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House Rule XX - Voting and quorum calls

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Changes to Rule XX for the 110th Congress

House Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) released this summary of the new rule changes at the beginning of the 110th Congress. The new rules effect Rule XX in the following ways:

"Prohibits the Speaker from holding votes open for longer than the scheduled time for the sole purpose of changing the outcome of the vote."[1]

Rule XX for the 110th Congress

1. (a) The House shall divide after the Speaker has put a question to a vote by voice as provided in clause 6 of rule I if the Speaker is in doubt or division is demanded. Those in favor of the question shall first rise from their seats to be counted, and then those opposed.

(b) If a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner requests a recorded vote, and that request is supported by at least one-fifth of a quorum, the vote shall be taken by electronic device unless the Speaker invokes another procedure for recording votes provided in this rule. A recorded vote taken in the House under this paragraph shall be considered a vote by the yeas and nays.
(c) In case of a tie vote, a question shall be lost.

2. (a) Unless the Speaker directs otherwise, the Clerk shall conduct a record vote or quorum call by electronic device. In such a case the Clerk shall enter on the Journal and publish in the Congressional Record, in alphabetical order in each category, the names of Members recorded as voting in the affirmative, the names of Members recorded as voting in the negative, and the names of Members answering present as if they had been called in the manner provided in clause 3. A record vote by electronic device shall not be held open for the sole purpose of reversing the outcome of such vote. Except as otherwise permitted under clause 8 or 9 of this rule or under clause 6 of rule XVIII, the minimum time for a record vote or quorum call by electronic device shall be 15 minutes.

(b) When the electronic voting system is inoperable or is not used, the Speaker or Chairman may direct the Clerk to conduct a record vote or quorum call as provided in clause 3 or 4.

3. The Speaker may direct the Clerk to conduct a record vote or quorum call by call of the roll. In such a case the Clerk shall call the names of Members, alphabetically by surname. When two or more have the same surname, the name of the State (and, if necessary to distinguish among Members from the same State, the given names of the Members) shall be added. After the roll has been called once, the Clerk shall call the names of those not recorded, alphabetically by surname. Members appearing after the second call, but before the result is announced, may vote or announce a pair.

4. (a) The Speaker may direct a record vote or quorum call to be conducted by tellers. In such a case the tellers named by the Speaker shall record the names of the Members voting on each side of the question or record their presence, as the case may be, which the Clerk shall enter on the Journal and publish in the Congressional Record. Absentees shall be noted, but the doors may not be closed except when ordered by the Speaker. The minimum time for a record vote or quorum call by tellers shall be 15 minutes.

(b) On the demand of a Member, or at the suggestion of the Speaker, the names of Members sufficient to make a quorum in the Hall of the House who do not vote shall be noted by the Clerk, entered on the Journal, reported to the Speaker with the names of the Members voting, and be counted and announced in determining the presence of a quorum to do business.

5. (a) In the absence of a quorum, a majority comprising at least 15 Members, which may include the Speaker, may compel the attendance of absent Members.

