How a bill becomes a law/X. Consideration and debate

From OpenCongress Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Series: How a bill becomes a law in the U.S. Congress
Main page:
  1. The Congress
  2. Sources of legislation
  3. Forms of congressional action
  4. Introduction and referral to committee
  5. Consideration by committee
  6. Reported bills
  7. Legislative oversight by standing committees
  8. Calendars
  9. Obtaining consideration of measures
  10. Consideration and debate
  11. Congressional budget process
  12. Engrossment
  13. Final action on amended bill
  14. Enrollment
  15. Presidential action
  16. Publication


House of Representatives

U.S. democratic tradition demands that bills be given consideration by the entire membership, usually with adequate opportunity for debate and the proposing of amendments.

Committee of the whole House

In order to expedite the consideration of bills and resolutions, the rules of the House provide for a parliamentary mechanism, known as the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union, that enables the House to act with a quorum of less than the requisite majority of 218. A quorum in the Committee of the Whole is 100 members. All measures on the Union Calendar--those involving a tax, making appropriations, authorizing payments out of appropriations already made, or disposing of property--must be first considered in the Committee of the Whole.

Main article: House Rule XVIII - The committee of the whole House on the state of the union

The Committee on Rules reports a rule allowing for immediate consideration of a measure by the Committee of the Whole. After adoption of the rule by the House, the Speaker may declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole. When the House resolves into the Committee of the Whole, the Speaker leaves the chair after appointing a Chairman to preside.

The rule referred to in the preceding paragraph also fixes the length of the debate in the Committee of the Whole. This may vary according to the importance of the measure. As provided in the rule, the control of the time is usually divided equally between the chairman and the ranking minority member of the relevant committee. Members seeking to speak for or against the measure may arrange in advance with the Member in control of the time on their respective side to be allowed a certain amount of time in the debate. Members may also ask the Member speaking at the time to yield to them for a question or a brief statement. A transcript of the proceedings in the House and the Senate is printed daily in the Congressional Record. Frequently, permission is granted a Member by unanimous consent to revise and extend his remarks in the Congressional Record if sufficient time to make a lengthy oral statement is not available during actual debate. These revisions and extensions are printed in a distinctive type and cannot substantively alter the verbatim transcript.

The conduct of the debate is governed principally by the rules of the House that are adopted at the opening of each Congress. In the 106th Congress, the rules were recodified for simplification and clarity. Jefferson's Manual, prepared by Thomas Jefferson for his own guidance as President of the Senate from 1797 to 1801, is another recognized authority. The House has a long-standing rule that the provisions of Jefferson's Manual should govern the House in all applicable cases and where they are not inconsistent with the rules of the House. The House also relies on an 11-volume compilation of parliamentary precedents, entitled Hinds' Precedents and Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives, dating from 1789 to 1935, to guide its action. A later compilation, Deschler-Brown Precedents of the House of Representatives, spans 16 volumes and covers 1936 to date. In addition, a summary of the House precedents prior to 1959 can be found in a single volume entitled Cannon's Procedure in the House of Representatives. Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, fourth edition, as supplemented, and House Practice, first published in 1996 and updated in 2003, are more recent compilations of the precedents of the House, in summary form, together with other useful related material. Also, various rulings of the Chair are set out as notes in the current House Rules and Manual. Most parliamentary questions arising during the course of debate are responded to by a ruling based on a precedent of action in a similar situation. The Parliamentarian of the House is present in the House Chamber in order to assist the Speaker or the Chairman in making a correct ruling on parliamentary questions.

Second reading

During general debate on a bill, an accurate account of the time used on both sides is kept and the Chairman terminates the debate when all the time allowed under the rule has been consumed. After general debate, the second reading of the bill begins. The second reading is a section-by-section reading during which time germane amendments may be offered to a section when it is read. Under many special "modified closed" rules adopted by the House, certain bills are considered as read and open only to prescribed amendments under limited time allocations. Under the normal "open" amendment process, a Member is permitted five minutes to explain the proposed amendment, after which the Member who is first recognized by the Chair is allowed to speak for five minutes in opposition to it. There is technically no further debate on that amendment, thereby effectively preventing filibuster-like tactics. This is known as the "five-minute rule". However, Members may offer an amendment to the amendment, for separate five-minute debate, or may offer a pro forma amendment--"to strike out the last word"--which does not change the language of the amendment but allows the Member five minutes for debate. Each substantive amendment and amendment thereto is put to the Committee of the Whole for adoption unless the House has adopted a special rule "self-executing" the adoption of certain amendments in the Committee of the Whole. The House may, after initially adopting an open rule, later alter that rule by unanimous consent to establish a "universe" or list of amendments to a bill. This procedure is most commonly used on general appropriation bills because of the volume of amendments.

