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.
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?
- The House and Senate appointed conferees to negotiate the combined version (a conference report.)
- A majority of House conferees and a majority of Senate conferees must sign the conference report.
How does Congress vote on conference reports?
- Both the House and Senate must vote on the same version of the conference report.
- The Conference report must be publicly available before a vote — 48 hours in the Senate, 3 days in the House.
- In the Senate, filibuster rules apply (so 60 votes are needed to “end debate” and proceed to a vote.)
- In the House, the conference report gets one hour of debate, and then a vote.
- Conference reports can’t be amended and get an “up or down vote.”