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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. Some bills and joint resolutions, however, are not referred to committee. This report examines the alternative procedures and actions that the Senate uses to bypass committee consideration of bills and joint resolutions. It also provides examples of how the Senate uses these alternative procedures and actions to facilitate consideration and passage of some bills and joint resolutions.
Provisions of Senate Rule XIV and unanimous consent allow the Senate to bypass a measure's referral to committee. Rule XIV requires measures to be read twice before referral to committee. By objecting after the second reading
on a measure to any further proceeding on it, a Senator, normally the majority leader, acting on his own initiative or at the request of any Senator, prevents a bill or joint resolution's referral to committee. The measure is placed directly on the Senate Calendar of Business. Alternately, unanimous consent is also used to bypass referral and place measures directly 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.
A bill or joint resolution, in addition, might be neither referred to committee nor placed on the calendar: a measure might be held at the desk (of the presiding officer)
. Another use of unanimous consent is to truncate a committee's consideration of a measure referred to it: a measure might be referred to a committee but then the committee by unanimous consent of the Senate is discharged from further consideration of the measure. One purpose of using any of the means of bypassing committee referral or truncating committee consideration of a measure is to facilitate a measure's Senate consideration. The Senate leadership might use one of two informal processes, called clearance and hotlining , to determine if any Senator would object to a specific bill or joint resolution being considered and possibly passed by unanimous consent.
The Senate regularly uses unanimous consent to consider and pass noncontroversial legislation that was placed directly on the calendar, that is at the desk (neither placed on the calendar nor referred to committee),
that has been discharged from committee, or that has been reported from committee.
On major legislation, the majority leader typically attempts to obtain unanimous consent to proceed to the consideration of a measure, whether it was referred to or reported by a committee. In some limited circumstances, unanimous consent might also be used to pass such legislation.
This report does not examine procedures applicable to concurrent and simple resolutions, treaties,
and nominations. Nor does it examine the use of a germane, relevant, or nongermane amendment instead of a bill or joint resolution. This report will not be updated again in the 114th Congress unless Senate procedures change.
When a Senator introduces a bill or joint resolution, the measure is usually referred to committee, pursuant to provisions of Senate Rules XIV, XVII, and XXV. When the House informs the Senate that it
has passed a bill or joint resolution that was introduced in the House, and the Senate receives the measure, the measure is also often referred to a Senate committee.1
Senate Rule XIV, paragraph 2 requires that bills and joint resolutions have three readings before passage, and that they be read twice before being referred to committee.2 Although a Senator may demand (under paragraph 2) that the readings occur on three different legislative days, bills and joint resolutions may be read twice on the same day "for reference" (referral) if there is no objection (under paragraph 3). Most bills and joint resolutions are read twice "without any comment whatsoever from the floor"3 and referred to committee on the same day that they are introduced by a Senator or received from the House.4
Senate Rule XVII, paragraph 1 states that a measure should be referred to the committee "which has jurisdiction over the subject matter which predominates.... " Rule XXV contains the jurisdictions of the Senate's standing committees. These rules and the precedents from referral decisions based on them guide the referral of measures. There also exist agreements between committees that might govern the referral of certain bills and joint resolutions.5
Under Rule XVII, paragraph 1, the presiding officer formally refers bills and joint resolutions; in practice, the parliamentarian refers measures in behalf of the presiding officer. The introduction and referral of bills and joint resolutions, and the referral of House-passed bills and joint resolutions, occurs as "morning business," pursuant to Senate Rule VII, paragraph 1.6
The Senate may, however, use provisions of Senate Rule XIV or unanimous consent to bypass referral of a bill or joint resolution to a committee. The Senate might also hold a measure in abeyance at the desk (of the presiding officer), at least temporarily not referring it to committee or
taking other action on it. The Senate might also agree by unanimous consent to truncate a committee's consideration of a measure that had been referred to it. Reasons for bypassing a committee's consideration of a bill or joint resolution include wishing to place the measure directly on the Senate's Calendar of Business, which under General Orders lists measures eligible for floor consideration, or wanting to immediately call up and consider the measure.
Senators might also convert introduced bills and resolutions into an amendment form and offer their proposal as a germane, relevant, or nongermane amendment, including amendments in the nature of a substitute and managers' amendments, to a measure being considered on the Senate floor. They might also choose not to introduce a bill or resolution at all, but only seek to amend another measure. This report does not examine the use of the amendment process as a way to bypass Senate committees.7
This report examines alternative procedures and actions that the Senate uses to bypass committee consideration of bills and joint resolutions. It also provides examples of how the Senate uses these alternative procedures and actions to facilitate consideration and passage of some bills and joint resolutions.
