Q&A: How is a “closed rule” different from a “clean bill”?

If you're wondering something, you're probably not alone. Each day we answer questions about Congress, the legislative process, and government in general. Submit your question(s), and lookout for the answers in future Q&A posts!


Today's question is from Edward R.

You explained the difference between a "clean bill" and a "reconciliation bill" now how is a "closed rule" bill different from a "clean bill"?

Great question! Glad to hear you read last week's Q&A. You hear these terms thrown around a lot, and it's good to know the difference and how each factors in to the legislative process.

Important to remember that "clean bill" is just legislative slang for a straightforward bill, meaning it doesn't include unrelated amendments and provisions. So when it comes to "clean bill" and "closed rule" they're not of the same feather.

See, in the House, you have the Rules Committee, which is the oldest standing committee. You may have heard it referred to as "The Speaker's Committee" because it is how the Speaker maintains control of the House floor. This committee sets the "rules" in which legislation is considered on the House floor.

There are several variation to the "rules," and when it comes to special rule types, you can think of it on a spectrum from open to closed. So an "open rule" would permit the offering of any amendment (that otherwise complies with House rules) and would allow debate under the 5-minute rule. On the other end of the spectrum, you have a "closed rule" which effectively eliminates the opportunity to consider amendments (other than those submitted by the committee reporting the legislation).

So what's the takeaway for a "closed rule?" It is a procedural maneuver that prohibits amendments to bills up for a vote on the House floor. This report from the Congressional Research Service provides an excellent introduction to the process.