Updated March 2, 1999
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Engrossment, Enrollment, and
Presentation of Legislation
Paul S. Rundquist
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Engrossment, enrollment, and presentation of legislation are technical components
of the legislative process. They attest to the accuracy of bill texts, confirm passage by the
House and Senate, and confirm delivery of the bills to the President for his review.
When either house orders the third reading of a bill, it simultaneously orders the
engrossment of the bill. Engrossment is the formal reprinting of the bill in the form upon
which the chamber will vote final passage. (In earlier times, such bills were handwritten
in very large script, hence the term "engrossment.") The official engrossed copies are
prepared by staff in the Office of the Clerk of the House (under the supervision of the
House Oversight Committee) and the Office of the Secretary of the Senate. The signature
of the clerk or the secretary attests to the passage of the measure and certifies the accuracy
of the engrossed text. The House-engrossed measures (including amendments to bills
passed by the Senate) are printed on blue paper; the Senate prints its engrossed measures
on white paper. If either chamber later discovers errors in one of its engrossed measures,
it must pass a resolution formally requesting the other chamber to return the engrossed bill
or resolution to it for correction.
An engrossed bill is "messaged" by the originating house to the other; the second
chamber, to act, attaches the text of whatever engrossed amendments it adopts to the
original measure it has received from the first.
An enrolled bill is the final version of a measure agreed to by both chambers.
Enrolled bills are printed on parchment and then signed first by the Speaker of the House
and secondly by the President of the Senate, or the formally designated Senate presiding
officer. Preparing and signing enrolled bills may take significant time, especially at the end
of a Congress when many such bills must be prepared. The Speaker and the Senate
presiding officer must sign enrolled bills while their respective chambers are in session,
unless permission has been granted in advance for them to sign during recesses or
adjournments. Sometimes air couriers deliver enrolled bills to these officials when they
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are away from the capital. A formally designated Speaker pro tempore may sign enrolled
bills in the Speaker's absence; the Senate President pro tempore may designate in writing
another Senator to sign enrolled bills in his or her absence. When the officials from both
chambers have signed an enrolled bill, the measure is sent the President.
Both houses must pass a concurrent resolution to recall an incorrectly enrolled bill
already sent to the President, or to make changes in the text of an enrolled bill still in the
possession of the Congress.
The Constitution (Art. 1, sec. 7) provides that "Every Bill which shall have passed
the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented
to the President of the United States." An enrolled bill properly signed by the presiding
officers of both chambers is delivered to the White House and stamped to certify the date
and time of the bill's arrival. When the President has been out of the country for long
periods of time, the White House and congressional leaders have agreed that enrolled
measures will be presented to the President upon his return and that the 10-day clock will
start then; at other times, bills have been sent to the President overseas.
If the President signs a bill during the 10-day period (excluding Sundays) provided
in the Constitution for his review, it becomes law. If the President disapproves (vetoes)
a bill, he must return it to the originating chamber with a message indicating his reasons
for disapproval. If the President does not sign or return a bill during the 10 days, the bill
becomes law, unless the Congress has adjourned during the 10 days, thereby making
impossible the return of the bill (pocket veto).
Some doubt exists about the President's power to pocket veto a bill during intrasession and inter-session adjournments. The Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1974
(Kennedy v. Sampson, 511 F.2d. 430 (D.C. Cir., 1974)) that a pocket veto was improper
during an intra-session adjournment in which the administrative officers of the House and
Senate had been authorized to receive presidential messages. Many claim that Congress
may also authorize its administrative officers to receive messages, including veto messages,
during any intra-session adjournment or after any inter-session adjournment. But, the
Supreme Court has not ruled directly on this issue affecting pocket vetoes.
Any attempt by Congress to deprive the President of his right to be presented with
measures before they become law is constitutionally suspect. The Supreme Court ruled
the legislative veto to be unconstitutional for this reason (INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919,
(1983)). In June 1998 (Clinton v. City of New York, 118 S. Ct. 2091 (1998)), the
Supreme Court declared that procedures set up in the Line Item Veto Act (P.L. 104-30)
also violated the presentment clause of the Constitution.