In the remainder of this report, bill or bills and measure or measures will be used to refer to bills and joint resolutions.
Senate Rule XIV, paragraph 4, states: "... every bill and joint resolution introduced on leave, and every bill and joint resolution of the House of Representatives which shall have received a first and second reading without being referred to a committee, shall, if objection be made to further proceeding thereon, be placed on the Calendar." (Emphasis added.)
Therefore, through objection, a bill after two readings is prevented from being referred to committee and is placed directly on the Senate's Calendar of Business. It is usually the majority leader (or a Senator in the majority leader's stead), acting on his own or at the request of any other Senator, who objects to "further proceeding"—committee referral—on a measure.8
BROWN. Mr. President, I understand that S. 2262 , introduced earlier today by Senators Shaheen, Portman, and others[,] is at the desk, and I ask for its first reading.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will read the bill by title for the first time.
The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:
A bill (S.
2262 ) to promote energy savings in residential buildings and industry, and for other purposes. Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I ask for its second reading and object to my own request.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection
is heard. The bill will be read for a second time on the next legislative day.10
In the next edition of the Senate's Calendar of Business on April
29, this action was recorded in the section Bills and Joint Resolutions Read the First Time. The measure was pending at the desk (of the presiding officer).
Since objection had been heard to the second reading, the presiding officer recognized Majority Leader
Harry Reid the next legislative day, April 29:
REID. Mr. President, I am told that S. 2262 is due for its second reading.
PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will read the bill by title for the second time.
The legislative clerk read as follows:
A bill (S.
2262 ) to promote energy savings in residential buildings and industry, and for other purposes.
Mr. REID. I object to any further proceedings with respect to this bill.
The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Objection is heard.
The bill will be placed on the calendar.11
S. 2262 had received its second reading, but there was objection to further proceeding on referral of the bill to committee. The presiding officer, under Rule XIV, ordered that the bill be placed on the Senate Calendar. In the calendar beginning April 30, S. 2262 appeared as Calendar Order No. 368 in the section General Orders, with other measures eligible for floor consideration.12
This same procedure is followed to have House-passed bills and joint resolutions placed directly on the Senate calendar.13
Broadly, the two purposes of preventing referral of a bill to a committee by placing it on the Senate Calendar are (1) to facilitate the full Senate's opportunity to consider the measure; or (2) to bypass a committee's potential inaction or, to a bill's sponsor, potential hostile action.14 Although placing a bill directly on the calendar does not guarantee that the full Senate will ever consider it, the measure is available for floor consideration and certain procedural steps, like committee reporting or discharging a committee from a bill's consideration, and procedural requirements, like the two-day availability of a committee report, may be obviated.15
113th Congress, at least 140 bills were placed directly on the calendar using the Rule XIV procedure.16 For example, S. 47 , the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, was an important legislative initiative. A reason that it might have been placed directly on the calendar was that the Senate Judiciary Committee had reported a related measure in the 112th Congress (S. 1925; S.Rept. 112-153), which had passed the Senate.17 On January 22, 2013, in the 113th Congress, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy introduced S. 47 , which was read a first and second time and placed on the calendar on January 28, thereby enabling the majority leader to expeditiously call up the bill in the Senate.
Although no measure on the Senate Calendar is assured rapid or any consideration, the majority leader moved to proceed to the consideration of S.
47 on January 31, and the Senate agreed to the motion by a vote of 85-8 on February 4. Debate and consideration of amendments continued through February 12, when the Senate voted 78-22 to pass the bill.18
As mentioned, House-passed bills might also be placed directly on the calendar using the Rule XIV procedure. The Senate might choose this option when—
House-passed measures placed on the calendar in this way in the
113th Congress included H.R. 251 , the South Utah Valley Electric Conveyance Act, and H.R. 1960 , the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, where companion Senate bills were already pending on the calendar.
The procedure under Rule XIV is also used by minority-party Senators, or by a majority-party Senator with a viewpoint different on an issue from that of other Senators of his or her party, to give added visibility to specific bills and to avoid potential inaction or hostility in a Senate committee. A
Republican Senator in the 113th Congress, for example, used this procedure to put directly on the calendar S. 201 , a bill to prohibit the sale and delivery of military hardware to Egypt.
