Amendment

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An amendment is prospoed changes to a piece of legislation or law. An amendment can range in type, from Constitutional amendments which, as the name implies, are a proposed change or addition to the United States Constitution, to minor changes or corrections to a bill in Congress.

Contents

In the Senate

The Amending Process in the Senate

Distinctions Amoung Amendments

The amending process is central to the consideration of legislation by the Senate, and the rules, practices, and precedents that underlie this process frequently depend on distinguishing among amendments based on their type and form. Simply put, not all amendmentsare equal in a procedural sense. When an amendment to a measure is offered in the Senate, and while the amendment is pending, it is normally in order for other amendments to be offered dealing with the same portion of the measure. The relative precedence of an amendment determines whether it can be offered while another amendment is pending, and, if it can, that it be voted on first. Amending opportunities available in the Senate depend on what amendments have already been offered, and several different “amendment trees” can develop depending on circumstances.

Precedence depends on the relationship between the degree, form, and scope of the pending amendments and the ones to be offered. Distinguishing among the types and forms of amendments therefore has implications for what alternatives the Senate may choose among, and how many amendments maybe pending at one time.

A bill is subject to amendment as soon as the Senate begins to consider it. Committee amendments arec onsidered first; then Senators can offer amendments to any part of the bill in any order. Senators may debate each amendment without limit unless the Senate (1) agrees to a motion to table (kill) the amendment, (2) agrees to a unanimous consent request to limit debate on the amendment, or (3) invokes cloture, limiting debate on the amendment or on the bill and all amendments to it.

Degrees of Amendments

A fundamental aspect of the amending process in the Senate is that it is limited to two degrees. Generally amendments may be offered to the measure under consideration (first-degree), and to amendments to the measure (second-degree). Second-degree amendments have precedence over first-degree amendments. That means not only that second-degree amendments are offered while a first-degree amendment is pending, but also that they must be disposed of before the Senate can vote on the first-degree amendment, as it may have been amended. Senate rules do not allow third-degree amendments.

Forms of Amendments

Amendments may also be distinguished by whether they are posed in the form of:

  1. a motion to strike out some existing text from a measure (or from a first-degree amendment);
  2. a motion solely to insert some new text into a measure (or into a first-degree amendment); or
  3. a motion both to strike out some existing text and insert

something new (in either a measure or a first degree amendment).

This distinction is integral in structuring the choices that the Senate may choose amongbecause the Senateallows different amendment trees to develop dependingon the form of the first amendment offered. The Senate assigns higher precedence to amendments to insert and amendments to strike and insert than to amendments to strike out. Although an amendment to strike is not itself amendable, Senate procedure allows Senators to “go behind” an amendment to strike, and first consider amendments to the portion of the measure proposed to be stricken. In this way, when one of the effects of an amendment is to eliminate some text from a measure, the Senate may first consider alternatives to that text.

Scope of Amendments

A third way to distinguish among amendments is by their scope. The procedural scope of an amendment is defined in relation to thetext the amendment would effect, and is not indicative of any substantive policy changes that would result from the proposed amendment. Generally, the Senate considers an amendment to be a substitute if it would replace all of a pending text. A perfecting amendment is one that inserts text or replaces less than a complete text. An amendment drafted as a motion to strike out and insert may be treated as a substitute or as a perfecting amendment depending on what is being stricken and the procedural situation in which it is offered.

In certain circumstances, both a substitute and a perfecting amendment may be pending simultaneously. For example, when a first-degree amendment to insert new text in a measure is pending, a second-degree amendment that would be a substitute for the first-degree amendment could be offered. Moreover, a perfecting amendment has precedence over a substitute directed to thesametext. Therefore, while the second-degree substitute (to a first-degree amendment) is pending, a second-degree perfecting amendment may also be offered, and would be voted on first. The principle behind this is to allow alternatives to be “perfected” before the Senate must choose between them.

When a first-degree amendment to strike and insert is offered and no other amendment is pendingit is consideredasubstitutefor aportion of themeasure. However, a special case arises when a it is offered in the form of a motion to strike out everything in a measure after the enacting clause (or the resolving clause in the case of a resolution) and insert a different text. Because committees frequentlyreport their recommendations to the Senate in this form, Senators typically focus their consideration on the substitute, although amendments to the text of the measure itself would be in order. An amendment in the nature of a substitute is not treated as a first-degree amendment. Instead it is subject to two degrees of amendment, similar (but not identical) to the situation that would arise if it were the text of the measure. Amendments in the nature of a substitute are rarely offered except at the recommendation of a committee, and would be in order only when no other amendment of any kind is pending.

There are several different types of amendments. A first degree amendment proposes to change the text of the bill; a second degree amendment proposes to change the text of a first degree amendment that the Senate is considering. Third degree amendments are not allowed. An amendment may propose to strike out language from a bill (or a first degree amendment), to insert new language, or to replace language by striking out and inserting. In general, an amendment that proposes to replace the entire text of a bill is known as an amendment in the nature of a substitute; an amendment to replace the entire text of a first degree amendment is known as a substitute amendment. An amendment, especially in the second degree, that makes some lesser change is known as a perfecting amendment.

Depending on the kinds of amendments that Senators offer and the order in which they are recognized to offer their amendments, Senators can offer anywhere from three to 11 amendments before the Senate has to vote on any of them. “Amendment trees” are the graphic ways of depicting these possible situations.

The Senate only requires that amendments be germane when amendments are offered (1) to general appropriations bills and budget measures, (2) under cloture, or (3) under certain unanimous consent agreements and certain statutes. Otherwise, Senators can offer amendments on any subject to any bill. There are several general restrictions on the amending process. For example, it is not in order to propose an amendment that proposes only to amend language in a bill that already has been amended. However, it is possible to re-amend that language in the process of amending a larger portion of the bill. There also are special provisions in Senate rules to limit amendments to appropriations bills if those amendments propose unauthorized appropriations or changes in existing law. The Senate can, and sometimes does, choose not to enforce these restrictions.

The Senator who has offered an amendment may withdraw or modify it at any time until the Senate has taken some action on it, such as by amending it or by ordering a rollcall vote on it. Senators also may demand that certain amendments be divided into two or more parts. A rollcall vote on an amendment is ordered at the request of at least eleven Senators. The Senate’s amending process changes under cloture. For example, no amendment can be offered under cloture unless a Senator submitted it in writing before the cloture vote occurred

In the House


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