Custody of the Papers / Papers (

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

Custody of the Papers / Papers

Paper Recycling, by Traci Gardner
Paper Recycling, by Traci Gardner

Custody of the Papers: Possession of an engrossed measure and certain related basic documents that the two houses produce as they try to resolve their differences over the measure. To reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill, a conference may be arranged. The chamber with “custody of the papers” – the engrossed bill, engrossed amendments and messages of transmittal – is the only body empowered to request the conference report once agreement has been reached on the bill by the conferees.

Custody of the papers sometimes is manipulated to ensure that a particular chamber acts either first or last on the conference report.

Papers: Documents passed back and forth between the chambers, including the engrossed measure, the amendments, the messages transmitting them, and the conference report.

Neither [chamber] may consider a conference report until it has possession of the official papers, which consist of the original bill and any amendments thereto. Copies of the conference report itself and the statement of the managers must also be available on the floor.

It is customary for the managers of the [chamber that] had requested a conference to carry the official papers with them to the conference. If the conferees reach an agreement (even a partial agreement), the papers change hands, and the managers of the [chamber that] had agreed to the conference take possession thereof and their [chamber] acts first on the report. However, if the managers of the agreeing [chamber] fail to take possession of the papers at the close of a successful conference, the managers of the asking [chamber] may retain the papers and that [chamber] acts first on the report. When the conferees report in total disagreement the papers do not change hands.

Deschler’s Precedents, Ch. 33, § 24. Custody of the Official Papers

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