Availability of Legislative Measures in the House of Representatives (The “72-Hour Rule”)

Availability of Legislative Measures inthe
February 25, 2021
House of Representatives (The “72 Hour Rule”) Elizabeth Rybicki
House rules govern the length of time legislative measures must be available to Members before
Specialist on Congress and
being considered on the floor. For measures reported from committee, a draft of the committee
the Legislative Process
report must have been available for 72 hours. Conference reports must also have been available

for 72 hours and special rules for considering measures for one legislative day. Bills and joint
resolutions that have not been reported by committee, and therefore are not accompanied by a

written report, may also not be considered on the House floor unless the text of the measure has
been available for 72 hours. Proposed committee reports, unreported bills and joint resolutions, conference reports, and joint
explanatory statements are considered available under these rules if they are publicly available in electronic form on a
website designated by the Committee on House Administration for this purpose, http://docs.house.gov.
The House has several means by which it can choose to waive these availability requirements and call up, debate, and vote on
a measure in a single calendar day even if the text of the measure was not made available prior to consideration. These
include (1) considering a measure under the suspension of the rules procedure or by unanimous consent, (2) adopting a
special rule that waives the 72-hour requirement, (3) adopting a special rule that waives the one-day requirement for another
special rule, and (4) convening a second legislative day on the same calendar day. Waiving availability requirements allows
the House to act quickly when necessary, such as near the end of a session.

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Contents
Availability Requirements in House Rules .......................................................................... 1
Reported Bil s and Resolutions (Rule XIII, Clause 4(a)) .................................................. 1
Unreported Bills and Joint Resolutions (Rule XXI, Clause 11).......................................... 2
Conference Reports (Rule XXII, Clause 8(a)) ................................................................ 2
Special Rules (Rule XIII, Clause 6(a)) .......................................................................... 3
Waiving the Availability Requirements in the Rules.............................................................. 3
Waiving Availability Requirements by Special Rule ........................................................ 3
Creating or Extending a Legislative Day ....................................................................... 4
Special Rules Near the End of a Session........................................................................ 5

Contacts
Author Information ......................................................................................................... 6

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Availability of Legislative Measures inthe House of Representatives (The “72 Hour Rule”)

Availability Requirements in House Rules
The rules of the House of Representatives general y grant Members an opportunity to review
legislative measures by governing the length of time the measures must be made available before
being considered on the floor. Different House rules establish availability requirements for
reported bil s and resolutions, unreported bil s and joint resolutions, conference committee
reports, and special rules (resolutions reported by the Rules Committee intended to regulate floor
consideration of a measure named in the resolution).
Under House rules, draft committee reports and unreported bil s and joint resolutions are
considered available under these rules if they are “publicly available in electronic form at a
location designated by the Committee on House Administration.”1 Conference committee reports
and accompanying joint explanatory statements are also considered available if they are in
electronic form at such a location.2 It is not a requirement under the rule that the measures be
available in the designated location. Instead, the House rule is meant to provide an additional
means through which Members, congressional staff, and the general public can access these
documents.3
Reported Bills and Resolutions (Rule XIII, Clause 4(a))
Measures and other matters reported by committees may not be considered on the House floor
until a draft of the committee report on the matter has been available for at least 72 hours.4
Specifical y, the “proposed text” of the committee report—except for any supplemental, minority,
additional, or dissenting views—must be made available. Under House Rule XI, clause 2(l),
committee members are guaranteed two calendar days to submit supplemental or other views for
inclusion in a committee report—if notice of intent to file supplement views was given at the
markup.5 However, the committee majority, before receiving such views, can make a draft of the
committee report available and start the 72-hour clock.6

