Written for congressional staff, this report identifies and provides details on how to obtain information on legislative procedures and process in the House and Senate. It provides references to selected CRS products and offers information on the CRS legislative institutes. A listing of selected supplementary materials is also provided.
This report will be updated as new information is available.
A basic understanding of legislative procedure and processes is essential for congressional staff. Gaining familiarity with the key publications and websites listed in this report will assist congressional staff in obtaining this understanding, as well as providing a bibliography of sources to which staff may refer as questions arise in their work
Congressional staff can find official overviews and explanatory information on the House's "Legislative Process" website at http://clerk.house.gov/legislative/legprocess.aspx and on the Senate's "Legislative Process" website at http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/d_three_sections_with_teasers/process.htm.
Reference sources on the rules and procedure of the House and Senate are listed below.
Constitution, Jefferson's Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives.
Washington: GPO, 2017.
This publication, often referred to as House Rules and Manual, is prepared for each Congress by the House Parliamentarian and is issued as a House document, most recently for the 115th Congress as H.Doc. 114-192. It includes the text of the Constitution; the rules of the House and currently relevant portions of Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice; a portion of the Congressional Budget Act; and other statutory provisions that operate as procedural rules. Copies are distributed to House offices and are also available from the House Legislative Resource Center.
House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the House.
Washington: GPO, 2017.
This one-volume publication prepared by William Holmes Brown and updated by Charles W. Johnson, John V. Sullivan, and Thomas J. Wickham, Jr., all former House Parliamentarians, provides more current summary information on House rules and selected precedents than Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives (see next entry). Organized alphabetically by topic, it reflects changes in the House rules and procedure adopted as of the 115th Congress. This publication is sometimes referred to as Brown's. The Office of the House Parliamentarian has a limited number of copies to distribute to House offices upon request.
Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, 97th Congress: A Summary of the Modern Precedents and Practices of the House, 86th Congress-97th Congress. Washington: GPO, 1982.
Frequently referred to as Deschler's Procedure, after a former Parliamentarian of the House, this one-volume work summarizes House procedure and provides a cumulated, condensed version of House precedents from 1959 to 1980. A 1986 supplement, Procedure in the United States House of Representatives: Annotations of the Precedents of the House for the 97th, 98th, and 99th Congresses, covers 1981 through 1986. Both publications are out of print. These one-volume publications are not available on the Internet, but the full text of several related multivolume sets of House precedents—Deschler's Precedents of the U.S. House of Representatives, Cannon's Precedents, and Hinds' Precedents—are all available in the "Precedents of the U.S. House of Representatives" section of the Government Publishing Office's (GPO's) website at https://www.govinfo.gov/collection/precedents-of-the-house?path=/GPO/Precedents%20of%20the%20U.S.%20House%20of%20Representatives.
Senate Manual. Washington: GPO, 2014.
This manual, prepared periodically by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, contains the standing rules, orders, laws, and resolutions affecting the Senate, as well as copies of historical U.S. documents and selected statistics on the Senate and other government entities. Issued as S.Doc. 1, copies are distributed to Senate offices and are available from the Senate document room. A current edition of just the Standing Rules of the Senate is available on the committee's website at https://www.rules.senate.gov/rules-of-the-senate.
Riddick, Floyd M. and Alan S. Frumin. Riddick's Senate Procedure: Precedents and Practices. Washington: GPO, 1992.
This publication was revised and updated in 1992 by Floyd M. Riddick, who was then the Parliamentarian of the Senate, and published as S.Doc. 101-28. Organized alphabetically by topic, it contains currently applicable rulings by the presiding officer and practices related to Senate procedure. An appendix has suggested forms for various procedures, for example, offering motions or filing conference reports. Some of the most frequently used chapters of Riddick's Senate Procedure are available in an expanded format in the "Electronic Senate Precedents" section of the Senate's WEBSTER intranet site at http://webster.senate.gov/precedents.
Senate Cloture Rule. Washington: GPO, 2011.