(b) Subject to clause 7(b) a majority of those present may order the Sergeant-at-Arms to send officers appointed by him to arrest those Members for whom no sufficient excuse is made and shall secure and retain their attendance. The House shall determine on what condition they shall be discharged. Unless the House otherwise directs, the Members who voluntarily appear shall be admitted immediately to the Hall of the House and shall report their names to the Clerk to be entered on the Journal as present.
(c)(1) If the House should be without a quorum due to catastrophic circumstances, then_
(A) until there appear in the House a sufficient number of Representatives to constitute a quorum among the whole number of the House, a quorum in the House shall be determined based upon the provisional number of the House; and
(B) the provisional number of the House, as of the close of the call of the House described in subparagraph (3)(C), shall be the number of Representatives responding to that call of the House.
(2) If a Representative counted in determining the provisional number of the House thereafter ceases to be a Representative, or if a Representative not counted in determining the provisional number of the House thereafter appears in the House, the provisional number of the House shall be adjusted accordingly.
(3) For the purposes of subparagraph (1), the House shall be considered to be without a quorum due to catastrophic circumstances if, after a motion under clause 5(a) of rule XX has been disposed of and without intervening adjournment, each of the following occurs in the stated sequence:
(A) A call of the House (or a series of calls of the House) is closed after aggregating a period of 72 hours (excluding time the House is in recess) without producing a quorum.
(B) The Speaker_
(i) with the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader, receives from the Sergeant-at-Arms (or his designee) a catastrophic quorum failure reports, as described in subparagraph (4);
(ii) consults with the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader on the content of that report; and
(iii) announces the content of that report to the House.
(C) A further call of the House (or a series of calls of the House) is closed after aggregating a period in excess of 24 hours (excluding time the House is in recess) without producing a quorum.
(4)(A) For purposes of subparagraph (3), a catastrophic quorum failure report is a report advising that the inability of the House to establish a quorum is attributable to catastrophic circumstances involving natural disaster, attack, contagion, or similar calamity rendering Representatives incapable of attending the proceedings of the House.
(B) Such report shall specify the following:
(i) The number of vacancies in the House and the names of former Representatives whose seats are vacant.
(ii) The names of Representatives considered incapacitated.
(iii) The names of Representatives not incapacitated but otherwise incapable of attending the proceedings of the House.
(iv) The names of Representatives unaccounted for.
(C) Such report shall be prepared on the basis of the most authoritative information available after consultation with the Attending Physician to the Congress and the Clerk (or their respective designees) and pertinent public health and law enforcement officials.
(D) Such report shall be updated every legislative day for the duration of any proceedings under or in reliance on this paragraph. The Speaker shall make such updates available to the House.
(5) An announcement by the Speaker under subparagraph (3)(B)(iii) shall not be subject to appeal.
(6) Subparagraph (1) does not apply to a proposal to create a vacancy in the representation from any State in respect of a Representative not incapacitated but otherwise incapable of attending the proceedings of the House.
(7) For purposes of this paragraph:
(A) The term "provisional number of the House" means the number of Representatives upon which a quorum will be computed in the House until Representative sufficient in number to constitute a quorum among the whole number of the House appear in the House.
(B) The term "whole number of the House" means the number of the Representatives chosen, sworn, and living whose membership in the House has not been terminated by resignation or by the action of the House.
(d) Upon the death, resignation, expulsion, disqualification, removal, or swearing of a Member, the whole number of the House shall be adjusted accordingly. The Speaker shall announce the adjustment to the House. Such an announcement shall not be subject to appeal. In the case of a death, the Speaker may lay before the House such documentation from Federal, State, or local officials as he deems pertinent.

6. (a) When a quorum fails to vote on a question, a quorum is not present, and objection is made for that cause (unless the House shall adjourn)_

(1) there shall be a call of the House;
(2) the Sergeant-at-Arms shall proceed forthwith to bring in absent Members; and
(3) the yeas and nays on the pending question shall at the same time be considered as ordered.
(b) The Clerk shall record Members by the yeas and nays on the pending question, using such procedure as the Speaker may invoke under clause 2, 3, or 4. Each Member arrested under this clause shall be brought by the Sergeant-at-Arms before the House, whereupon he shall be noted as present, discharged from arrest, and given an opportunity to vote; and his vote shall be recorded. If those voting on the question and those who are present and decline to vote together make a majority of the House, the Speaker shall declare that a quorum is constituted, and the pending question shall be decided as the requisite majority of those voting shall have determined. Thereupon further proceedings under the call shall be considered as dispensed with.
(c) At any time after Members have had the requisite opportunity to respond by the yeas and nays, but before a result has been announced, a motion that the House adjourn shall be in order if seconded by a majority of those present, to be ascertained by actual count by the Speaker. If the House adjourns on such a motion, all proceedings under this clause shall be considered as vacated.

7. (a) The Speaker may not entertain a point of order that a quorum is not present unless a question has been put to a vote.

(b) Subject to paragraph (c) the Speaker may recognize a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner to move a call of the House at any time. When a quorum is established pursuant to a call of the House, further proceedings under the call shall be considered as dispensed with unless the Speaker recognizes for a motion to compel attendance of Members under clause 5(b).
(c) A call of the House shall not be in order after the previous question is ordered unless the Speaker determines by actual count that a quorum is not present.

