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113th Congress House Floor Procedures Manual

XIII. Conclusion of a Bill’s Consideration

Committee of the Whole Rises:

Usually a special rule will provide that, automatically following the disposition of all amendments, the Committee of the Whole rises and reports the bill back to the House with the recommendation that the bill, as amended, do pass. If the rule does not include this provision, the majority manager of the bill will be recognized to make such a motion. The Committee of the Whole then rises and the Speaker or a Speaker pro tempore resumes the Chair.

Separate Votes on Amendments Adopted in the Committee of the Whole:

The Chair, now the Speaker, asks the House: “Is a separate vote demanded on any amendment adopted in the Committee of the Whole?” Separate votes may be demanded only on amendments adopted by the Committee. Amendments that were defeated may not be voted on again. If there is no request for any separate votes, the amendments adopted are put before the House en bloc and adopted without objection. On the other hand, if an amendment has been adopted by a narrow margin or a voice vote in the Committee of the Whole, at this point, the opponents may try to reverse the outcome by demanding a separate vote on it in the House.

Previous Question:

Under a special rule, the ordering of the previous question is typically automatic to ensure that the measure makes it to final passage; therefore, no vote on the previous question is allowed. In the absence of such a provision (such as on appropriations bills considered without a special rule), the Speaker will move that the previous question be ordered “without objection.” If an objection is heard, the motion for the previous question must be voted on.

At the beginning of the 111th Congress the rules were changed to allow the Speaker to indefinitely postpone consideration of a measure, if that measure is being considered pursuant to a rule or special order of the House, regardless of the operation of the previous question (rule XIX, clause 1(c)).

Engrossment and Third Reading of the Bill:

This is a routine motion that orders the Clerk to prepare the measure for transmission to the Senate and read its title (the “third reading”).

Motion to Recommit:

After the engrossment and third reading of a bill or joint resolution (but not simple resolutions, concurrent resolutions and conference reports), a Member opposed to the measure is given preference in recognition to offer a motion to recommit the measure, with or without instructions, to a committee that originally reported the measure. This motion is traditionally the right of the minority and gives them one last chance to return the measure to committee or have its version voted on. The Rules Committee may not report a special rule on a bill or joint resolution that denies a motion to recommit with instructions if offered by the Minority Leader or a designee.

The motion to recommit without instructions has the effect of sending the bill back to a committee until such time the committee decides to take further action on the bill or joint resolution.

Usually the instructions are for the committee to “report the bill back to the House forthwith with the following amendment….” The text of the amendment is then read in full. The motion to recommit with instructions is debatable for ten minutes, equally divided, but not controlled, which means neither side may yield or reserve time, between the proponent and the opponent, although the time may be extended to one hour at the request of the majority Floor manager.

If the motion is adopted, the bill is recommitted with such “forthwith” instructions. The bill is immediately reported back to the House on the spot with the amendment, the amendment is voted on, and the House proceeds to final passage of the bill.

At the beginning of the 111th Congress the rules were changed to deny the Minority the option of recommitting a bill or joint resolution with any instructions other than “forthwith” instructions.  Prior to the 111th Congress, motions to recommit could include instructions directing a committee to report back to the House “promptly” rather than “forthwith.”  Such instructions generally required the committee to examine and report back a specific amendment.  The rule change also prohibits motions instructing a committee to hold further hearings, or that an investigation be conducted and that a report of that investigation be made to the House.

In order of priority, the Minority Leader and then minority party members on the committee handling the bill, by seniority, have the right to offer the motion. This does not preclude Members of the majority party from offering the motion to recommit. They “qualify” to offer the motion if they state that they oppose the bill. The Member who qualifies and offers the motion usually votes against final passage of the bill if the motion to recommit fails.

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