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.
The Senate Rules Committee has jurisdiction over the internal management of the Senate, as well as responsibility for legislation establishing federal election laws.
Among other things, the standing rules of the Senate allow senators to debate at length and preclude a simple majority from ending debate.
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.
The Amending Process in the Senate (pdf; long) (CRS)
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.
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.
Voting and Quorum Procedures in the Senate (pdf) (CRS)
History of Senate Rules
Learn about the history of Senate rules with these essays by the Office of the Senate Historian.
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.
The Amending Process in the House (pdf; long) (CRS)