8. (a)(1) When a recorded vote is ordered, or the yeas and nays are ordered, or a vote is objected to under clause 6 -

(A) on any of the questions specified in subparagraph (2), the Speaker may postpone further proceedings to a designated place in the legislative schedule within two additional legislative days; and
(B) on the question of agreeing to the Speaker's approval of the Journal, the Speaker may postpone further proceedings to a designated place in the legislative schedule on that legislative day.
(2) The questions described in subparagraph (1) are as follows:
(A) The question of passing a bill or joint resolution.
(B) The question of adopting a resolution or concurrent resolution.
(C) The question of agreeing to a motion to instruct managers on the part of the House (except that proceedings may not resume on such a motion under clause 7(c) of rule XXII if the managers have filed a report in the House).
(D) The question of agreeing to a conference report.
(E) The question of ordering the previous question on a question described in subdivision (A), (B), (C), or (D).
(F) The question of agreeing to a motion to suspend the rules.
(G) The question of agreeing to a motion to consider or the question of agreeing to a motion to lay on the table a motion to reconsider.
(H) The question of agreeing to an amendment reported from the Committee of the Whole.
(b) At the time designated by the Speaker for further proceedings on questions postponed under paragraph (a), the Speaker shall resume proceedings on each postponed question.
(c) The Speaker may reduce to five minutes the minimum time for electronic voting on a question postponed under this clause, or on a question incidental thereto, that follows another electronic vote without intervening business, so long as the minimum time for electronic voting on the first in any series of questions is 15 minutes.
(d) If the House adjourns on a legislative day designated for further proceedings on questions postponed under this clause without disposing of such questions, then on the next legislative day the unfinished business is the disposition of such questions.

9. The Speaker may reduce to five minutes the minimum time for electronic voting on any question arising without intervening business after an electronic vote on another question if notice of possible five-minute voting for a given series of votes was issued before the preceding electronic vote.

10. The yeas and nays shall be considered as ordered when the Speaker puts the question on passage of a bill or joint resolution, or on adoption of a conference report, making general appropriations, or increasing Federal income tax rates (within the meaning of clause 5 of rule XXI), or on final adoption of a concurrent resolution on the budget or conference report thereon.

11. In a case of ballot for election, a majority of the votes shall be necessary to an election. When there is not such a majority on the first ballot, the process shall be repeated until a majority is obtained. In all balloting blanks shall be rejected, may not be counted in the enumeration of votes, and may not be reported by the tellers.

Rule XX for the 109th Congress

1. (a) The House shall divide after the Speaker has put a question to a vote by voice as provided in clause 6 of rule I if the Speaker is in doubt or division is demanded. Those in favor of the question shall first rise from their seats to be counted, and then those opposed.

(b) If a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner requests a recorded vote, and that request is supported by at least one-fifth of a quorum, the vote shall be taken by electronic device unless the Speaker invokes another procedure for recording votes provided in this rule. A recorded vote taken in the House under this paragraph shall be considered a vote by the yeas and nays.
(c) In case of a tie vote, a question shall be lost.

2. (a) Unless the Speaker directs otherwise, the Clerk shall conduct a record vote or quorum call by electronic device. In such a case the Clerk shall enter on the Journal and publish in the Congressional Record, in alphabetical order in each category, the names of Members recorded as voting in the affirmative, the names of Members recorded as voting in the negative, and the names of Members answering present as if they had been called in the manner provided in clause 3. Except as otherwise permitted under clause 8 or 9 of this rule or under clause 6 of rule XVIII, the minimum time for a record vote or quorum call by electronic device shall be 15 minutes.

(b) When the electronic voting system is inoperable or is not used, the Speaker or Chairman may direct the Clerk to conduct a record vote or quorum call as provided in clause 3 or 4.

3. The Speaker may direct the Clerk to conduct a record vote or quorum call by call of the roll. In such a case the Clerk shall call the names of Members, alphabetically by surname. When two or more have the same surname, the name of the State (and, if necessary to distinguish among Members from the same State, the given names of the Members) shall be added. After the roll has been called once, the Clerk shall call the names of those not recorded, alphabetically by surname. Members appearing after the second call, but before the result is announced, may vote or announce a pair.

4. (a) The Speaker may direct a record vote or quorum call to be conducted by tellers. In such a case the tellers named by the Speaker shall record the names of the Members voting on each side of the question or record their presence, as the case may be, which the Clerk shall enter on the Journal and publish in the Congressional Record. Absentees shall be noted, but the doors may not be closed except when ordered by the Speaker. The minimum time for a record vote or quorum call by tellers shall be 15 minutes.

