Committee of the Whole (United States House of Representatives)
In the United States House of Representatives, the Committee of the Whole, short for Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, is a parliamentary device in which the House of Representatives is considered one large congressional committee. The presiding officer is chosen by the Speaker of the House and is normally a member of the majority party who does not hold the chair of a standing committee.
Procedurally, the Committee of the Whole differs from the House of Representatives even though they have identical membership. The Committee of the Whole only requires 100 members for a quorum, while only 25 members are required to force a recorded rather than voice vote. In the version of the Committee of the Whole that existed in the British House of Commons, the original use of this committee was to debate bills privately and prevent a recorded vote from being taken. It is normally invoked to give initial consideration of important legislation, including bills for raising revenue, and serves to expedite the process since debate over amendment occurs under a special five-minute rule. The House and the Committee of the Whole do not operate at the same time; rather, to consider bills, the House must resolve itself into the Committee of the Whole. To dissolve itself, the Committee of the Whole must "rise and report with a recommendation". The Committee of the Whole can recommend amendments to any bill. The House must then approve these amendments before the amendments are added to the final bill.
It allows bills and resolutions to be considered without adhering to all the formal rules of a House session, such as needing a quorum of 218. All measures on the Union Calendar must be considered first by the Committee of the Whole.1
In 1993, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), along with the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico and the delegates from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, received a limited vote in the Committee of the Whole, based on their right to vote in legislative committees. However, this limited vote stipulated if any of the delegates provided the deciding vote on an issue considered by the Committee of the Whole, a new vote would be conducted and the delegates would not be allowed to vote. The right of delegates to vote in Committee of the Whole was removed by the Republican majority in 1995 after that party gained control of Congress in the 1994 congressional elections.2 In January 2007, it was proposed by Democrats in the House that the 1993–1994 procedure be revived.3 The House approved the proposal with the adoption of H.Res. 78 by a vote of 226–191.
On January 5, 2011, on the first day of the newly-Republican controlled House session, the House voted for a rules package again stripping non-voting delegates of their votes in the Committee of the Whole, with a 225–188 vote along party lines to table a motion by Eleanor Holmes Norton providing for further study of the non-voting delegate issue, thereby effectively killing it.4
The United States Senate used the Committee of the Whole as a parliamentary device until May 16, 1930, when the practice was abolished with respect to bills and joint resolutions. The Senate continued to utilize the Committee of the Whole for consideration of treaties until February 27, 1986,5 with the passage of S.Res 28.5
- "Government 101: How a Bill Becomes Law - Project Vote Smart". Votesmart.org. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- "Eleanor Holmes Norton: Biography and Much More from". Answers.com. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- "Kansas City infoZine News - Delegates Want an Official Chance to Make Their Voices Heard - USA". Infozine.com. 2007-01-24. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- Pershing, Ben (2011-01-05). "Washington Post - Norton fails in effort to prevent loss of Committee of the Whole vote". Voices.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- "Riddick's Senate Procedure - 101st Congress, 2d Session, Page 335" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- Sinclair, Barbara (1997). Unorthodox Lawmaking: New Legislative Processes in the U.S. Congress. CQ Press. ISBN 1-56802-276-X.