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112th Congress House Floor Procedures Manual

VIII. Suspension of the Rules

Under clause 1 of Rule XV, it is in order on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of each week, and during the last six days of a session, for the Speaker to entertain motions to suspend the rules and pass legislation. Bills brought up under suspension of the rules are spoken of as “suspensions” in Floor terminology. There is no suspension calendar. The purpose of considering bills under suspension is to dispose of non-controversial measures expeditiously. Consideration of legislation under suspension of the rules on other days of the week is possible by unanimous consent or a special rule. A motion to suspend the rules requires a vote of two-thirds of the Members present and voting. No amendments are in order unless submitted with the bill by its manager as part of the motion to suspend the rules. Debate on a bill brought up under suspension of the rules is limited to forty minutes, twenty minutes controlled by a Member who supports the bill and twenty minutes controlled by a Member in opposition, a division that does not always follow party lines. It is typical for the Chairman or Member of the committee of jurisdiction to manage the time. For control of the opposition time, priority is given to a minority Member of the committee that has jurisdiction over the bill. Often the twenty minutes “in opposition” is controlled by the Ranking Minority Member of the committee or subcommittee who may not be opposed to the measure because no one rises in opposition. However, he or she may be challenged for control of the opposition time by another Member who qualifies as being opposed to the measure. The majority leadership usually schedules several bills under suspension of the rules on the same day and the Chair often exercises its authority under clause 8 of Rule XX to announce beforehand that recorded votes on passage of each suspension, if ordered, will be postponed until the debate is concluded on all such suspensions (or up to two legislative days). At the conclusion of debate, the postponed votes may be “clustered” and put before the House. If several votes have been ordered and the Chair has announced that the time for voting will be reduced, the first vote in the series will consume not less than fifteen minutes and all subsequent record votes will take not less than five minutes each. It is important for Members to be mindful of when a five-minute vote is expected, so that it will not be missed. In the event of a series of two or more votes in which any votes after the first one will be reduced to not less than five minutes, the Member will be summoned to the Floor by two bells followed by five bells.

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