Order Code RS20782
Updated January 17, 2001
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
House Rules Changes Affecting Floor Proceedings
in the 107th Congress
Senior Specialist in the Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
On the first day of the 107th Congress, the House agreed to H.Res. 5, making six
substantive changes affecting its floor proceedings. These amendments facilitate use of
the Corrections Calendar and voting on amendments in Committee of the Whole. They
also limit votes relating to use of exhibits on the floor, and bar motions to instruct
containing argument as well as proposals to name public works after sitting members of
either house. Finally, the rule providing for the House to agree to change the public debt
ceiling without a separate floor vote was repealed.
When the 107th Congress convened on January 3, 2001, the House adopted its rules
for the next 2 years by agreeing to H.Res. 5. Following a well-established practice, H.Res.
5 provided for the rules of the 106th Congress, including applicable provisions of law and
concurrent resolutions, to be the rules of the new Congress, but with a set of amendments
proposed on behalf of the majority party conference.
H.Res. 5 made several noteworthy rules changes affecting the House’s committee
system, including some jurisdictional shifts between the renamed Committee on Energy
and Commerce and the new Committee on Financial Services, created to replace the
Committee on Banking and Financial Services.1 By contrast, the resolution made relatively
few changes affecting the House’s floor proceedings, and none that are likely to have a
significant impact on the legislative process on the floor. This report briefly discusses each
of the six substantive rules changes that directly affect how the House transacts its
legislative business on the floor.2
See Committee System Rules Changes in the House, 107th Congress. CRS Report RS20769.
January 5, 2001.
For the text of H.Res. 5 and a section-by-section summary inserted by Rep. David Dreier (R.,
CA), see Congressional Record (daily edition), January 3, 2001, pp. H6-H11. The resolution
also made a number of technical, non-substantive changes in the rules to correct problems
arising from the recodification of House rules that the House adopted on the first day of the
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Corrections Calendar. A bill placed on the Corrections Calendar no longer must
satisfy 3-day layover and availability requirements before being eligible for floor
consideration. During the 106th Congress, Rule XV had provided that the Speaker could,
on any second or fourth Tuesday, direct the clerk to call any bill that had been on the
Corrections Calendar for 3 legislative days. In addition, Rule XIII had prohibited, and
continues to prohibit, the House from considering most measures reported from committee
until the committee’s report accompanying the measure has been available to Members
for 3 calendar days (excluding weekends and holidays when the House is not in session).
Rule XIII had exempted certain kinds of measures from this 3-day rule. H.Res. 5
amended Rule XIII to add an exemption for bills called from the Corrections Calendar.
The resolution also amended Rule XVI to permit the Speaker, on the same 2 days of each
month, to direct the clerk to call any bill that is printed on the Corrections Calendar.
Objections to Exhibits. H.Res. 5 may expedite decisions concerning the use of
exhibits in debate. Clause 6 of Rule XVII had provided that, whenever there was an
objection to using an exhibit, the House would decide the matter by vote and do so
without debate. Clause 6 now provides that, in case of such an objection, the chair may
“submit the question of its use to the House without debate.” By implication, the chair
also now has the discretion to rule on such an objection instead of submitting it for the
House to decide by vote. This rules change may eliminate the need and opportunity for
votes, including electronically recorded votes, concerning the use of exhibits.
Voting on Amendments in Committee of the Whole. H.Res. 5 amends Rule
XVIII to codify a recent practice that facilitates voting on amendments in the Committee
of the Whole. Beginning in 1995, the Rules Committee frequently had included in its
special rules a provision that authorized the chair of the Committee of the Whole to defer,
at his or her discretion, requests for record votes on amendments until later in the
amending process. This authority was accompanied by the authority to reduce the time
consumed by a series of electronic votes on amendments so long as the votes occurred
without intervening business. The chair could reduce the time for the second and any
subsequent electronic votes to a minimum of 5 minutes each so long as at least 15 minutes
was allowed for Members to cast the first vote in the series.
These authorities now have been added to the standing rules, making it unnecessary
for the Rules Committee to include them in its special rules. The chair of the Committee
of the Whole is empowered but not obligated to exercise these authorities, and he or she
may do so with respect to any amendments, whether in the first or second degree, and
regardless of whether the measure in question is being considered in the Committee of the
Whole under an open rule, a restrictive rule, or some other procedure.
Naming of Public Works. A new clause added to Rule XXI bars consideration of
any measure, amendment, or conference report that names a “public work,” such as a
building or bridge, in honor of a Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, or Senator
while that person is serving in Congress.
Motions to Instruct Conferees. Two changes were made affecting motions to
instruct House members of conference committees. First, H.Res. 5 amended clause 7 of
Rule XXII to clarify that a motion to instruct conferees is in order after a conference
committee has been appointed for 20 calendar days without having filed its report, but only
after the Member proposing to make such a motion has given one calendar day’s notice
of his or her intent to do so.
Second, the resolution added to the same clause a new paragraph that bars motions
to instruct conferees and motions to recommit conference reports with instructions from
including “argument.” It has not been in order to offer a motion to instruct or a motion
to recommit with instructions if the instructions are inconsistent with the restrictions that
House rules and precedents place on the authority of its conferees. This new paragraph
adds the additional restriction that these motions may not couple instructions with
language arguing in support of the instructions.
Changes in the Public Debt Ceiling. H.Res. 5 repealed House Rule XXIII, which
had provided for the automatic passage of House joint resolutions changing the public debt
ceiling to conform with concurrent budget resolutions that the House and Senate had
adopted. The rule stated that upon adoption of a concurrent budget resolution setting
forth a change in the appropriate statutory limit on the public debt, the clerk of the House
was to engross a joint resolution making the necessary change in the debt ceiling, as if the
joint resolution were a measure that the House had considered separately and passed. The
effect was for the House to approve the statutory increase (or decrease) in the debt ceiling
without the need or opportunity for a separate vote on the joint resolution making that
change in law.
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