Committee of the Whole (

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

Committee of the Whole

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The Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, more often referred to as the “Committee of the Whole,” is the House of Representatives operating as a committee on which all 435 House members serve. The House of Representatives uses this parliamentary device to take procedural advantage of a somewhat different set of rules governing proceedings in the Committee of the Whole than those governing proceedings in the House. The Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union is convened for the preliminary consideration of bills from the Union Calendar under more convenient and expedited procedures and a smaller quorum requirement (100 members) than in the House (218 members). The purpose is to expedite legislative consideration.

See House “Rule XVIII – The Committee Of The Whole House On The State Of The Union.”

The Committee of the Whole – An Introduction


The working title of what is formally “The Committee of the Whole House (of Representatives) on the State of the Union.” The membership is composed of all House members sitting as a committee. Any 100 members present on the floor of the chamber to consider legislation comprise a quorum of the committee. Any legislation taken up by the Committee of the Whole, however, must first have passed through the regular legislative or Appropriations Committee, and have been placed on the calendar.

Technically, the Committee of the Whole considers only bills directly or indirectly appropriating money, authorizing appropriations or involving taxes or charges on the public. Because the Committee of the Whole need number only 100 representatives, a quorum is more readily attained, and legislative business is expedited. Before 1971, members’ positions were not individually recorded on votes taken in Committee of the Whole. (See Teller Vote.)

When the full House resolves itself into the Committee of the Whole, it supplants the Speaker with a “chairman.” A measure is debated and amendments may be proposed, with votes on amendments as needed. (See also Five-Minute Rule.) The committee, however, cannot pass a bill. When the committee completes its work on the measure, it dissolves itself by “rising.” The Speaker returns and the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole reports to the House that the committee’s work has been completed. At this time members may demand a roll-call vote on any amendment adopted in the Committee of the Whole. The final vote is on passage of the legislation.

General debate is the term for the period of time at the beginning of proceedings in the Committee of the Whole to debate a measure. The time is generally divided equally between the majority and minority floor managers.

The Senate used the Committee of the Whole to consider legislation until 1930, and to consider treaties and nominations until 1986. See § 1.12, Senate Committee of the Whole, in Forbidden Citizens.

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