1 Clause 3 of Rule XXIX. T he designated website, “Bills to Be Considered on the House Floor,” is available at
http://docs.house.gov/.
2 Clause 8(a)(1)(A) of Rule XXII.
3 According to the section-by-section analysis of the rules changes provided by the Rules Committee when it was
proposed in the 112th Congress, “ the provision is intended to place electronic distribution on par with traditional
printing, rather than entirely replace it” (“ Section-by-Section Analysis of the 112th Congress House Rules Package”
Congressional Record, daily edition [January 5, 2011], p. H13).
4 Until the House changed its rules at the start of the 116th Congress, committee reports, unreported legislation, and
conference reports were previously required to be available for three days, excluding weekends and holidays unless th e
House was in session on such days. T he previous three-day requirement was not necessarily 72 hours. For example, a
matter could be taken up on a Wednesday morning having been available since Monday evening. In addition, under the
new rule, time over weekends and holidays counts toward the 72-hour availability requirement, while under the
previous rule it did not (unless the House was in session those days).
5 T he two calendar days do not include weekends and legal holidays unless the House is in session t hose days, and they
begin the day after the markup. As a result, it is possible that the 72 -hour availability requirement could be met before
the time guaranteed for the submission of supplemental and other views expires.
6 According to the section-by-section analysis of the rules changes provided by the Rules Committee when it was
proposed in the 116th Congress, “ any committee making the report available electronically must also make any such
views available electronically promptly after they are submitted to the committee to avoid the possibility that the House
would consider a measure prior to the availability of the complete accompanying report.”
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Availability of Legislative Measures inthe House of Representatives (The “72 Hour Rule”)

The House rule exempts several kinds of measures specified in the rule, including resolutions
reported by the Rules Committee.7
Unreported Bills and Joint Resolutions (Rule XXI, Clause 11)
Bil s and joint resolutions that have not been reported by committee, and therefore are not
accompanied by a written report, may also not be considered on the House floor unless the text of
the measure has been available for at least 72 hours. The 72-hour period can begin when the text
is made available, even if that text is in the form of a draft bil that has not yet been formal y
introduced and numbered. When the House considers the legislation, whatever text was made
available must be identical to the legislation as introduced for the availability requirement to have
been met.8
If a measure has not been reported by a committee, it is general y not eligible for floor
consideration unless it is cal ed up under a procedure that waives the requirement that it be
reported. Such procedures are discussed below in the section on waiving the availability
requirements.
Conference Reports (Rule XXII, Clause 8(a))
The House rule requires that before a conference report can be considered, its text and its
accompanying joint explanatory statement must be available in the Congressional Record for 72
hours. Alternatively, the conference report can be considered if it has been made publicly
available in electronic form at a location designated by the Committee on House Administration
(currently http://docs.house.gov/). In addition, copies of a conference report and the joint
explanatory statement must be available for at least two hours prior to its consideration.
According to the rule, this 72-hour availability requirement does not apply during the last six days
of a session. In contemporary practice, however, it is difficult to implement this exception to the
rule. Adjournment resolutions are usual y not approved until very shortly before the adjournment
takes place. This practice usual y makes it impossible to know when the “last six days” of a
session begin. Absent a resolution setting a future date for adjournment, the 72-hour rule applies
even as the House nears the end of a session. The 72-hour availability requirement for conference
reports would cease to apply only in the last six calendar days before the constitutional end of a
session on January 3.9 Near the end of a session, however, the House sometimes agrees to special
rules reported by the Rules Committee that waive the availability requirement. This is discussed
below in the section on waiving availability requirements.

7 T he 72-hour rule also does not apply to (1) a resolution to fund committee operations reported by the Comm ittee on
House Administration, (2) a resolution presenting a question of the privileges of the House reported by any committee ,
(3) a measure declaring war or a national emergency , or (4) a resolution of disapproval.
8 A rules change in the 117th Congress allowed the 72-hour availability period to begin when a text was made available
prior to the formal introduction of the bill. T he section-by-section analysis of the rules changes provided by the Rules
Committee at the time the change was proposed stated, “ Although the introduced measure must consist of the exact text
of the language made electronically available prior to introduction in order to qualify under this updated rule, changes
to a measure’s text made after introduction by a self-executing special rule do not impact this availability period”
(Congressional Record, daily edition [January 4, 2021], p. H24).
9 Charles W. Johnson, John V. Sullivan, and T homas J. Wickham Jr., House Practice: A Guide to the Rules,
Precedents, and Procedures of the House
(Washington: GPO, 2017), p. 366.
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Availability of Legislative Measures inthe House of Representatives (The “72 Hour Rule”)

