Order Code 98-777
Updated May 19, 2008
The House Amendment Tree
Walter J. Oleszek
Government and Finance Division
The House amendment “tree” is a chart that depicts the maximum number and types
of amendments that may be offered to a measure before any amendment is voted upon.
This diagram is outlined in various sources, including the 2003 summary compilation of
House precedents, titled House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and
Procedures of the House. The amendment tree generally indicates, for instance, the
relationship of one amendment to another and the sequence of voting on amendments.
For further detail about amendments, such as first degree or second degree, and the
amending process in general, see CRS Report 98-613, Amendments in the House: Types
and Forms, by Christopher M. Davis and CRS Report 98-439, Amendment Process in the
Committee of the Whole, by Judy Schneider.
The amendment tree and its accompanying “limbs” grow from various
parliamentary principles and precedents. House Rule XVI, clause 6, identifies the four
amendments (or motions) that characterize the basic amendment tree; it is portrayed in
the chart on the next page. Under Rule XVI, four amendments may be pending
simultaneously to the text of a measure: (1) an amendment to the pending bill; (2) a
perfecting amendment to that amendment; (3) a substitute amendment, which strikes all
of amendment #1 and replaces it with different language; and (4) a perfecting amendment
to the substitute.
Three other aspects of the amending process merit mention:
The amendment to the original measure is offered first; thereafter, there
is no rule that regulates what amendment is to come next. It could either
be a perfecting amendment or a substitute amendment. The substitute,
of course, must be proposed before an amendment to it is in order.
As stated in Rule XVI, only one amendment to an amendment and one
amendment to a substitute is in order at any one time. However, once an
amendment to the original amendment or to the substitute is disposed of
either by rejection or incorporation, both generally remain open to further
Amendments are voted on in a definite order. Amendments to the
original amendment are voted on first; amendments to the substitute are
voted on next; then the substitute is voted on; and, finally, the original
amendment is voted on. If the substitute is agreed to, the last vote is on
the amendment, as amended.
Figure 1. The Basic Amendment Tree
Note: Bracketed numbers indicate voting order.