At any time after debate has begun on proposed amendments to a section or paragraph of a bill under the five-minute rule, the Committee of the Whole may by majority vote of the Members present close debate on the amendment or the pending section or paragraph. However, if debate is closed on a section or paragraph before there has been debate on an amendment that a Member has caused to be printed in the Congressional Record at least one day prior to floor consideration of the amendment, the Member who caused the amendment to be printed in the Record is given five minutes in which to explain the amendment. Five minutes is also given to speak in opposition to the amendment and no further debate on the amendment is allowed. Amendments placed in the Congressional Record must indicate the full text of the proposed amendment, the name of the Member proposing it, the number of the bill or amendment to which it will be offered, and the point in the bill or amendment thereto where the amendment is intended to be offered. These amendments appear in the portion of the Record designated for that purpose.

Amendments and the germaneness rule

The rules of the House prohibit amendments of a subject matter different from the text under consideration. This rule, commonly known as the germaneness rule, is considered the single most important rule of the House of Representatives because of the obvious need to keep the focus of a body the size of the House on a predictable subject matter. The germaneness rule applies to the proceedings in the House, the Committee of the Whole, and the standing committees. There are hundreds of prior rulings or "precedents" on germaneness available to guide the Chair.

The committee "Rises"

At the conclusion of the consideration of a bill for amendment, the Committee of the Whole "rises" and reports the bill to the House with any amendments that have been adopted. In rising, the Committee of the Whole reverts back to the House and the Chairman of the Committee is replaced in the chair by the Speaker of the House. The House then acts on the bill and any amendments adopted by the Committee of the Whole. If the Committee of the Whole rises on motion prior to the conclusion of consideration of amendments, the bill must return to the Committee of the Whole for subsequent consideration. Thus, the simple motion to rise may be used to immediately halt consideration of a bill similar to a motion to adjourn in the House.

House action

Debate on a bill in the House is cut off by moving and ordering "the previous question"'. All debate is cut off on the bill if this motion is carried by a majority of the Members voting, a quorum being present, or by a special rule ordering the previous question upon the rising of the Committee of the Whole. The Speaker then puts the question: "Shall the bill be engrossed and read a third time?" If this question is decided in the affirmative, the bill is read a third time by title only and voted on for passage.

If the previous question has been ordered by the terms of the rule on a bill reported by the Committee of the Whole, the House immediately votes on whatever amendments have been reported by the Committee in the order in which they appear in the bill unless voted on en bloc. After completion of voting on the amendments, the House immediately votes on the passage of the bill with the amendments it has adopted. However, a motion to recommit, as described in the next section, may be offered and voted on prior to the vote on passage.

The Speaker may postpone a recorded vote on final passage of a bill or resolution or agreement to a conference report for up to two legislative days.

Measures that do not have to be considered in the Committee of the Whole are considered in the House in accordance with the terms of the rule limiting debate on the measure or under the "hour rule". The hour rule limits the amount of time that a Member may occupy in debate on a pending question to 60 minutes. Generally, the opportunity for debate may also be curtailed when the Speaker makes the rare determination that a motion is dilatory.

After passage or rejection of the bill by the House, a pro forma motion to reconsider it is automatically made and laid on the table. The motion to reconsider is tabled to prohibit this motion from being made at a later date because the vote of the House on a proposition is not final and conclusive until there has been an opportunity to reconsider it.

Motion to recommit

After the previous question has been ordered on the passage of a bill or joint resolution, it is in order to offer one motion to recommit the bill or joint resolution to a committee and the Speaker is required to give preference in recognition for that purpose to a minority party Member who is opposed to the bill or joint resolution. This motion is normally not subject to debate. However, a motion to recommit with instructions offered after the previous question has been ordered is debatable for 10 minutes, except that the majority floor manager may demand that the debate be extended to one hour. Whatever time is allotted for debate is divided equally between the proponent and opponent of the motion. Instructions in the motion to recommit normally take the form of germane amendments proposed by the minority to immediately change the final form of the bill prior to passage. Instructions may also be "general," consisting of nonbinding instructions to the committee to take specified actions such as to "promptly" review the bill with a particular political viewpoint or to hold further hearings. Such instructions may not contain argument.

