Conference / Conference Committee (CongressionalGlossary.com)

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

Conference / Conference Committee

Conference pears, by Nick Saltmarsh

Conference pears, by Nick Saltmarsh

Conference:
1: A formal meeting between the representatives of the House and the Senate to reconcile differences between the two chambers on provisions of a bill passed by both chambers. Members of the conference committee are appointed by the Speaker and the presiding officer of the Senate and are called “managers” for their respective chambers. A majority of the managers for each house must reach agreement on the provisions of the bill (often a compromise between the versions of the two chambers) before either chamber can consider it in the form of a “conference report.” When the conference report goes to the floor, it cannot be amended, and if both chambers do not approve it, the bill may go back to conference in certain situations, or a new conference must be convened. Many rules and informal practices govern the conduct of conference committees.

Bills passed by both chambers with only minor differences must be sent to conference. Either chamber may “concur” in the other’s amendments, completing action on the legislation. Sometimes leaders of the committee of jurisdiction work out an informal compromise instead of having a formal conference.

2: A common reference to a conference committee.

3: The official title and the organization of all Republicans in both chambers of Congress, i.e., Republican Conference. Senate; House.

Conference Committee:
A temporary, ad hoc panel composed of House and Senate conferees that is formed for the purpose of reconciling differences in legislation that has passed both chambers. Conference committees are usually convened to resolve bicameral differences on major and controversial legislation.

Conference committees are created by the two chambers of Congress to resolve the differences in the respective versions of any item of legislation which they both pass. This is made necessary because bills and resolutions on the same general subject, especially controversial ones, are regularly passed or adopted by the two chambers in different forms. Before any such single measure can become law, however, any differences in the two passed versions must be compromised. Both chambers must eventually pass every measure in an identical form before any such measure may be enrolled or become law. The two chambers may first attempt to resolve their differences by considering amendments between the chambers.

In this process one chamber can recede from its position and concur in the amendment or amendments of the other chamber, or it can recede from its position and concur in the amendment or amendments of the other chamber with further amendments of its own. The other chamber then must decide whether or not it will concur in any or all of these new amendments. Unless all differences between the two versions are eliminated, the measure cannot become law. Since this approach to eliminate any differences between the two chambers over proposed legislation is cumbersome, most controversial bills not passed in identical form in both chambers end up in conference. Source: Riddick’s Senate Procedure.

Also see Conference Report; Custody of the Papers; Joint Explanatory Statement of Managers; Understanding Report Language and Legislative History; § 6.260 Reconciling Differences between House-Passed and Senate-Passed Legislation, § 6.270 Amendments between the Houses, § 6.280 Conference Committees, in Congressional Deskbook.

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