Amendments Between the Houses Page: 1 of 2
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Updated February 19, 1999
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Amendments Between the Houses
James V. Saturno
Specialist on the Congress
Government and Finance Division
The House and Senate must approve an identical version of a measure before it may
be presented for the President's approval or veto. If the House and Senate approve
differing versions of a measure, the differences must first be resolved. One way to do this
is through an exchange of amendments between the houses.
When the House or Senate passes a measure, it is sent to the other chamber for
further consideration. If the second chamber passes the measure with one or more
amendments, it is then sent back to the originating chamber. In modern practice, the
second chamber frequently substitutes its version of a measure as a single amendment to
the measure as passed by the first chamber. The first chamber then may accept the
amendment or propose its own further amendment. In this way, the measure may be
messaged back and forth between the House and Senate in the hope that both houses will
eventually agree to the same version of a measure.
The House and Senate use this method in an attempt to resolve their differences in
a variety of circumstances: prior to a conference, instead of a conference, or even after
a conference (as amendments in either true or technical disagreement). As an alternative
to conference, this procedure can be useful in a variety of circumstances, particularly when
the measure is not controversial or the differences between the House and Senate are
relatively small. It is also used occasionally when time pressures at the end of a session
make the requirements for a formal conference an undesirable obstacle.
When the House or Senate considers an amendment of the other, it does not yet
formally disagree to that amendment. At this stage, the House or Senate may concur in
the amendment, thus ending the process, or concur in the amendment with a further
amendment of its own, proposing a new text to the other chamber. At any point, either
house may choose not to act or it may insist on its own position and formally disagree with
the amendment posed by the other. If a chamber insists on its position and formally
disagrees with the amendment, it reaches the "stage of disagreement" allowing the two
chambers to proceed to conference.
This procedure allows two degrees of amending. The amendment of the second
chamber to the measure is considered the text that is subject to amendment. Each chamber
thus has one opportunity to propose an amendment to the amendment from the other.
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Amendments Between the Houses, report, February 19, 1999; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc816008/m1/1/: accessed October 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.