By unanimous consent, bills may also be read the first and second times and placed directly on the calendar. This procedure was used in the
113th Congress for bills such as H.R. 3716 , a bill ratify a water settlement agreement affecting the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe. The Senate companion measure, S. 1818, had been reported earlier from a Senate committee and was pending on the Senate Calendar.19
Even major legislation might be placed directly on the calendar by unanimous consent. For example, in the 113th Congress, Majority Leader Reid anticipated that the Senate would soon receive from the House H.J.Res. 59, the fiscal year 2014 continuing appropriations resolution.
In order to ensure that he could quickly call up the measure, the majority leader made this unanimous consent request on September 19, 2013:
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that[,] when the Senate receives H.J.Res. 59 from the House, the measure be placed on the calendar with a motion to proceed not in order until Monday, September 23.20
When the majority leader obtained the Senate's unanimous consent, the House was still one day from voting to
adopt H.J.Res. 59.
Senate floor consideration of a bill could be characterized as a two-step process. There is first debate and a decision by the Senate whether to consider a measure: a vote on, or unanimous consent to
, a motion to proceed to consideration of the measure. There is then debate, possible amendment, and a vote on final passage of the measure itself.
On many pieces of noncontroversial legislation, Senate leaders might use one of two informal processes called clearance and hotlining to determine the feasibility of expeditious or immediate consideration of a measure.21 Senators are notified of pending noncontroversial bills to determine if any Senator would object to proceeding to consider and then passing a specific measure by unanimous consent—with little or no debate, no motion or amendment unless it is sought as part of clearance, and, likely, no recorded votes.22 The process of passing noncontroversial measures may include bypassing a Senate committee or truncating committee action, although a committee might well have played a key role in the development of the noncontroversial measure sought to be passed or in the measure's clearance.
On major legislation, the majority leader also attempts to obtain unanimous consent to proceed to consideration of a measure. The majority leader might seek unanimous consent even if the measure was not referred to or reported by a committee.23 If successful in negotiating unanimous consent to proceed to the consideration of a measure, or perhaps to discharge a committee from further proceedings on a measure and then to proceed to its consideration, the majority leader propounds a unanimous consent request on the Senate floor to proceed to the consideration of the specified measure.24
This section of the report illustrates the use of unanimous consent to bypass or truncate committee consideration of legislation and, particularly for noncontroversial legislation, to expeditiously pass such bills on the Senate floor.25
The Senate may pass some noncontroversial bills the day they are introduced, for example, in the 113th Congress, S.
716, to modify the STOCK Act requirements: Mr. COONS. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the consideration of S. 716, introduced earlier today.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the bill by title.
legislative clerk read as follows:
A bill (S.
716) to modify the requirements under the STOCK Act regarding online access to certain financial disclosure statements and related forms.
There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the bill.
Mr. COONS. I ask unanimous consent that the bill be read three times and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table , with no intervening action or debate.26
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.27
The Senate may also pass some House-passed bills when they are received. For example, the Senate received a message from the House
September 30, 2013, regarding H.R. 3210 , the Pay Our Military Act, and passed the bill that day: Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the consideration of H.R. 3210, which was received from the House in the last 24 hours. I ask unanimous consent that the bill be read three times , passed , and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table .
The PRESIDING OFFICER.
Is there objection?
Without objection, it is so ordered.
If the measure is a joint resolution rather than a bill, and the joint resolution has a preamble,29 the unanimous consent request on passage must encompass the preamble. So, for example,
Senator Reid made this request pertaining to S.J.Res. 22 (112th Congress), to grant congressional consent to a change in a compact between the states of Missouri and Illinois:
I ask unanimous consent the joint resolution be passed, the preamble be agreed to, the motion to reconsider be made and laid upon the table, there be no intervening action or debate, and any statements be printed in the Record.30 (Emphasis added.)
House bills might be received by the Senate, or Senate bills might be introduced, with no immediate further proceedings on them. They may be held at the desk or ordered to be held at the desk, sometimes pending a decision on referring them to committee, passing them without committee consideration, or obtaining clearance from all Senators. For example, H.R.
3095 , pertaining to requirements regarding sleep disorders of truckers, was received in the Senate on September 27, 2013. Although other bills received from the House that day were referred, no proceedings occurred on H.R. 3095 . On October 4, the Senate took up and passed H.R. 3095 by unanimous consent. To proceed to consideration, Majority Leader Reid simply stated,
The bill was passed
by unanimous consent.32
The Senate might even amend a bill that is taken from the desk and considered, as it did with H.R.