Special Rules (Rule XIII, Clause 6(a))
The House frequently operates under special rules, or resolutions reported from the Rules
Committee, which can waive any or all of the above rules. Special rules are required to lie over
for one legislative day, which means the special rule cannot be reported and considered on the
same legislative day. A legislative day is not necessarily a calendar day. A legislative day begins
the first time the House meets after an adjournment and ends when the House adjourns again.
Because the House typical y adjourns at the end of a calendar day, legislative and calendar days
usual y coincide.
Rule XIII also provides several exceptions to the layover requirement for special rules. First, a
special rule may be considered the same day it is presented if it proposes only to waive the rules
mandating that committee reports and conference reports be available for 72 hours. If the rule
also sets the terms for the consideration of the matter, perhaps by waiving points of order, then the
rule is required to lie over for one legislative day.
Second, a special rule may be considered the same day it is presented to the House in the last
three days of a session. In modern practice, as mentioned above, the House rarely agrees to an
adjournment date far in advance, usually making it impossible to know when “the last three days”
begin.
Third, the one-day layover requirement for special rules can be waived if two-thirds of the
Members voting agree to the waiver (a quorum being present). In addition, as discussed below,
the Rules Committee may report a special rule that waives the one-day layover requirement for
subsequent special rules.
Waiving the Availability Requirements in the Rules
The House has several means for waiving its rules when it wishes to act expeditiously. For
example, the House may set aside any of its availability requirements by unanimous consent. It
may also cal up and agree to a bil or conference report that has not met the availability
requirements by a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules.10 As previously mentioned, according to
Rule XIII, clause 6(a)(1), the one-day layover requirement for a special rule can be waived by
two-thirds of the Members voting.
The House can also waive the availability requirements by a simple majority. If a majority of the
House desires to do so, the House can vote on a measure the same calendar day that the text was
made available to Members. The House usual y does this by agreeing to two special rules, as
explained below. It may also achieve the same result by convening for two legislative days on the
same calendar day in the manner also described below.
Waiving Availability Requirements by Special Rule
The Rules Committee may report a special rule that waives the 72-hour availability requirement
for bil s, resolutions, or conference reports. A rule only waiving the availability requirement can
be presented and cal ed up on the same day. Special rules, however, often set the terms for
considering a measure as wel . A special rule for the consideration of a measure might waive the
72-hour availability requirement but also structure the amending process. Such a rule would be
required to lie over for one legislative day (unless this requirement was waived by a two-thirds

10 For more information on suspension of the rules, see CRS Report 98-314, Suspension of the Rules in the House:
Principal Features
, by Elizabeth Rybicki.
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Availability of Legislative Measures inthe House of Representatives (The “72 Hour Rule”)

vote). Similarly, a rule for the consideration of a conference report often waives points of order
against the conference report and against its consideration. Under current House rules, that
special rule is also required to lie over for one legislative day unless the requirement is waived by
a two-thirds vote. In short, special rules only waiving the 72-hour availability requirement are not
required to lie over for one legislative day.
To waive the one-day layover requirement of Rule XIII, clause 6(a), for a special rule, the Rules
Committee may report a special rule that waives this requirement. The rule providing this waiver
is subject to the same one-day layover requirement. If such a special rule is adopted, the House
can then consider and adopt a special rule providing for the consideration of a measure later on
the same legislative day. The special rule for the consideration of the measure can waive the 72-
hour availability requirement for the measure. In this way, the House of Representatives, by
majority vote, has the potential to cal up, debate, and pass a measure in a single day even if the
measure has not been made available prior to consideration. In order to achieve this result,
however, the Rules Committee must have reported the additional special rule on the previous
legislative day.
In summary, a simple majority of the House can cal up, debate, and vote on a measure in a single
calendar day, regardless of how long the text has been available, by taking the following steps:
First, the House agrees to a special rule waiving the one-day layover
requirement for any special rule for the consideration of a specified matter. (This
rule is required to lie over for one legislative day.)
Second, the House agrees to a separate special rule setting the terms of
consideration of the measure and waiving any availability requirements for the
measure itself.
(This rule need not lie over for one legislative day. The first
special rule waived the one-day layover requirement for this special rule.)
Third, the House calls up, debates, and votes on the measure.
Creating or Extending a Legislative Day
Although the House rarely chooses to do so, it could agree to cal up and consider a measure in a
single calendar day by convening two legislative days in a single calendar day.11 It would do this
by agreeing to a motion to adjourn for a brief period at some point during its session. Agreement
to this motion would terminate the legislative day, and when the House returned from its brief
adjournment pursuant to this motion, a new legislative day would begin.
If the Rules Committee presents a special rule before the House adjourns, the rule can be
considered on the next legislative day regardless of how much time has elapsed. In other words, if
a special rule were reported, and the House adjourned and then shortly thereafter reconvened, the
special rule would have been available for one legislative day, meeting the layover requirement of
the standing rule. The House could then consider the special rule that, among other things, could
waive the 72-hour availability requirement for a resolution, bil , or conference report.12

