I. House Is Called to Order by the Speaker
Time of Meeting:
The daily hour of meeting is set by a House Resolution adopted on the first day of each session. On January 3, 2017, the House adopted H. Res. 9, which established the following House meeting times:
2:00 p.m. on Monday;
12:00 p.m. on Tuesday (or 2:00 p.m. if no legislative business was conducted on the preceding Monday);
12:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays; and
9:00 a.m. on all other days of the week.
The hour of meeting can be changed by order of the House at any time, usually by unanimous consent after consultation between both party leaderships.
A Member’s office is notified of any time changes by the Whip’s office, usually by electronic mail. If in doubt, a Member’s office should check with the Republican Cloakroom at 225-7350 or the Democratic Cloakroom at 225-7330.
Three-Day Adjournment Limit:
Article I, section 5 of the U.S. Constitution prevents either house from adjourning for more than three days (not including Sundays) unless the other house concurs. Such adjournment authority for more than three days is accomplished through the adoption by both houses of a concurrent resolution, which does not require the signature of the President.
In the case of an emergency in which the House may be in immediate danger, the Speaker may declare an emergency recess under clause 12 of rule I. If during a recess or adjournment of not more than three days the Speaker is notified by the Sergeant-at-Arms of an imminent danger to the place of reconvening, the Speaker may postpone the time for reconvening the House. The Speaker may also reconvene the House under those circumstances before the time previously appointed to declare the House in recess again. The Speaker may also change the time of reconvening if, in the opinion of the Speaker, it is in the public interest. These circumstances require the Speaker to notify Members accordingly. At the outset of the 115th Congress, the House agreed to H. Con. Res. 1, which permits the Speaker and the Majority Leader of the Senate to assemble at a place outside the District of Columbia whenever, in their opinion, the public interest shall warrant it (the Senate has yet to take action on H. Con. Res. 1).
Furthermore, the House has a rule that allows it to deal with the consequences of a terrorist attack or other catastrophe that may incapacitate large numbers of Members. The rule (clause 5(c) of rule XX) allows the House to act if a quorum cannot be achieved. Quorum is the majority of the whole number of the House and is calculated from those Members who are chosen, sworn and living. Thus, if all Members of the House are alive, quorum is the majority of 435, or 218 Members. Incapacitated Members, though unable to vote, are nonetheless counted for purposes of quorum. If more than a majority of the House is incapacitated, the House would be unable to act because of a lack of quorum. The rule change allows for the House to conduct business with less than a majority of a fully constituted House – but only in times of catastrophe and subject to a number of procedural protections. This smaller number is called the provisional quorum. Operating with a provisional quorum lasts only until enough Members are revived for a regular quorum. Any legislation considered with a provisional quorum would be subject to bicameral approval and presentment to the President, and any votes adopted could be ratified or repudiated at a later time by a fully constituted House.
The scheduling of legislation for House Floor action is the prerogative of the Majority leadership. However, the following table is useful in determining the time it takes to prepare legislation for Floor consideration under regular order:
Committee orders a bill reported; views requested.
Day #1 for filing views.
Day #2 for filing views.
Committee files report. Day #1 that report is available to the House.
Day #2 that report is available to the House. Rules Committee meeting to grant rule is possible.
Day #3 that report is available to the House. Rule may be considered on the Floor. Bill may be considered on the Floor.
Bill may be considered on House Floor.
Usually on the last legislative day of the week, a representative of the Minority leadership seeks unanimous consent to speak out of order for one-minute to address the House for the purpose of asking the Majority Leader about the legislative schedule for the upcoming week. Following the announcement, the Whip offices will send Members “Whip Notices” for the next week listing the specific bills to be considered including how each bill will receive Floor consideration (for example, suspension of the rules, a rule from the Rules Committee, unanimous consent, etc.). Offices will receive publications electronically from the Republican Conference or the Democratic Caucus with summaries of the upcoming legislation.
The House of Representatives also provides access to the text of legislation to be considered on the House Floor via the electronic repository at docs.house.gov, which was launched during the 112th Congress. Data is provided in accordance with the rules of the House by both the Majority Leader’s Office and the Committee on Rules, while the site is managed by the Office of the Clerk.
Finally, if the bill is to be considered under a rule from the Rules Committee, information about the amendment process, debate time, etc., is available on the Majority’s Rules Committee website at www.rules.house.gov or the Minority’s Rules Committee website at http://democrats.rules.house.gov.
Even though the Majority Leadership announces a program for the coming week, it is possible for the schedule to change. Therefore, it is to a Member’s benefit to follow any updates. The Republican Cloakroom provides weekly and daily schedule updates on their website, repcloakroom.house.gov, and real time updates via Twitter, @repcloakroom. The Democratic Cloakroom provides recorded information for the week’s program at 225-1600 and 225-7400 for the Floor program for that specific day. Additional updates from the Democratic Cloakroom are also available on their website, demcloakroom.house.gov, or on Twitter, @demcloakroom.
In addition to the announced schedule of major bills, legislative matters may be called up for consideration by “unanimous consent.” In keeping with the Speaker’s announced policy, unanimous consent requests of that type must be cleared by the Majority and Minority leaderships as well as the bipartisan leadership of the committee(s) of jurisdiction.
Following clearance, these matters may come up with little notice except to the Members managing the request (i.e., the Chair and Ranking Member of the committee(s) of jurisdiction). If Members have a specific interest in something that might come up by unanimous consent, they should contact the appropriate committees and leadership representatives as early as possible. A Member might also ask the Floor staff to be on the lookout for the matter of interest.
In addition to the normal order of business as presented here, there are several “special legislative days.” Bills may be brought up under “suspension of the rules” on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays of each week, although this process is separate and apart from the calendar system. There is no “suspension calendar.” Suspension of the rules will be discussed in detail later in Section VIII of this manual. Private bills may be considered on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month.
Powers of the Speaker:
The Speaker traditionally opens the session each day, but may designate a “Speaker pro tempore,” who is a Member of the Majority party, to serve in this capacity for up to three legislative days. The Speaker or Speaker pro tempore may preside through one-minute speeches and other House business (such as debate on special rules) until the House resolves itself into the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, at which time the Speaker appoints a Majority Member to preside as the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. The Speaker or Speaker pro tempore returns to the Chair when the Committee of the Whole rises to come back into the Whole House.
NOTE: House rule I details the numerous duties of the Speaker, many of which directly affect Members. It is also important to understand the Speaker’s power of recognition under clause 2 of rule XVII. In most cases, it is the Chair’s prerogative to recognize a Member. The power of recognition cannot be appealed.
Morning Hour Debate:
By agreement of both the Majority and Minority leadership, the House has instituted a “morning- hour” period for special order speeches. On the first legislative day of the week, between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m., Members are recognized for up to five minutes for these speeches, alternating between Majority and Minority Members on a rotating basis. On the middle days of the week, the time set aside for Morning Hour is between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. There are no Morning Hour debates on the last legislative day of the week. Members designated by the leaders may speak for up to five minutes on any subject of their choice (except for the Majority and Minority Leaders and Minority Whip, who may speak for longer blocks of time).