Quorum calls and rollcalls

Article I, Section 5, of the Constitution provides that a majority of each House constitutes a quorum to do business and authorizes a smaller number than a quorum to compel the attendance of absent Members. In order to fulfill this constitutional responsibility, the rules of the House provide alternative procedures for quorum calls in the House and the Committee of the Whole.

In the absence of a quorum, 15 Members may initiate a call of the House to compel the attendance of absent Members. Such a call of the House must be ordered by a majority vote. A call of the House is then ordered and the call is taken by electronic device or by response to the alphabetical call of the roll of Members. Absent Members have a minimum of 15 minutes from the ordering of the call of the House by electronic device to have their presence recorded. If sufficient excuse is not offered for their absence, they may be sent for by the Sergeant-at-Arms and their attendance secured and retained. The House then determines the conditions on which they may be discharged. Members who voluntarily appear are, unless the House otherwise directs, immediately admitted to the Hall of the House and must report their names to the Clerk to be entered on the Journal as present. Compulsory attendance or arrest of Members has been rare in modern practice.

The rules of the House provide special authority for the Speaker to recognize a Member of the Speaker's choice to move a call of the House at any time.

When a question is put to a vote by the Speaker and a quorum fails to vote on such question, if a quorum is not present and objection is made for that reason, there is a call of the House unless the House adjourns. The call is taken by electronic device and the Sergeant-at-Arms may bring in absent Members. The yeas and nays on the pending question are at the same time considered as ordered and an "automatic" recorded vote is taken. The Clerk utilizes the electronic system or calls the roll and each Member who is present may vote on the pending question. If those voting on the question and those who are present and decline to vote together make a majority of the House, the Speaker declares that a quorum is constituted and the pending question is decided as the majority of those voting have determined.

The rules of the House prohibit points of order of no quorum unless the Speaker has put a question to a vote.

The rules for quorum calls are different in some respects in the Committee of the Whole. The first time the Committee of the Whole finds itself without a quorum during a day the Chairman is required to order the roll to be called by electronic device, unless the Chairman orders a call of the Committee. However, the Chairman may refuse to entertain a point of order of no quorum during general debate. If on a call, a quorum (100 Members) appears, the Committee continues its business. If a quorum does not appear, the Committee rises and the Chairman reports the names of the absentees to the House. The rules provide for the expeditious conduct of quorum calls in the Committee of the Whole. The Chairman may suspend a quorum call after 100 Members have recorded their presence. Under such a short quorum call, the Committee will not rise and proceedings under the quorum call are vacated. In that case, a recorded vote, if ordered immediately following the termination of the short quorum call, is a minimum of 15 minutes. In the alternative, the Chair may choose to permit a full 15 minute quorum call, wherein all Members are recorded as present or absent, to be followed by a five-minute record vote on the pending question. Once a quorum of the Committee of the Whole has been established for a day, a quorum call in the Committee is only in order when the Committee is operating under the five-minute rule and the Chairman has put the pending question to a vote. The rules prohibit a point of order of no quorum against a vote in which the Committee of the Whole agrees to rise. However, an appropriate point of no quorum would be permitted against a vote defeating a motion to rise.


There are three methods of voting in the Committee of the Whole that are also employed in the House. These are the voice vote, the division, and the recorded vote. The yea-and-nay vote is an additional method used only in the House, which may be automatic if a Member objects to the vote on the ground that a quorum is not present.

To conduct a voice vote the Chair puts the question: "As many as are in favor (as the question may be) say 'Aye'. As many as are opposed, say 'No' ". The Chair determines the result on a comparison of the volume of ayes and noes. This is the form in which the vote is ordinarily taken in the first instance.

If it is difficult to determine the result of a voice vote, a division may be demanded by a Member or initiated by the Chair. The Chair then states: "As many as are in favor will rise and stand until counted". After counting those in favor he calls on those opposed to stand and be counted, thereby determining the number in favor of and those opposed to the question.

If any Member requests a recorded vote and that request is supported by at least one-fifth of a quorum of the House (44 Members), or 25 Members in the Committee of the Whole, the vote is taken by electronic device. After the recorded vote is concluded, the names of those voting and those not voting are entered in the Journal. Members have a minimum of 15 minutes to be counted from the time the record vote is ordered. The Speaker may reduce the period for voting to five minutes on subsequent votes in certain situations where there has been no intervening debate or business. The Speaker is not required to vote unless the Speaker's vote would be decisive.

