What are some similarities and differences in House and Senate Procedures?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are perhaps many more differences than similarities in the procedures of the two Houses. One similarity is that the work of both Houses is primarily done by committee before it is reported to the full House.

The rules of the House of Representatives are rather strict, because with so many members, it is necessary that some degree of order be preserved. Bills referred to House Committees may only be set for debate by the Rules Committee. When the Bill is reported to the floor of the House, the House frequently resolves itself into the Committee of the Whole House for the State of the Union to debate the measure. When the debate is concluded, the committee rises and the House resolves itself once again. At that point, the presiding officer is the Speaker of the House. Amendments, etc. MUST be germane to the original bill, and time for debate is strictly limited.

Rules in the Senate are much more relaxed. The presiding officer is the Vice President of the United States, who does not have a vote except in the event of a tie. The Vice President is seldom present, in which instance the presiding officer is the President pro tempore of the Senate, or his designee. There are no strict time limits on debate in the Senate, and amendments may be offered to any Bill whether germane or not. The absence of time limits means that any Senator may filibuster a bill (literally talk it to death) for as long as he is able to hold the floor.

Bills must pass both Houses in the same form. If Bills are passed with variations--usually the case--the Bill is referred to a Conference Committee of both Houses. The Bill as revised by the Conference Committee is then returned to each House and must be voted up or down with no amendments.