(b) On the demand of a Member, or at the suggestion of the Speaker, the names of Members sufficient to make a quorum in the Hall of the House who do not vote shall be noted by the Clerk, entered on the Journal, reported to the Speaker with the names of the Members voting, and be counted and announced in determining the presence of a quorum to do business.

5. (a) In the absence of a quorum, a majority comprising at least 15 Members, which may include the Speaker, may compel the attendance of absent Members.

(b) Subject to clause 7(b) a majority of those present may order the Sergeant-at-Arms to send officers appointed by him to arrest those Members for whom no sufficient excuse is made and shall secure and retain their attendance. The House shall determine on what condition they shall be discharged. Unless the House otherwise directs, the Members who voluntarily appear shall be admitted immediately to the Hall of the House and shall report their names to the Clerk to be entered on the Journal as present.
(c)(1) If the House should be without a quorum due to catastrophic circumstances, then_
(A) until there appear in the House a sufficient number of Representatives to constitute a quorum among the whole number of the House, a quorum in the House shall be determined based upon the provisional number of the House; and
(B) the provisional number of the House, as of the close of the call of the House described in subparagraph (3)(C), shall be the number of Representatives responding to that call of the House.
(2) If a Representative counted in determining the provisional number of the House thereafter ceases to be a Representative, or if a Representative not counted in determining the provisional number of the House thereafter appears in the House, the provisional number of the House shall be adjusted accordingly.
(3) For the purposes of subparagraph (1), the House shall be considered to be without a quorum due to catastrophic circumstances if, after a motion under clause 5(a) of rule XX has been disposed of and without intervening adjournment, each of the following occurs in the stated sequence:
(A) A call of the House (or a series of calls of the House) is closed after aggregating a period of 72 hours (excluding time the House is in recess) without producing a quorum.
(B) The Speaker_
(i) with the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader, receives from the Sergeant-at-Arms (or his designee) a catastrophic quorum failure reports, as described in subparagraph (4);
(ii) consults with the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader on the content of that report; and
(iii) announces the content of that report to the House.
(C) A further call of the House (or a series of calls of the House) is closed after aggregating a period in excess of 24 hours (excluding time the House is in recess) without producing a quorum.
(4)(A) For purposes of subparagraph (3), a catastrophic quorum failure report is a report advising that the inability of the House to establish a quorum is attributable to catastrophic circumstances involving natural disaster, attack, contagion, or similar calamity rendering Representatives incapable of attending the proceedings of the House.
(B) Such report shall specify the following:
(i) The number of vacancies in the House and the names of former Representatives whose seats are vacant.
(ii) The names of Representatives considered incapacitated.
(iii) The names of Representatives not incapacitated but otherwise incapable of attending the proceedings of the House.
(iv) The names of Representatives unaccounted for.
(C) Such report shall be prepared on the basis of the most authoritative information available after consultation with the Attending Physician to the Congress and the Clerk (or their respective designees) and pertinent public health and law enforcement officials.
(D) Such report shall be updated every legislative day for the duration of any proceedings under or in reliance on this paragraph. The Speaker shall make such updates available to the House.
(5) An announcement by the Speaker under subparagraph (3)(B)(iii) shall not be subject to appeal.
(6) Subparagraph (1) does not apply to a proposal to create a vacancy in the representation from any State in respect of a Representative not incapacitated but otherwise incapable of attending the proceedings of the House.
(7) For purposes of this paragraph:
(A) The term "provisional number of the House" means the number of Representatives upon which a quorum will be computed in the House until Representative sufficient in number to constitute a quorum among the whole number of the House appear in the House.
(B) The term "whole number of the House" means the number of the Representatives chosen, sworn, and living whose membership in the House has not been terminated by resignation or by the action of the House.
(d) Upon the death, resignation, expulsion, disqualification, removal, or swearing of a Member, the whole number of the House shall be adjusted accordingly. The Speaker shall announce the adjustment to the House. Such an announcement shall not be subject to appeal. In the case of a death, the Speaker may lay before the House such documentation from Federal, State, or local officials as he deems pertinent.