The modern practice in the Committee of the Whole is to postpone and cluster votes on amendments to maximize efficient scheduling of voting. The rules of the House provide the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole discretionary authority to postpone votes on amendments and to reduce the time for voting on amendments to five minutes following a 15-minute vote on the first amendment in a series. The Chairman is not allowed to postpone votes on matters other than amendments and is mindful not to postpone votes where the outcome could be prejudicial to the offering of another amendment.

In the House, if the yeas and nays are demanded, the Speaker directs those in favor of taking the vote by that method to stand and be counted. The support of one-fifth of the Members present is necessary for ordering the yeas and nays. When the yeas and nays are ordered or a point of order is made that a quorum is not present, the Speaker states: "As many as are in favor of the proposition will vote 'Aye' ". "As many as are opposed will vote 'No' ". The Clerk activates the electronic system or calls the roll and reports the result to the Speaker, who announces it to the House.

The rules of the House require a three-fifths vote to pass a bill, joint resolution, amendment, or conference report that contains a specified type of federal income tax rate increase. The rules of the House also provide for automatic yeas and nays on votes on passage of certain fiscal measures including a concurrent resolution on the budget or a general appropriation bill.

The rules prohibit a Member from: 1) casting another Member's vote or recording another Member's presence in the House or the Committee of the Whole; or 2) authorizing another individual to cast a vote or record the Member's presence in the House or the Committee of the Whole.

Electronic voting

Recorded votes are usually taken by electronic device, except when the Speaker orders the vote to be recorded by other methods prescribed by the rules of the House, or in the failure of the electronic device to function. In addition, quorum calls are generally taken by electronic device. The electronic system works as follows: A number of vote stations are attached to selected chairs in the Chamber. Each station is equipped with a vote card slot and four indicators, marked "yea", "nay", "present", and "open" that are lit when a vote is in progress and the system is ready to accept votes. Each Member is provided with an encyrpted Vote-ID Card. A Member votes by inserting the voting card into any one of the vote stations and depressing the appropriate button to indicate the Member's choice. If a Member is without a Vote-ID Card or wishes to change his vote during the last five minutes of a vote, the Member may be recorded by handing a paper ballot to the Tally Clerk, who then records the vote electronically according to the indicated preference of the Member. The paper ballots are green for "yea", red for "nay", and amber for "present". The voting machine records the votes and reports the result when the vote is completed. Pairing of Members

The former system of pairing of Members, where a Member could arrange in advance to be recorded as being either in favor of or opposed to the question by being "paired" with another absent Member who holds contrary views on the question, has largely been eliminated. The rules still allow for "live pairs". A live pair is where a Member votes as if not paired, subsequently withdraws that vote, and then asks to be marked "present" to protect the other Member. The most common practice is for absent Members to submit statements for the Record stating how they would have voted if present on specific votes.

System of lights and bells

Due to the diverse nature of daily tasks that they have to perform, it is not practicable for Members to be present in the House or Senate Chamber at every minute that the body is in session. Furthermore, many of the routine matters do not require the personal attendance of all the Members. A system consisting of electric lights and bells or buzzers located in various parts of the Capitol Building and House and Senate Office Buildings alerts Members to certain occurrences in the House and Senate Chambers.

In the House, the Speaker has ordered that the bells and lights comprising the system be utilized as follows:

Light/Bell signal interpretation

1 long ring followed by a pause and then 3 rings and 3 lights on the left Start or continuation of a notice or short quorum call in the Committee of the Whole that will be vacated if and when 100 Members appear on the floor. Bells are repeated every five minutes unless the call is vacated or the call is converted into a regular quorum call.
1 long ring and extinguishing of 3 lights on the left Short or notice quorum call vacated.
2 rings and 2 lights on the left 15 minute recorded vote, yea-and-nay vote or automatic rollcall vote by electronic device. The bells are repeated five minutes after the first ring.
2 rings and 2 lights on the left followed by a pause and then 2 more rings Automatic rollcall vote or yea-and-nay vote taken by a call of the roll in the House. The bells are repeated when the Clerk reaches the R's in the first call of the roll.
2 rings followed by a pause and then 5 rings First vote on clustered votes. Two bells are repeated five minutes after the first ring. The first vote will take 15 minutes with successive votes at intervals of not less than five minutes. Each successive vote is signaled by five rings.
3 rings and 3 lights on the left 15 minute quorum call in either the House or in the Committee of the Whole by electronic device. The bells are repeated five minutes after the first ring.
3 rings followed by a pause and then 3 more rings 15 minute quorum call by a call of the roll. The bells are repeated when the Clerk reaches the R's in the first call of the roll.
3 rings followed by a pause and then 5 more rings Quorum call in the Committee of the Whole that may be followed immediately by a five-minute recorded vote.
4 rings and 4 lights on the left Adjournment of the House.

