Order Code 98-245 GOV
Updated April 29, 2003
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Markup in Senate Committee:
Thomas P. Carr
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Senate rules pertaining to amending measures on the floor apply generally to a
Senate committee markup as well. Within the confines of Senate rules, some committees
have adopted their own rules governing the consideration of amendments during a
markup. However, Senate committee markups can proceed informally, in accordance
with a committee’s particular needs and practices that have evolved over time. Senate
and committee rules and committee practices governing the consideration of amendments
during committee markup are summarized below. For more information on legislative
process, see [http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml ].
The committee chair usually chooses the text that serves as the base text of the
markup (see CRS Report 98-244, Markup in Senate Committee: Choosing a Text). The
rules, or procedural guidelines of some committees require that the base text be
distributed to committee members in advance of the markup. Senators often draft
amendments to this text prior to markup, and often seek the advice of the Office of
Legislative Counsel to ensure that amendments are clear and properly drafted.
Several committees have rules requiring amendments to be filed in advance of the
markup to assist Senators in planning and to expedite committee action. For example, the
Banking Committee requires 50 copies of a first-degree amendment (which would amend
the base text) to be submitted to the committee two business days before markup.
Committee staff may distribute all submitted amendments to committee members at the
outset of the markup, or as the amendments are offered.
Following any opening statements a committee may allow, a measure is open to
amendment at any point and amendments are considered in whatever order Senators offer
them. However, a committee may decide by unanimous consent to structure the
amendment process. Senators may draft amendments during markup, and Senate rules
require that amendments be in writing on demand of any Senator (Rule XV, paragraph 1).
Although an amendment must be read when offered, in practice the sponsor asks
unanimous consent to waive the reading (Rule XV, paragraph 1).
The sponsor of an amendment typically is recognized to debate it, and some
committees specify that the sponsor provide information about the amendment to assist
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
with its evaluation. (For instance, the Banking Committee, requires Senators offering
amendments to show, by appropriate typographical device, the effect of proposed
amendments on existing law, although this requirement can be waived by the chair).
Other Senators may debate an amendment when recognized by the chair, and the chair
ordinarily recognizes the first Senator seeking recognition.
There is no general time limit on debating amendments in committee, either for an
individual Senator, a particular amendment, or all amendments. The chair puts an
amendment to a vote when no Senators seek recognition to debate it. A committee may
end debate earlier by agreeing to a motion to lay an amendment on the table, but tabling
kills the amendment. On most committees it is possible for opponents to filibuster an
amendment, because the Senate’s procedure for invoking cloture to end protracted floor
debate does not apply to committees. However, some committees have adopted rules to
bring extended debate to an end. For example, the Judiciary Committee has provided for
debate to be closed through the adoption, by a majority of the committee including a
minority party Senator, of a non-debatable motion to end debate.
A committee may set its own quorum for voting on amendments, so long as the
quorum is not less than one-third of the committee (Rule XXVI, paragraph 7(a)(1)).
Senators may vote by voice, division, or rollcall vote, and a Senator may move to
reconsider the vote on any amendment (as detailed in Senate Rule XIII). Absent Senators
may vote on amendments by proxy, unless a committee adopts a rule to the contrary (Rule
XXVI, paragraphs 7(a)(3) and 7(c)(1)). A Senator voting by proxy must be informed of
the matter to be decided and must request to vote by proxy. Some committees give
Senators further flexibility, for instance, by allowing oral proxies as well as written ones,
or by allowing Senators to vote by proxy (or in person) after the vote has occurred.
A Senator who thinks that an amendment violates any rule can make a point of order
any time prior to the amendment’s disposition. The Senator must cite the basis of the
point of order, and, while Senators do not have a right to debate points of order, the chair
often allows the arguments on both sides to be presented. If the point of order is sustained
against any portion of the amendment, in general the whole amendment falls. If a Senator
appeals the ruling of the chair, the committee will vote on whether to sustain the ruling.
Senate rules governing the consideration of amendments on the floor apply generally
to the consideration of amendments in committee as well (see CRS Report 98-853, The
Amending Process in the Senate). Committees may set aside these rules implicitly or
explicitly by unanimous consent. Under the rules: (1) amendments are permitted in two
degrees — a first-degree amendment that seeks to amend the base text and a seconddegree amendment that proposes to amend the first-degree amendment; (2) amendments
need not be germane to the text they propose to amend, but Senate rules prohibit the floor
consideration of substantive committee amendments containing significant matter outside
the jurisdiction of the reporting committee (Rule XV, paragraph 5); (3) an amendment can
only change text in one part of a measure; (4) as a matter of right, any Senator may
demand that an amendment be divided if it consists of two or more propositions, and each
could stand separately; (5) Senators may re-amend text only if their amendments take a
“bigger bite,” by also changing unamended text; and (6) a Senator who offers an
amendment generally may modify or withdraw it unilaterally before action on it has been