From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms
Closed Rule / Modified Closed Rule / Special Rule / Open Rule
In the House, under a closed rule, no amendments can be offered to the bill. Permits general debate for a specified period of time but permits no floor amendments. Amendments reported by the reporting committee are allowed.
When a special rule allows no amendments to be offered during consideration of a measure other than those recommended by the House committee reporting the bill, it is defined by the House Rules Committee as a closed rule. The Rules Committee defines a special rule as closed even when a motion to recommit with amendatory instructions is allowed because House Rule XIII, clause 6(c)(2) prohibits the committee from reporting a special rule that “would prevent the motion to recommit a bill or resolution from being made as provided in clause 2(b) of House Rule XIX, including a motion to recommit with instructions to report back an amendment otherwise in order, if offered by the Minority Leader or a designee.”
Modified Closed Rule: Permits general debate for a specified period of time, but limits amendments to those designated in the special rule or the Rules Committee report accompanying the special rule. May preclude amendments to particular portions of a bill. Structured Rule is another term for a modified closed rule.
Special Rule: A measure not in order under the means discussed above generally comes to the floor under provisions of a special rule. A special rule sets the guidelines for a measure’s consideration, including time for general debate and any limits on the amendment process. Most important and controversial legislation is considered under the terms of a special rule to enable the leadership to structure debate and amendments.
Self-Executing Rule: If specified, the House’s adoption of a special rule may also have the effect of amending or passing the underlying measure. Also called a “hereby” rule.
Open Rule: Under an open rule, all germane amendments can be offered, provided they are offered in a timely manner, comply with all House rules, and fit on the amendment tree. Permits general debate for a specified period of time and allows any member to offer an amendment that complies with the standing rules of the House.
Open rules customarily grant the chair of the Committee of the Whole discretion to give priority recognition to members who submitted their amendments for preprinting in the Congressional Record. Absent this provision, the chair would follow the custom of giving preferential recognition to members, based on seniority, who serve on the reporting committee, alternating between the parties.
“An Open Rule”
Modified open rule Permits general debate for a specified period of time, and allows any member to offer amendments consistent with House rules subject only to an overall time limit on the amendment process or a requirement that amendments be preprinted in the Congressional Record.
Rules are considered in the House under the one-hour rule, with time controlled by a majority floor manager. The majority floor manager customarily yields thirty minutes to the minority floor manager “for purposes of debate only.” Accordingly, special rules can be amended only if the majority floor manager offers an amendment to the rule or yields time to another member to offer an amendment, or if the previous question on the rule is defeated. (The previous question is in the form of a motion (“I move the previous question”), which, if agreed to, cuts off further debate and the possibility of amendment.)
- Floor Manager
- Germane / Germaneness
- Minority Leader
- Previous Question
- § 6.80 House Floor: Methods of Consideration, § 6.90 Rules Committee and Special Rules, § 6.100 Consideration of a Special Rule on the House Floor, § 6.202 Comparing a House Special Rule and a Senate Time Agreement, in Congressional Deskbook
- Chapter 4.C. House Rules Committee; Chapter 4.D. Special Rules; Chapter 4.I. Voting; Chapter 9. Conclusion; in Congressional Procedure
- House Rules Committee
- “Special Rules and Options for Regulating the Amending Process,” CRS Report 98-612 (6-page PDF)
- “Special Rules and Waivers of House Rules,” CRS Report 98-433 (5-page PDF)
- “House Rules Committee Hearings on Special Rules,” CRS Report 98-313 (7-page PDF)
- “Special Rules in the House of Representatives,” CRS Report 96-938 (130-page PDF)
- “House Rules Affecting Committees,” CRS Report 97-357 (35-page PDF)
- “The Discharge Rule in the House: Principal Features and Uses,” CRS Report 97-552 (11-page PDF)
- “The Committee on Rules & Special Rules,” Parliamentary Boot Camp (4-page PDF)
- “Open Rules and Appropriations Bills,” Parliamentary Boot Camp (4-page PDF)
- “Regular Appropriations Bills: Terms of Initial Consideration and Amendment in the House, FY1996-FY2015,” CRS Report R42933 (32-page PDF)
- “The Amending Process in the House of Representatives,” CRS Report 98-995 (49-page PDF)
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