83 , a bill directing the Secretary of the Interior to address the energy needs of U.S. insular areas and the Freely Associated States. The pertinent words spoken after there was no objection to the Senate's consideration of the bill were:
I ask unanimous consent that
a Murkowski substitute amendment , which is at the desk, be agreed to; the bill, as amended, be read a third time and passed; and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate.33
The Senate might anticipate passage of a measure by the House, and agree by unanimous consent to Senate passage. For example, the Senate in the 113th Congress anticipated House passage of a bill that would provide a short-term extension for special Iraqi immigrant visas:
Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that if the Senate receives a bill from the House which is identical to S. 1566, a bill providing a short-term extension of Iraq special immigrant visas, as passed by the Senate, then the bill be read three times and passed and the motion to reconsider be laid on the table with no intervening action or debate.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The Senate might even anticipate House action on major legislation and, in response to exigent circumstances, agree by unanimous consent to its automatic consideration and passage. This happened, for example, when Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast during the August 2005 congressional recess. Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Bill Frist called Congress back into session on September 1, 2005 (the Senate) and September 2 (the House).
35 With only a handful of Members present, the House on September 2 passed H.R. 3645, emergency supplemental appropriations to deal with the immediate consequences of Hurricane Katrina. On September 1, anticipating House action, Senator Thad Cochran, chair of the Appropriations Committee, made this unanimous consent request, which was agreed to:
Mr. President, at this point, I ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding the recess or adjournment of the Senate, the Senate may receive from the House an emergency supplemental appropriations bill for relief of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the text of which is at the desk, and that the measure be considered read three times and passed and a motion to reconsider laid on the table; provided that the text of the House bill is identical to that which is at the desk.
The House and Senate passed the supplemental appropriations bill September 2 and President George W. Bush signed it into law the same day (P.L. 109-61).
Noncontroversial Senate bills and House-passed measures are often referred to committee. A committee might later be discharged by unanimous consent of the Senate from a measure's consideration. (If unanimous consent cannot be obtained, a motion to discharge could be made.
37) For example, S. 2440 , related to permit coordination by the Bureau of Land Management, was introduced on June 5, 2014. On September 16, 2014, the measure was discharged by unanimous consent from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. With an amendment included in the unanimous consent request on reading and passage, the Senate passed the bill: 38 Ms. HEITKAMP. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Energy Committee be discharged from further consideration of S. 2440 and the Senate proceed to its immediate consideration.
ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered. The clerk will report the bill by title.
The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:
A bill (S.
2440 ) to expand and extend the program to improve permit coordination by the Bureau of Land Management, and for other purposes.
There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the bill.
Ms. HEITKAMP. I ask unanimous consent that a Udall of New Mexico amendment, which is at the desk , be agreed to , the bill, as amended, be read three times and passed , and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. 39
ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.40
Although legislation might be discharged from a committee that has taken no formal action on a measure, legislation might also be discharged following formal committee action. For example,
in the 113th Congress, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee held hearings on S. 812 , concerning a U.S.-Mexico agreement on transboundary hydrocarbon reservoirs. The committee was subsequently discharged from further consideration of S. 812. Similarly, the Veterans' Affairs Committee was discharged following committee hearings from further consideration of S. 1434 , naming an outpatient clinic. In the 112th Congress, the Judiciary Committee was discharged from further consideration of S. 3250, the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act of 2012 (the SAFER Act), after the committee had ordered the bill to be favorably reported.
Measures might also be discharged and considered en bloc.41
Senate rules contain procedures for the processing of concurrent and simple resolutions, which are not covered in this report. See especially Senate Rule XIV, para. 6. Treaties and nominations are also not discussed in this report. Regarding treaties, see Senate Rule XXX and U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Treaties and Other International Agreements: The Role of the United States Senate, committee print, prepared by Congressional Research Service, 106th Cong., 2nd sess., January 2001, S.Prt. 106-71 (Washington: GPO, 2001), available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CPRT-106SPRT66922/pdf/CPRT-106SPRT66922.pdf. Regarding nominations, see Senate Rule XXXI and CRS Report RL31980, Senate Consideration of Presidential Nominations: Committee and Floor Procedure, by [author name scrubbed].
The "third reading" occurs after Senate consideration of a measure and before the vote on final passage. See U.S. Congress, Senate, Riddick's Senate Procedure, S.Doc. 101-28, 101st Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO, 1992), pp. 1290-1291. (Hereafter, Riddick's Senate Procedure.)
Ibid., pp. 1150-1151.