5 rings and 5 lights on the left

Any five-minute vote.

6 rings and 6 lights on the left Recess of the House.
12 rings at 2-second intervals with 6 lights on the left Civil Defense Warning.
7th light The 7th light indicates that the House is in session.

Recess authority

The House may by vote authorize the Speaker to declare a recess under the rules of the House. The Speaker also has the authority to declare the House in recess for a short time when no question is pending before the House or in the case of an emergency.

Live coverage of floor proceedings

The rules of the House provide for unedited radio and television broadcasting and recording of proceedings on the floor of the House. However, the rules prohibit the use of these broadcasts and recordings for any political purpose or in any commercial advertisement. The rules of the Senate also provide for broadcasting and recording of proceedings in the Senate Chamber with similar restrictions.



The motions which "shall be received" under Rule XXII when "a question is pending" "and which shall have precedence as they stand arranged" are:

  • To adjourn.
  • To adjourn to a day certain, or that when the Senate adjourn it shall be to a day certain.
  • To take a recess.
  • To proceed to the consideration of executive business.
  • To lay on the table.
  • To postpone indefinitely.
  • To postpone to a day certain.
  • To commit.
  • To amend.

All but the last four of these motions are not debatable.

The motion to adjourn should be distinguished from a resolution to adjourn both houses of Congress. Neither is debatable. The Senate may adjourn for as long a period of time as it sees fit, up to the Constitutional limitation of three days, without the consent of the other House, or it may adjourn for only a few minutes and reconvene on a new legislative day in the same calendar day.

The motion to lay on the table is a simple way of taking final action on pending business on which the Senate wishes to take a negative position. It is applicable to a bill and amendments thereto as well as to certain motions. An amendment can be laid on the table without prejudice to the bill to which it was offered, but an amendment to the amendment would also go to the table. Since the motion is not debatable, the question can be brought to a vote in a hurry. The motion is used generally to reach a final disposition on motions to reconsider or appeals from the decision of the chair. While the motion is applicable to pending business, it is not commonly used for the disposition of legislation--bills are generally either voted up or down. The preamble to a bill or resolution may be laid on the table without carrying the bill or resolution with it.

The motion to postpone indefinitely is the next in order, but it is rarely used to dispose of bills except in the case of companion bills, i.e., the Senate passes a House-passed bill and indefinitely postpones a companion Senate bill which has been reported and placed on the calendar. It is a way of effecting a final disposition of a measure. The motion to postpone to a day certain is also used by the Senate. These motions are debatable and amendable and take precedence over a motion to refer or commit. A motion to take up another bill while unfinished business is pending has precedence over a motion to postpone the unfinished business to a day certain.

A motion to recommit a bill to committee with instructions to report the bill back forthwith with an amendment, if agreed to, requires that the committee report the bill back to the Senate immediately with that proposed amendment which is then before the Senate for consideration.

The last of this series of motions which shall be received under Rule XXII, "when a question is pending," and in the order listed above, is "to amend." Any bill, or amendment thereto, before the Senate is open to amendment. Quorums

"If, at any time during the daily sessions of the Senate, a question shall be raised by any Senator as to the presence of a quorum, the Presiding Officer shall forthwith direct the Secretary to call the roll and shall announce the result, and these proceedings shall be without debate." "Whenever upon such roll call it shall be ascertained that a quorum is not present, a majority of the Senators present may direct the Sergeant at Arms to request, and, when necessary, to compel the attendance of the absent Senators, which order shall be determined without debate; and pending its execution, and until a quorum shall be present, no debate nor motion, except to adjourn, shall be in order."

The Senate proceeds under the assumption that a quorum is present unless the question is raised; in that case, the bells are rung to inform the "absentee" Senators and the Presiding Officer directs a call of the roll. All decisions incident thereto are made without debate, and if a quorum is not present by the time the results from the roll call are announced, a majority of the Senators present may direct the Sergeant at Arms to request or compel the attendance of the absent Senators. Senators may be forced to attend, unless granted a "leave of absence" or by authority of the Senate, even if a quorum is present. Senators who do not reach the chamber when the roll is being called in time to answer to their names may gain recognition after the call and have their presence or vote recorded, provided the results have not been announced.

