Senate considers nominations and treaties, it goes
into executive session, as distinct from legislative session, and a separate
Journal is kept of the proceedings thereon.
The scope of the Senate's authority to confirm Presidential
nominations is vast. It includes officers of the Government--specifically,
ambassadors, other public ministers and counsels, justices of the Supreme Court,
all other officers of the United States as set forth in the Constitution, and
such officers as Congress by law may designate.
A Presidential nomination requiring advice and consent must
be approved by a majority vote of the Senate. After a nomination is received
and referred to the appropriate committee, hearings may be held, and after
the committee votes, the nomination may be reported back to the Senate. If
the nomination is confirmed, a Resolution of Confirmation is transmitted to
the White House and the appointment is then signed by the President.
Presidential nominations may be made during recesses of the
Senate. The Constitution authorizes the President to "fill up" vacancies
that may happen during such recesses "by granting Commissions which
shall expire at the End of their next Session." Recess appointments to the
Supreme Court, however, troubled the Senate enough that it agreed to a sense
of the Senate resolution on August 29, 1960, stating that such appointments
"may not be wholly consistent with the best interests of the Supreme
Court, the nominee who may be involved, the litigants before the Court, nor
indeed the people of the United States." It further stated "that such
appointments, therefore, should not be made except under unusual
circumstances and for the purpose of preventing or ending a demonstrable breakdown in
the administration of the Court"s business."
All confidential communications made by the President shall
be kept secret, and all treaties which may be laid before the Senate, and all
remarks, votes and proceedings thereon, shall also be kept secret until the
Senate shall, by their resolution, take off the injunction of secrecy. When
the Senate is proceeding on treaty ratification, the treaty shall be read a
first time. Only a motion to refer it to committee, to print it in
confidence for the use of the Senate, or to remove the injunction of secrecy
shall be in order.
The rules for the consideration for executive business are
different from the rules for the consideration and disposition of
legislative business. Rule XXX provides that a treaty shall lie over for one day before
the Senate proceeds to consider it in executive session; then it may be read a
second time, after which amendments may be proposed. At any stage of these
proceedings the Senate may remove the injunction of secrecy from the treaty. When
there is no further debate or amendment to be proposed to the treaty, the Senate
proceeds to consider a resolution of ratification.
After the resolution of ratification has been proposed, no
amendment to the treaty is in order except by unanimous consent. On the other
hand, reservations, etc., are in order only during consideration of the
resolution of ratification, not while the treaty itself is being considered for
amendment. After the Senate completes considering both the treaty and the resolution of
ratification, it gives its final consent to the resolution by a two-thirds
vote of the Senators present. The vote on a motion to postpone indefinitely
requires the same two-thirds majority; all other motions and questions arising in relation
to a treaty are decided by a majority vote.
Amendments, Reservations, and Other Statements
The Senate may stipulate conditions to a treaty in the form
of amendments, reservations, understandings, declarations, statements,
interpretations, and statements in committee reports. An "amendment"
makes actual changes in the language of the treaty.
The term "reservation" in treaty-making, according
to general international usage, means a formal declaration by a state, when signing,
ratifying, of adhering to a treaty, which modifies or limits the
substantive effect of one or more of the treaty's provisions as between the reserving
state and other states party to the treaty. In addition, the Senate may
attach to resolutions of ratification various "understandings,"
"interpretations," "declarations," and so on. The term
"understanding" is often used to designate a statement that is not intended to
modify or limit any of the provisions of the treaty in its international
operation, but instead is intended merely to clarify or explain the meaning of the
treaty or to deal with some matter incidental to the operation of the treaty
without constituting a substantive reservation. Any such additions to the
resolution are part of the instrument of ratification no matter what they are
called, and even if their effect is solely of an internal domestic nature.
Ratification of Treaties
The word "ratification" when used in connection
with treaties refers to the formal act by which a nation affirms its willingness
to be bound by a specific international agreement. The basic purpose of
ratification of a treaty is to confirm that an agreement which two or more
countries have negotiated and signed is accepted and recognized as binding by those
The procedure by which nations ratify treaties is a concern
of domestic rather than international law. The Constitution does not use the
word ratification in regard to treaties. It says only that the President shall
have the power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make
treaties. The Constitution does not divide up the process into various component parts
which can be identified today, such as initiation, negotiation, signing, Senatorial
advice and consent, ratification, deposit or exchange of the instruments of
ratification, and promulgation. From the beginning, however, the formal act of
ratification has been performed by the President acting "by and with
the advice and consent of the Senate." The President ratifies the
treaty, but only upon the authorization of the Senate.
The Senate gives its advice and consent by agreeing to the
resolution of ratification. After it does so, the President is not obligated to proceed
with the process of ratification. With the President's approval, however, the
ratification occurs with the exchange of the instruments of ratification
between the parties to the treaty.
Treaties, unlike any other business considered by the Senate,
stay before that body once the President submits them until the Senate
acts on them or unless the President requests, and/or the Senate adopts an
order or resolution authorizing, their return to the President or the Secretary
of State. In 1937, 1947, and 1952, the Senate returned numerous treaties,
including some dating back as early as 1910, to the Secretary of State or the
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