Legislative Protocols for the 112th Congress

The following protocols are intended to guide the Majority Leadership in the scheduling and consideration of legislation on the House floor. While they do not govern the introduction of legislation, good-faith compliance with protocols will be necessary if such legislation is scheduled for the floor.

Purpose: This protocol advances the policy outlined in the Pledge to America to adopt a requirement that programs end or "sunset" by a date certain. As stated in the Pledge, this will "force Congress to determine if a program is worthy of continued taxpayer support."

Protocol: Any bill or joint resolution authorizing discretionary appropriations or providing new or continued direct spending or establishing or continuing an agency, office or program shall also include a provision sunsetting such authorization, direct spending, agency, office, or program not later than seven years after the first fiscal year spending is authorized or provided under the bill or joint resolution. With respect to discretionary spending, a sunset may take the form of setting a date after which no funds are authorized to be appropriated.

Purpose: This protocol is designed to provide a basis for determining, as stated in the Pledge to America, if "a program is worthy of continued taxpayer support."

Protocol: Until such time as the federal budget is in balance, any Member requesting that a bill or joint resolution that contains an authorization for appropriations, an appropriation of funding, or direct spending be scheduled for consideration in the House shall indicate that they will justify to the House during debate on the proposed measure why the government should borrow the funds necessary to provide such spending.

For purposes of this protocol, the amount of funds that will be borrowed by the government to fund such spending shall be the portion of the proposed spending equal to the ratio of the deficit to outlays for the fiscal year (or years) in question. For example, in FY 2010, the federal government spent $3.456 trillion of which $1.294 trillion was borrowed; meaning approximately 37 cents out of every dollar spent was borrowed.

Purpose: This protocol is designed to improve transparency and accountability in the authorization of discretionary programs.

Protocol: Any bill or joint resolution authorizing discretionary appropriations shall specify the actual amount of funds being authorized. Authorizations shall not utilize terms such as "such sums as may be necessary" or similar language that fails to specify the actual amount of funding being authorized.

Purpose: This protocol advances the policy outlined by the Republican Leadership in the fall of 2010 to require that bills authorizing funding for new government programs, activities, or benefits or increases in funding for current programs, activities, or benefits also include the termination or reduction of a current program of equal or greater size.


(A) New Programs: Any bill or joint resolution which authorizes the appropriation of funds for any new agency, office, program, activity, or benefit shall also include language offsetting the full value of such authorization through a reduction in the authorization of current ongoing spending.

(B) Increased Authorizations: Any bill or joint resolution which increases the authorization of appropriation for any existing agency, office, program, activity, or benefit at a rate that exceeds the overall increase in the relevant function area in the most recent Budget Resolution shall also include language offsetting the full value of such authorization through a reduction in the authorization of current ongoing spending.

(C) Definitions: For the purposes of this protocol a "reduction in the authorization of current ongoing spending" means the establishment of a new authorization level below the amount actually appropriated for such purposes in the most recent fiscal year. For example, if program "A" was authorized at $100 for FY 2010, but received appropriations of $90, a "reduction in the authorization of current spending" would be an authorization for FY 2011 at an amount below $90. The term "current ongoing spending" means spending for an existing program or activity that is assumed to be ongoing at or above current levels. For example, reducing the authorization for an activity that was already assumed to be ending or receiving reduced appropriations (such as the one-time purchase of equipment or census spending in the years following the census) would not qualify as an offset under this protocol.

(D) Special Rules: With respect to the Defense Authorization Act, any authorization of appropriations beyond the level specified for the defense function for the relevant fiscal year in the most recent Budget Resolution shall be offset consistent with the other provisions of this protocol.

Purpose: This protocol is designed to ensure that the requirement that bills be publicly available for three days prior to their consideration applies to bills considered under suspension of the rules.

Protocol: Measures proposed to be considered through a motion to suspend the rules, shall be publicly available in an electronic format for three days prior to their consideration. For purposes of determining public availability, the measure must be available for three days in the substantive form in which it is proposed to be passed or adopted. At the time the House considers the motion to suspend the rules, only revisions that are purely technical or grammatical in nature are permitted to the text that was made publicly available in accordance with this protocol.

The Majority Leader may waive this protocol in limited, exigent circumstances where he determines that significant harm will be caused by the delay in the consideration of the measure. In such instances, the text of the proposed measure shall be made publicly available as soon as practicable.

Purpose: This protocol ensures that legislation is not debated on the House floor without the authoring Member present. It is designed to address occurrences in the past where legislation - especially measures addressing a specific parochial issue - has been debated on the House floor by committee managers, rather than the Member who originally proposed the legislation. Most commonly, these instances have applied to resolutions considered under suspension of the rules, but they have also applied to substantive legislation that has been assigned to a specific Member.

Protocol: In order for legislation to be considered on the House floor, the original sponsor of the specific bill or resolution must be present during - and participate in - debate on the measure. This protocol does not apply to privileged measures reported by the Rules Committee or to legislation introduced by committee chairmen within their committee's jurisdiction.

Purpose: this protocol provides further guidance for the adherence of Rule 28 of the Rules of the House Republican Conference which provides that:

The Republican Leader shall not schedule, or request to have scheduled, any bill or resolution for consideration under suspension of the Rules which...expresses appreciation, commends, congratulates, celebrates, recognizes the accomplishments of, or celebrates the anniversary of, an entity, event, group, individual, institution, team or government program; or acknowledges or recognizes a period of time for such purposes...
Protocol: A resolution of bereavement, or condemnation, or which calls on others (such as a foreign government) to take a particular action, but which does not otherwise violate the provisions of Rule 28 is eligible to be scheduled under suspension of the Rules.

Purpose: Clause 7(c) of rule XII requires that sponsors of bills or joint resolutions provide a statement citing the powers under the Constitution under which the bill or joint resolution is to be enacted. The purpose of this protocol is to provide an avenue for Members seeking to have a separate debate on the constitutionality of a proposed measure.

Protocol: If not fewer than 50 members sign a letter to the Chair of the Committee on Rules requesting a separate period of debate to discuss the constitutionality of a measure considered under a rule, the Chair shall include such a period of separate debate, not to exceed 20 minutes, evenly divided and controlled between a Member specified in the letter and a Member defending the committee position. The rule will not provide for a separate vote on a question of the sufficiency of any constitutional authority statement.

Click here for more information on how to construct a Constitutional Authority Statement.

Purpose: The Rules Committee sometimes makes certain amendments in order as original text or provides that amendments be considered as adopted ("self-executes") as a bill comes to the floor. This protocol is intended to ensure that bills brought to the floor under a rule where new text is self-executed into a bill are consistent with the current three-day layover requirements for reported and unreported bills and joint resolutions, as well as conference reports.

Protocol: With respect to major amendments "self-executed" by the Committee on Rules, including amendments in the nature of a substitute or other amendments that substantially rewrite the text of a bill (other than a committee amendment in the nature of a substitute reported by a committee), the manager of the rule will not proceed to consideration until the third calendar day on which the text of any such amendment has been available. Waivers of this policy by the Rules Committee will be rare, and only in the most exigent of circumstances.

Amendments which are not considered "major amendments" for purposes of this policy include those amendments which are intended to correct technical or compliance issues (such as a CUT-GO/PAYGO or budget act violation) with a portion of a bill. Similarly, a simple amendment to strike a portion of a bill is not considered a major amendment.

Any amendment self-executed by the Rules Committee must be submitted to the Committee and must have a sponsor.


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