Under the practice of the Senate, anyone, once recognized, can request a quorum call, but a Senator who has the floor cannot be forced to yield to another for that purpose. The chair is not permitted to count in order to ascertain the presence of a quorum; it must be determined by roll call.

There is no limit to the number of requests for quorum calls that may be made during the course of a day; a request is generally held dilatory if no business has transpired since the last one, and it is not in order immediately after a roll call vote showing that a quorum is present. The reception of a message from the House has not been ruled as the transaction of business sufficient to justify a quorum call. The following have been ruled to be business: the ordering of engrossment and third reading of a joint resolution, presentation and reference of a communication, granting of permission to insert an article in the Record, objection to a bill under call of the calendar under Rule VIII, the making of a motion or ordering of the yeas and nays, voting on motions to recess, adjourn, and lay on table and on an appeal from the decision of the chair, the offering of an amendment, agreeing to a motion for an executive session, and submitting a report out of order.

A motion may be made to request attendance of those absent, and instructions to compel their attendance may be added. Such a motion is not debatable. A quorum call on various occasions has been withdrawn by unanimous consent while the roll was being called; but when an announcement of no quorum has been made, it is not in order to vacate the call even by unanimous consent. In the absence of a quorum, neither debate nor the transaction of business, including motions (except the motion to adjourn), is in order; it is not even in order to move to recess.


Rule XII, relating to voting, provides:

1. When the yeas and nays are ordered, the names of Senators shall be called alphabetically; and each Senator shall, without debate, declare his assent or dissent to the question, unless excused by the Senate, and no Senator shall be permitted to vote after the decision shall have been announced by the Presiding Officer, but may for sufficient reasons, with unanimous consent, change or withdraw his vote. No motion to suspend this rule shall be in order, nor shall the Presiding Officer entertain any request to suspend it by unanimous consent. 2. When a Senator declines to vote on call of his name, he shall be required to assign his reasons therefor, and having assigned them, the Presiding Officer shall submit the question to the Senate: "Shall the Senator, for the reasons assigned by him, be excused from voting?" which shall be decided without debate; and these proceedings shall be had after the roll call and before the result is announced; and any further proceedings in reference thereto shall be after such announcement.

Main article: Senate Rule XII - Voting procedure

Any one of the several methods of voting utilized by the Senate may be resorted to for final disposition of any amendment or bill or question. The methods are: voice vote, division, and yea and nay. The yeas and nays may be ordered when the request is seconded by 1/5 of a presumptive quorum, but frequently the Presiding Officer does not bother to count; he merely takes a glance at the "showing" of hands and orders the call; simultaneously the bells ring in both the Senate wing of the Capitol and the Senate office buildings. The names of the Senators are called in their alphabetical order. Voting and changes of votes are in order until the decision has been announced by the chair.

A Senator can change his vote at any time before the result is announced. In the case of a veto, a yea and nay vote is required by the Constitution. Otherwise, the Senators may utilize any of the methods. After the result of a vote has been announced, a request for a division or yea and nay vote comes too late; the announcement that the "ayes (or nays) seem to have it" is not a final result. The yeas and nays may be demanded prior to announcement of the results of a division vote.

Where less than a quorum votes and the number of pairs announced are not sufficient to make a quorum, it is the duty of the chair to order a quorum call; the vote is valid if a quorum was present, even if a quorum did not vote, provided that a number of those not voting, sufficient to make a quorum, announced they were present but paired.

"Pairing" is the practice that has been developed in both houses to enable Representatives and Senators to register their opinion on any particular issue or issues when they are unavoidably absent from the chamber on public or private business. By the use of "pairs" a Senator (or Representative) favoring a particular issue, and who is absent when a roll-call vote is taken on it, may make his opinion effective by contracting (pairing) with a colleague opposing the issue that neither of the Senators will vote. "Pairs" are not counted as yeas or nays in the official tabulation of the roll call for the purpose of determining the adoption or rejection of the issue being voted on.

After all amendments to an original amendment to a bill have been disposed of, the question recurs on the adoption of the amendment as amended, if amended. After all amendments to a bill have been acted on, the question recurs on third reading and passage of the bill. After the Senate acts on an amendment or on a bill, or almost any question on which the Senate has voted, any Senator voting on the side that prevailed may offer a motion to reconsider the vote by which that action was taken. A Senator voting in the minority cannot move to reconsider a yea and nay vote; if he did not vote he may.

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch/Congresspedia resources