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Enactment of a Law

Conference Committees and Reports

When the Senate requests a conference or agrees to the House's request for a conference and names its conferees, it informs the House of its action by message. After the second House agrees to the conference, appoints conferees, and apprises the first House of its action by message, all the papers relating to the measure sent to conference (referred to as the "official papers") are transmitted to the conference. This includes the original engrossed bill, engrossed amendments, and the various messages of transmittal between the Houses.

Since the conferees of each House vote as a unit, the House, like the Senate, may appoint as many conferees as it chooses to meet with the Senate conferees to reconcile the differences between the two Houses--the sole purpose of a conference. Thus, having a larger number of conferees than the other House does not provide an advantage.

After deliberation, the conferees may make one or more recommendations; for example, (1) that the House recede from all or certain of its amendments; (2) that the Senate recede from its disagreement to all or certain of the House amendments and agree to the same; or (3) that the conference committee report an inability to agree in all or in part. Usually, however, there is compromise.

Conferees dealing with an amendment or a series of amendments are more limited in their options than conferees dealing with a bill passed by the second House with an amendment in the nature of a substitute. They can only deal with the matters in disagreement. They cannot insert new matter or leave out matter agreed to by both Houses, and if they exceed their authority, a point of order will lie against the conference report. Each House may instruct its conferees, but this is rarely done. Such instructions are not binding since conferences are presumed to be full and free--one House cannot restrict the other House's conferees.

Where one House passes a bill of the other House with an amendment in the nature of a substitute and the measure then goes to conference, the conferees have wider latitude since the entire matter is in conference. They may report a third version on the same subject matter; all of its provisions, however, must be germane modifications of either the House or Senate version, or it will be subject to a point of order.

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