11 Johnson, Sullivan, and Wickham, House Practice, p. 890.
12 For example, in the 114th Congress, a rule, H.Res. 797, for the consideration of a conference report accompanying
the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Appropriations Act of 2017, was presented and considered on
different legislative days but the sam e calendar day. T he Rules Committee presented the special rule, H.Res. 797, for
the consideration of the conference report, at 1:23 a.m. on the calendar day of June 23, 2016, and the legislative day of
June 22. T he House had not adjourned on June 22. T he House adjourned at 1:34 a.m. on le gislative day June 22 and
met again on legislative and calendar day June 23 at 2:30 a.m. T he House considered H.Res. 797 at 2:33 a.m on June
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Availability of Legislative Measures inthe House of Representatives (The “72 Hour Rule”)

From time to time, the House has also been known to recess after legislative business, but not
adjourn, in order to give the Rules Committee time to complete and report a special rule. The rule
could be reported very late or even early in the morning of the next calendar day. Regardless of
whether or not it is the next calendar day when the rule is reported, if the House adjourns after it
is reported, when it reconvenes it wil be a new legislative day, and the layover requirement wil
be considered met.
Special Rules Near the End of a Session
In the contemporary House, it is not uncommon for the Rules Committee to report several special
rules at the end of a session that waive the availability requirements for subsequent special rules
for the consideration of certain specified measures. In the past, the House has also agreed to
resolutions reported by the Rules Committee near the end of a session that waived availability
requirements in general.
Special rules that waive availability requirements are sometimes referred to as “same day rules.”
They are also sometimes referred to, particularly by their opponents, as “martial law” rules. The
term has been used by Members of the House for at least 15 years, but it has not been applied
consistently to any one type of special rule. It has been used, for example, to describe both special
rules that waive the one-day layover requirement for subsequent special rules13 and to describe
broad special rules that trigger some provisions of House rules and waive others for the remaining
duration of a session.14
Supporters of end-of-session resolutions that waive availability requirements sometimes argue
that these special rules are meant to achieve the same end as the standing rules that make certain
provisions of House rules inapplicable during the final days of the session. As mentioned above,
the 72-hour availability requirement for conference reports does not apply in the last six days of a
session. The one-day layover requirement for special rules does not apply in the last three days of
a session. In recent years, Congress has not agreed to a concurrent resolution setting an
adjournment date until just before adjournment takes place. As a result, these standing rules are
not triggered in the contemporary House. By agreeing to a same-day rule near the end of the
session, the House can achieve the same end as the existing, but technical y inapplicable, standing
rules that waive availability requirements at the end of a session. Opponents of these end-of-
session resolutions sometimes argue that al Representatives should be guaranteed some time to
examine legislative proposals regardless of when they are presented during the course of a
session.


23. (Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 162 [June 22, 2016], p. 4126, and [June 23, 2016], pp. H4173 -H4174.)
See also, in the 107th Congress, a rule, H.Res. 600, for the consideration of a bill to establish the Department of
Homeland Security (Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 148 [November 13, 2002], pp. H8543, H8590-H8594).
13 See, for example, the Congressional Record, daily edition (February 4, 1993), p. H552; (May 25, 1994), p. H4020;
(July 26, 2002), p. H5957; (May 22, 2003), p. H4559; (December 7, 2004), p. H10993; (December 10, 2008), p. H
10871; (December 9, 2009), p. H14481; (July 21, 2010), p. H5889; (August 1, 2014), p. H7192.
14 See, for example, the Congressional Record, daily edition, (November 22, 1991), p. H10945; (October 2, 1992), p. H
10681; (September 24, 1996), p. H10928; (December 7, 2006), p. H8896; (December 21, 2010), p. H8817. (October 4,
2013), p. H6246.
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Availability of Legislative Measures inthe House of Representatives (The “72 Hour Rule”)


Author Information

Elizabeth Rybicki

Specialist on Congress and the Legislative Process



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