For example, on
This rule (para. 6) also allows the introduction of such measures by delivery to the presiding officer's desk, "in the absence of objection." In fact, in a unanimous consent request similar to ones in previous Congresses, the Senate permitted "that for the duration of the
For example, in the 113th Congress, S. 783 and S. 1513 were introduced in the Senate; they would amend the Helium Act. S. 783 was reported by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on July 29, 2013 (S.Rept. 113-83). Following discussion among interested Senators, S. 1513 was introduced September 17, 2013, and placed directly on the Senate Calendar. In the meantime, the House passed a companion measure, H.R. 527. The majority leader called up H.R. 527, and the text of S. 1513 was agreed to as an amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 527. "Responsible Helium Administration and Storage Act," Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 159 (September 19, 2013), pp. S6632-S6634.
For explanation of the amendment process in the Senate, see CRS Report 98-707, Senate Amendment Process: General Conditions and Principles
See also Riddick's Senate Procedure, pp. 225-226 and 240-248.
Although any Senator could object to the reading of a measure to prevent its referral to committee, a Senator, other than the majority leader or the sponsor of the bill or joint resolution, who makes an objection is normally acting in the stead of the majority leader.
Two or more bills and joint resolutions might also be processed en bloc in a Rule XIV colloquy. See, for example, Sen.
On occasion, a Senator introduces a bill, which is referred to committee, and later introduces an identical or similar measure and places it directly on the calendar under Rule XIV. The Senator might do this to bypass a committee's hostility to the first measure: the committee would neither report the measure nor allow it to be discharged by unanimous consent. Alternately, as mentioned in the introduction to this report, a Senator can seek to offer a measure in the form of an amendment to another measure.
Under Senate precedents, however, a measure may not be considered on the day on which it received its second reading, except by unanimous consent. See Riddick's Senate Procedure, pp. 662-663.
Again, no measure placed on the calendar, either directly or upon being reported by a committee, is assured rapid or any consideration. The majority leader determines the Senate's floor agenda and may call up a measure on the calendar, but he still must first obtain the Senate's agreement to consider the measure (agreement to a motion to proceed) and, if successful, then obtain the Senate's agreement to complete consideration and vote on final passage.
The Senate might also use a combination of the Rule XIV proceeding and unanimous consent to place a measure directly on the calendar. For example, in the
The Senate might also use a unanimous consent agreement to govern placing one or more specified measures on the calendar. See, for example, Sen. Harry Reid, "Order of Procedure," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 159 (February 14, 2013), p. S790, concerning certain measures to be introduced in the future by the majority and minority leaders.
Sen. Harry Reid, "Unanimous Consent Agreement—H.J.Res. 59," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 159 (September 19, 2013), p. S6632.
Clearance generally implies a process for obtaining Senators' consent to call up and pass
Measures may be taken up
See, for example, the complex unanimous consent agreement
If unsuccessful in obtaining clearance, the motion to proceed is debatable and therefore may be filibustered. Once the motion to proceed is agreed to by vote, through the cloture procedure, or by unanimous consent, consideration of the measure begins. The majority leader might seek a complex unanimous consent agreement or a series of such agreements (also called "time-limitation agreements") on major legislation that structures debate and the amendment process to ultimately bring the Senate to a vote on final passage.
For an explanation of how the Senate might consider major legislation, see CRS Report 96-548, The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: An Introduction, by [author name scrubbed]; CRS Report RS20668, How Measures Are Brought to the Senate Floor: A Brief Introduction, by [author name scrubbed]; CRS Report 98-225, Unanimous Consent Agreements in the Senate
If an agreement is to allow one or more Senators to speak on a measure, the majority leader or his designee would not utter these remarks until after the speaker(s) had finished.
Introductory text, sometimes called whereas clauses, preceding the resolving clause of a resolution.
Sen. Harry Reid, "Granting the Consent of Congress,"
Sen. Harry Reid, "Unanimous Consent—S. 1566," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 159 (October 2, 2013), p. S7140. See also Riddick's Senate Procedure, pp. 230-231. For an example of a more complex parliamentary setting, in which the Senate not only anticipated the receipt of a House-passed measure but also provided for requesting a conference with the House, see the time-limitation agreement on S. 1813. Sen. Harry Reid, "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act—Continued,"
Speaker pro tempore Tom DeLay, "Notification of Reassembling of Congress," remarks in the House, Congressional Record, vol. 151, part 14 (September 2, 2005), p. 19424.
Sen. Thad Cochran, "Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, vol. 151, part 14 (September 5, 2005), p. 19421.
See also Riddick's Senate Procedure, pp. 802-806.
A committee might also be discharged automatically after a measure has been pending before it for a period of time, pursuant to congressional procedures in law. See, for example, S.J.Res.
The Senator making the request often also adds the phrase, "with no intervening action or debate."
See, for example, Sen.