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Rules and Procedure

The legislative process on the Senate floor is governed by a set of standing rules, a body of precedents created by rulings of presiding officers or by votes of the Senate, a variety of established and customary practices, and ad hoc arrangements the Senate makes to meet specific parliamentary and political circumstances. A knowledge of the Senate's formal rules is not sufficient to understand Senate procedure, and Senate practices cannot be understood without knowing the rules to which the practices relate.

 

Senate Rules and Administration Committee

The Senate Rules Committee has jurisdiction over the internal management of the Senate, as well as responsibility for legislation establishing federal election laws.


Rules

Among other things, the standing rules of the Senate allow senators to debate at length and preclude a simple majority from ending debate.

Standing Rules of the Senate

Senate Manual


Procedure

The legislative process on the Senate floor is a balance between the rights guaranteed to Senators under the standing rules and the need for senators to forgo some of these rights in order to expedite business.

Overview of Legislative Procedure in the Senate

Riddick’s Senate Procedure | SearchRiddick's Senate Procedure

The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor:  An Introduction (pdf)

Flow of Business:  Typical Day on the Senate Floor (pdf)

The Amending Process in the Senate  (pdf; long)

House and Senate Rules of Procedure:  A Comparison (pdf)


The Parliamentarian

The Senate and the House each has an Office of the Parliamentarian to provide expert advice and assistance on questions relating to the meaning and application of that chamber's legislative rules, precedents, and practices. In the Senate, staff from the parliamentarian's office sit on the Senate dais and advise the presiding officer on the conduct of Senate business.

The Office of the Parliamentarian in the House and Senate (pdf)

Floyd M. Riddick, Senate Parliamentarian (1964-1974), Oral History Interviews

First Official Parliamentarian, July 1, 1935


Quorum

Article I, section 5 of the Constitution requires that a quorum (51 senators) be present for the Senate to conduct business. Often, fewer than 51 senators are present on the floor, but the Senate presumes a quorum unless a roll call vote or quorum call suggests otherwise.

Compulsory Attendance, June 25, 1798

Quorum Busting, October 1893

Voting and Quorum Procedures in the Senate (pdf)


History of Senate Rules

Learn about the history of Senate rules with these essays by the Office of the Senate Historian.

Getting Together, Joint Rules of the House and Senate, April 15, 1789

Senate Adopts First Impeachment Rules, February 5, 1798


House Rules and Procedure

The standing rules of the House govern the daily order of business on the House floor by making certain matters and actions privileged for consideration. House decisions to grant other individual bills privileged access to the floor, usually upon recommendations from the House Rules Committee , also determine the daily order of House floor business.

Rules of the House of Representatives

Deschler’s Precedents

House Rules and Manual

The Legislative Process on the House Floor:  An Introduction (pdf)

The Amending Process in the House (pdf; long)


Related Items

Interested in related materials? Take a look at these Virtual Reference Desk subjects and other links for more information.

Cloture

Filibuster

Legislation and Records

Legislative Process

Votes