Recognize / Recognition
To speak on the floor of the House or Senate, a member must be “recognized” by the presiding officer. In the House, the presiding officer has considerable discretion in recognition and her rulings are rarely challenged (House Rule XVII – Decorum And Debate); in the Senate, the presiding officer has little discretion in recognition and rulings are frequently challenged (Senate Rule XIX – Debate).
In committees, the chair alternates between majority and minority members in recognizing committee members to speak or offer amendments. The chair also often gives preference to more senior members.
House Debate with Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA) & Minority Leader Hoyer (D-MD)
In the House, the Speaker has priority right of recognition on the floor and sets the agenda. In the Committee of the Whole, 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. Recognition by the chair of the Committee of the Whole usually alternates between the parties, although one party may yield to several members in a row to keep the remaining general debate time fairly equal between the parties.
The chair of the Committee of the Whole recognizes the majority floor manager to open the general debate. The majority floor manager reserves the balance of time after concluding an opening statement. The minority floor manager then does the same. Thereafter, the two managers yield specific periods of time to individual members to speak on the measure. When all time for general debate has been consumed or yielded back, after the majority floor manager has concluded debate, general debate ends and the amendment process begins.
Congressman Bruce Westerman Celebrates Military Chaplains
Reserve the balance of my time / Yield back the balance of my time: In the House, debate is limited and members are recognized to speak for a limited amount of time. Once recognized, the member can use all of the time allocated, or, if time is left, yield back the balance of the time or reserve the balance of the time. This is done at the end of the member’s remarks: “I yield back the balance of my time.” or “I reserve the balance of my time.”
In the Senate, the main authority of the presiding officer is to recognize members to speak. Priority recognition is almost always granted to the majority and minority leaders if they are seeking recognition, and then to the floor managers of pending legislation. The majority leader has priority recognition on the floor under Senate precedents if he is seeking recognition when another senator is not already speaking. In the absence of any of these senators, the presiding officer must recognize the first senator on his feet seeking recognition.
Dr. Coburn Calling Up Conference Spending Amendment to the Postal Reform Bill
When a senator is recognized to speak on a pending measure, few limitations are placed on her. Debate is generally unlimited on all pending measures. A senator may yield to another senator for a question, but the senator still controls the floor. One of the most visible of Senate characteristics is the right of an individual senator to maintain the floor, that is, to speak for an extended period of time. Continuing, extended debate is referred to as a filibuster.
Also see Committee of the Whole; Congressional Record; Controlled Time; Filibuster; Floor; Majority Leader; Markup; Presiding Officer; Speaker; Recognize / Recognition; Yield the Floor; § 5.60 House Leadership, § 6.50 Committee Markup, § 6.110 Committee of the Whole: Debate, § 6.120 Committee of the Whole: Amendment Process, § 6.210 Consideration and Debate on the Senate Floor, § 6.151 Comparison of Selected House and Senate Procedures, in Congressional Deskbook.
- House Rule XVII – Decorum And Debate
- Senate Rule XIX – Debate
- “Floor Procedure in the House of Representatives: A Brief Overview,” CRS Report 97-236 (5-page PDF)
- “Debate and Motions on the House Floor,” CRS Report 98-827 (6-page PDF)
- “Speaking on the House Floor: Gaining Time and Parliamentary Phraseology,” CRS Report RS22991 (11-page PDF)
- “Decorum in House Debate,” CRS Report 98-572 (45-page PDF)
- “The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: An Introduction,” CRS Report 96-548 (20-page PDF)
- “The Legislative Process on the House Floor: An Introduction,” CRS Report 95-563 (18-page PDF)
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