Conference Committees

Why does Congress create “conference committees”?

Conference committees are set up when the House and Senate have passed two different versions of a bill. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution requires that both chambers pass the exact same language before a bill can be presented for the President’s signature and become law.

Conference Committtee

One version of a bill passed the House. One version passed the Senate. Now both chambers must come together on a combined version that can pass both houses and be signed into law by the President.

How does a Conference work?

  1. The House and Senate appointed conferees to negotiate the combined version (a conference report.)
  2. A majority of House conferees and a majority of Senate conferees must sign the conference report.

How does Congress vote on conference reports?

  1. Both the House and Senate must vote on the same version of the conference report.
  2. The Conference report must be publicly available before a vote — 48 hours in the Senate, 3 days in the House.
  3. In the Senate, filibuster rules apply (so 60 votes are needed to “end debate” and proceed to a vote.)
  4. In the House, the conference report gets one hour of debate, and then a vote.
  5. Conference reports can’t be amended and get an “up or down vote.”

 

(As with everything in Congress, there are exceptions. For more information, see “Conference Committee and Related Procedures: An Introduction” from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.)

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