Enactment of a Law
Conference Committees and Reports
When the Senate requests a conference or agrees to the House's request
for a conference and names its conferees, it informs the House of its action
by message. After the second House agrees to the conference, appoints conferees,
and apprises the first House of its action by message, all the papers relating
to the measure sent to conference (referred to as the "official papers")
are transmitted to the conference. This includes the original engrossed
bill, engrossed amendments, and the various messages of transmittal between
Since the conferees of each House vote as a unit, the House, like
the Senate, may appoint as many conferees as it chooses to meet with the
Senate conferees to reconcile the differences between the two Houses--the
sole purpose of a conference. Thus, having a larger number of conferees
than the other House does not provide an advantage.
After deliberation, the conferees may make one or more recommendations;
for example, (1) that the House recede from all or certain of its amendments;
(2) that the Senate recede from its disagreement to all or certain of the
House amendments and agree to the same; or (3) that the conference committee
report an inability to agree in all or in part. Usually, however, there
Conferees dealing with an amendment or a series of amendments are
more limited in their options than conferees dealing with a bill passed
by the second House with an amendment in the nature of a substitute. They
can only deal with the matters in disagreement. They cannot insert new
matter or leave out matter agreed to by both Houses, and if they exceed
their authority, a point of order will lie against the conference report.
Each House may instruct its conferees, but this is rarely done. Such instructions
are not binding since conferences are presumed to be full and free--one
House cannot restrict the other House's conferees.
Where one House passes a bill of the other House with an amendment
in the nature of a substitute and the measure then goes to conference,
the conferees have wider latitude since the entire matter is in conference.
They may report a third version on the same subject matter; all of its
provisions, however, must be germane modifications of either the House
or Senate version, or it will be subject to a point of order.
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