This committee print (S.Prt. 112-31) was prepared for the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). It includes lists of selected filibusters, tables of cloture votes, a legislative history of the cloture rule, and a bibliography. CRS has a limited number of copies available for distribution to offices upon request. Lists of cloture motions and votes from the 65th Congress (1917-1918) forward are also available on the Senate website at http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/cloture_motions/clotureCounts.htm.
Our American Government. Washington: GPO, 2003. (H.Doc. 108-94)
This revised version of the popular introductory guide is written in a question-and-answer format that covers a broad range of topics dealing with the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of our government. The appendixes contain a glossary of legislative terms and a selective bibliography. Copies of each new edition are distributed to congressional offices. Members of Congress can also obtain printed copies of the current edition from the House Legislative Resource Center and the Senate Document Room.
The Constitution of the United States of America As Amended: Unratified Amendments: Analytical Index. Washington: GPO, 2007. (H.Doc. 110-50)
This document contains the text of the Constitution, its amendments, and a useful index to the Constitution and amendments.
The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation. Washington: GPO, 2017. (H.Doc. 112-9)
Popularly known as the Constitution Annotated, this document contains legal analysis and interpretation of each section of the U.S. Constitution and is updated regularly by CRS. It is available to congressional staff on the CRS website at http://www.crs.gov/conan/constitutionannotated, and to the public through GPO (see link above). For the public version, the most recent edition is listed at the top of the webpage.
Dove, Robert B. Enactment of a Law: Procedural Steps in the Legislative Process. Washington: GPO, 1982.
Prepared by Robert B. Dove in 1982, who was then the Senate Parliamentarian, this primer on the legislative process traces procedures used in the Senate and the House of Representatives. No printed copies are available, but it was updated online in 1997. It is available on Congress.gov and on the Senate website.
Sullivan, John V. How Our Laws Are Made. Washington: GPO, 2007. (H.Doc. 110-49)
This pamphlet outlines stages in the legislative process and explains the uses of various publications, which track that process. It is prepared by the Parliamentarian of the House in consultation with the Parliamentarian of the Senate. This guide is updated periodically. Copies of new editions are distributed to congressional offices and can also be obtained from the House Legislative Resource Center and the Senate Document Room.
CRS has a variety of resources and services on legislative procedure available to Members of Congress and their staff.
The CRS website is available at http://www.crs.gov. Congressional staff may obtain useful CRS materials on the "Legislative Reference Sources" page at http://www.crs.gov/resources/Pages/LegReference-Committees.aspx and legislative procedure from the "Congressional Process, Administration, & Elections" page at http://www.crs.gov/iap/congressional-process-administration-and-elections. The latter page includes short fact sheets on House and Senate procedure as well as materials on the budget process and on congressional oversight.
CRS Report 98-812, Amendments Between the Houses: A Brief Overview, by Elizabeth Rybicki and James V. Saturno.
CRS Report 98-728, Bills, Resolutions, Nominations, and Treaties: Characteristics, Requirements, and Uses, by Richard S. Beth.
CRS Report 98-242, Committee Jurisdiction and Referral in the Senate, by Judy Schneider.
CRS Report RS20147, Committee of the Whole: An Introduction, by Judy Schneider.
CRS Report RS20794, The Committee System in the U.S. Congress, by Judy Schneider.
CRS Report 98-736, Floor Consideration of Conference Reports in the House, by James V. Saturno.
CRS Report RS20200, General Debate in Committee of the Whole, by Judy Schneider.
CRS Report RL30945, House and Senate Rules of Procedure: A Comparison, by Judy Schneider.
CRS Report 98-339, House Committee Hearings: Scheduling and Notification, by Christopher M. Davis.
CRS Report 98-175, House Committee Jurisdiction and Referral: Rules and Practice, by Judy Schneider.
CRS Report RS20308, House Committee Markups: Commonly Used Motions and Requests, by Judy Schneider.
CRS Report 98-309, House Legislative Procedures: Published Sources of Information, by Megan S. Lynch.
CRS Report R44001, Introducing a House Bill or Resolution, by Mark J. Oleszek.
CRS Report R44195, Introducing a Senate Bill or Resolution, by Mark J. Oleszek.
CRS Report 98-721, Introduction to the Federal Budget Process, coordinated by James V. Saturno.