6. (a) When a quorum fails to vote on a question, a quorum is not present, and objection is made for that cause (unless the House shall adjourn)_

(1) there shall be a call of the House;
(2) the Sergeant-at-Arms shall proceed forthwith to bring in absent Members; and
(3) the yeas and nays on the pending question shall at the same time be considered as ordered.
(b) The Clerk shall record Members by the yeas and nays on the pending question, using such procedure as the Speaker may invoke under clause 2, 3, or 4. Each Member arrested under this clause shall be brought by the Sergeant-at-Arms before the House, whereupon he shall be noted as present, discharged from arrest, and given an opportunity to vote; and his vote shall be recorded. If those voting on the question and those who are present and decline to vote together make a majority of the House, the Speaker shall declare that a quorum is constituted, and the pending question shall be decided as the requisite majority of those voting shall have determined. Thereupon further proceedings under the call shall be considered as dispensed with.
(c) At any time after Members have had the requisite opportunity to respond by the yeas and nays, but before a result has been announced, a motion that the House adjourn shall be in order if seconded by a majority of those present, to be ascertained by actual count by the Speaker. If the House adjourns on such a motion, all proceedings under this clause shall be considered as vacated.

7. (a) The Speaker may not entertain a point of order that a quorum is not present unless a question has been put to a vote.

(b) Subject to paragraph (c) the Speaker may recognize a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner to move a call of the House at any time. When a quorum is established pursuant to a call of the House, further proceedings under the call shall be considered as dispensed with unless the Speaker recognizes for a motion to compel attendance of Members under clause 5(b).
(c) A call of the House shall not be in order after the previous question is ordered unless the Speaker determines by actual count that a quorum is not present.

8. (a)(1) When a recorded vote is ordered, or the yeas and nays are ordered, or a vote is objected to under clause 6 -

(A) on any of the questions specified in subparagraph (2), the Speaker may postpone further proceedings to a designated place in the legislative schedule within two additional legislative days; and
(B) on the question of agreeing to the Speaker's approval of the Journal, the Speaker may postpone further proceedings to a designated place in the legislative schedule on that legislative day.
(2) The questions described in subparagraph (1) are as follows:
(A) The question of passing a bill or joint resolution.
(B) The question of adopting a resolution or concurrent resolution.
(C) The question of agreeing to a motion to instruct managers on the part of the House (except that proceedings may not resume on such a motion under clause 7(c) of rule XXII if the managers have filed a report in the House).
(D) The question of agreeing to a conference report.
(E) The question of ordering the previous question on a question described in subdivision (A), (B), (C), or (D).
(F) The question of agreeing to a motion to suspend the rules.
(G) The question of agreeing to a motion to consider or the question of agreeing to a motion to lay on the table a motion to reconsider.
(H) The question of agreeing to an amendment reported from the Committee of the Whole.
(b) At the time designated by the Speaker for further proceedings on questions postponed under paragraph (a), the Speaker shall resume proceedings on each postponed question.
(c) The Speaker may reduce to five minutes the minimum time for electronic voting on a question postponed under this clause, or on a question incidental thereto, that follows another electronic vote without intervening business, so long as the minimum time for electronic voting on the first in any series of questions is 15 minutes.
(d) If the House adjourns on a legislative day designated for further proceedings on questions postponed under this clause without disposing of such questions, then on the next legislative day the unfinished business is the disposition of such questions.

9. The Speaker may reduce to five minutes the minimum time for electronic voting on any question arising without intervening business after an electronic vote on another question if notice of possible five-minute voting for a given series of votes was issued before the preceding electronic vote.

10. The yeas and nays shall be considered as ordered when the Speaker puts the question on passage of a bill or joint resolution, or on adoption of a conference report, making general appropriations, or increasing Federal income tax rates (within the meaning of clause 5 of rule XXI), or on final adoption of a concurrent resolution on the budget or conference report thereon.

11. In a case of ballot for election, a majority of the votes shall be necessary to an election. When there is not such a majority on the first ballot, the process shall be repeated until a majority is obtained. In all balloting blanks shall be rejected, may not be counted in the enumeration of votes, and may not be reported by the tellers.

Articles and Resources

Sources

Note: Updates to the rules for the 110th Congress were obtained by Congresspedia staff from House Rules Committee staff. The full source is available upon request.

  1. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), "Summary of House Rules Package Opening Day of the 110th Congress," January 3, 2007.

Resources

Articles