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Enactment of a Law

Senate and House Action on Conference Reports

The recommendations of the conferees are incorporated in a written report and a joint statement of managers, made in duplicate, both of which must be signed by a majority of the conferees of each House. If there are amendments upon which they were unable to agree, a statement to this effect is included in the report. These are referred to as amendments is disagreement. The conferees cannot report parts of amendments in disagreement. For example, conferees must report in full agreement or disagreement when a bill had gone to conference after one House had amended it with a complete substitute for the other House's text.

One report, together with the papers if the House is to act on it first, is taken by the House conferees, or managers, as they are termed in that body, and subsequently presented by them to the House, with an accompanying explanatory statement as to its effect upon the matters involved. The report must lie over three days in the House before it may be considered, except during the last six days of a session. The Senate conferees take the other copy which is presented for printing under the requirements of the Legislative Reorganization Act, as amended in 1970. To save time and expense, this requirement is frequently waived in the Senate by unanimous consent.

Normally, the House agreeing to a conference on a bill acts first on conference report, but either House can act first if it has the official papers. Conference reports are privileged in both the Senate and the House. They cannot be amended, but must be voted upon in their entirety. If amendments in disagreement were reported by the conferees, they are acted on after the conference report is adopted and may be subject to amendment. After adoption by the first House, the conference report is transmitted with the official papers to the other House with a message announcing its action.

Assuming action by the House first, the Senate conferees could then present their report and ask for its immediate consideration. It does not have to lie over for three days in the Senate, as it does in the House, and the motion to proceed to its consideration is not debatable; thus the Senate may act immediately. A motion to recommit a conference report may not be made in the second House acting on the report since the conferees of the first House were discharged when their body agreed to the report.

If conferees reach a complete agreement on all of the House amendments to a Senate bill, and the House adopts that report, the adoption of the report by the Senate completes the legislative action on the bill. If, however, there were amendments upon which an agreement had not been reached by the conferees, the adoption of the report by both Houses leaves the parliamentary status of these particular amendments in disagreement the same as if no conference had been held.

If the amendments on which an agreement could not be reached were House amendments, and the House acted first on the report, it could then recede from its amendments, eliminating the amendments in disagreement; then, if the Senate were to adopt the report, the bill would be cleared for the President's signature. If they were Senate amendments and the House acted first, the House could concur in the Senate amendments or concur in them with amendments. If the Senate amendments were concurred in by the House, that would clear the amendments in disagreement, and when the Senate agreed to the conference report, the bill would be cleared for the President's signature. If the House should concur in the Senate amendments reported in disagreement with its own House amendments, after the Senate agreed to the report, it could concur in the House amendments to the Senate amendments which would clear the bill for the President's signature.

If the amendments reported in disagreement are not so disposed of, a further conference on these amendments could be requested by one House and agreed to by the other. When this happens, the two Houses usually appoint the same conferees. Until all the amendments in disagreement are reconciled by the two Houses, the bill cannot be presented to the President.

If a conference report is rejected by one of the Houses, it so notifies the other body by message and usually requests another conference; however, it may merely notify the second body of its action without requesting a further conference, leaving further steps to be taken by the other House. Endorsements showing these various legislative steps, and when taken, are made on the engrossed bill.

When the two Houses reach a complete agreement on all the amendments, the papers are delivered to the Enrolling Clerk of the House where the bill originated. The Enrolling Clerk prepares a copy of the bill in the form as finally agreed upon by the two Houses and sends it to the Government Printing Office for "enrollment," which means historically "written on parchment." The original papers on the bill are retained in the files of the originating House until the end of a Congress, when they are sent to the National Archives.

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