CRS Report R42843, Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress, by Valerie Heitshusen.
CRS Report 98-425, Invoking Cloture in the Senate, by Christopher M. Davis.
CRS Report 95-563, The Legislative Process on the House Floor: An Introduction, by Christopher M. Davis.
CRS Report 96-548, The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: An Introduction, by Valerie Heitshusen.
CRS Report RL30787, Parliamentary Reference Sources: House of Representatives, by Richard S. Beth and Megan S. Lynch.
CRS Report RL30788, Parliamentary Reference Sources: Senate, by Megan S. Lynch and Richard S. Beth.
CRS Report 98-143, Procedural Distinctions Between the House and the Committee of the Whole, by Judy Schneider.
CRS Report 98-337, Senate Committee Hearings: Scheduling and Notification, by Valerie Heitshusen.
CRS Report 98-308, Senate Legislative Procedures: Published Sources of Information, by Christopher M. Davis.
CRS Report 98-612, Special Rules and Options for Regulating the Amending Process, by Megan S. Lynch.
CRS Report RS22477, Sponsorship and Cosponsorship of House Bills, by Mark J. Oleszek.
CRS Report 98-279, Sponsorship and Cosponsorship of Senate Bills, by Mark J. Oleszek.
In addition to legislative procedure material, CRS offers several programs on legislative procedure for congressional staff. Legislative staff can attend Congress: An Introduction to Process and Resources, an introductory CRS program designed for and offered only to permanent, professional congressional staff who seek a foundation for understanding the legislative process and the resources available to monitor it. This CRS program is offered 10 or more times a year and is the prerequisite for the Advanced Legislative Process Institute. More information is available on the CRS website at http://www.crs.gov/Events/TrainingPrograms or by telephone at [phone number scrubbed].
CRS also offers a monthly introductory class, Legislative Concepts, to House staff and interns. Information is available on HouseNet (http://housenet.house.gov) under "Campus", then under "Congressional Staff Academy."
Legislative staff members are also invited to attend the CRS Budget Process Institutes. The introductory Overview of the Federal Budget Process is offered several times each year and provides an introduction to federal budgeting procedures, particularly procedures used in Congress. The following six advanced institutes are offered during the year at times when they are most relevant to congressional staff:
Event dates and registration forms for CRS programs and institutes can be found on the CRS website at http://www.crs.gov/programs/Pages/eventscal.aspx.
Congress A to Z. 6th ed. Washington: CQ Press, 2014.
Congress.gov Legislative Glossary. Written by CRS analysts and available to the public at https://www.congress.gov/help/legislative-glossary.
Davidson, Roger H., Frances E. Lee, and Walter J. Oleszek. Congress and Its Members. 16th ed. Washington: CQ Press, 2017.
Congressional Quarterly's Guide to Congress. 7th ed. Washington: CQ Press, 2012.
Koempel, Michael L., and Judy Schneider. Congressional Deskbook: the Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Congress. Alexandria, VA: TheCapitol.Net, 2012.
Kravitz, Walter. Congressional Quarterly's American Congressional Dictionary. 3rd ed. Washington, CQ Press, 2001. Available to congressional offices in an updated and expanded edition on the CRS website at https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/sman.
Oleszek, Walter J., Mark J. Oleszek, Elizabeth Rybicki, and Bill Heniff, Jr. Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process. 10th ed. Washington: CQ Press, 2016.
Tiefer, Charles. Congressional Practice and Procedure: A Reference, Research, and Legislative Guide. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1989.
United States Senate Glossary, at https://www.senate.gov/reference/glossary.htm.
The Legislative Process video series on Congress.gov. Nine brief video clips explaining the legislative process, written by CRS analysts and available to the public at https://www.congress.gov/legislative-process.
Some of the works on legislative procedure listed in this report are produced by GPO and may be obtained through its Congressional Liaison Office at http://www.gpo.gov/congressional/.
Other publications are only available from congressional sources, such as the House and Senate Parliamentarians, for congressional office use, and those listed in the "Supplementary Materials" section may be purchased from bookstores or publishers.
Author Contact Information
Michael Greene, Senior Research Librarian at CRS, is a former coauthor of this report.