THE MOTION TO RECOMMIT
The motion to recommit provides one final opportunity for the House to debate and amend a measure, typically after the engrossment and third reading of the bill, before the Speaker orders the vote on final passage. The motion is the prerogative of the Minority party and in many cases constitutes the Minority’s one opportunity to obtain a vote on an alternative or a proposal to improve the measure. In the case of a bill or a joint resolution, the Rules of the House prohibit the Rules Committee from reporting a special rule that denies a motion to recommit with instructions.
There are two types of motions to recommit under the Rules of the House:
- If the motion to recommit is with instructions to report a bill or joint resolution “back to the House forthwith with the following amendment,” the amendment is immediately incorporated into the bill. The motion does not delay or kill the bill. As soon as the House adopts the motion to recommit with instructions to report back forthwith, the chair or other designated committee member immediately rises and announces that, pursuant to the instructions of the House, the measure is reported back to the House with the instructed amendment. The House then votes on the amendment and, if it is adopted, again on engrossment and third reading of the bill before final passage. In effect, then, the motion to recommit with instructions to report back forthwith functions just like an amendment to the measure.
- If the motion to recommit is without instructions, adoption of the motion sends the bill back to committee without a final vote on its passage. In other words, the House has said, “send it back to the committee from whence it came. We don’t want it as it is.”
If the motion contains instructions to report the measure back with an amendment, the amendment must comply with all the same rules as other amendments to the measure. For example, the amendment must be germane to the measure being amended.
If a Member wishes to raise or reserve a point of order against the motion to recommit, they may do so after the motion is offered but before debate has begun thereon. Should a motion be ruled out on a point of order, its proponent or another qualifying Member is entitled to offer a proper motion to recommit.
The Member offering the motion must be opposed to the measure, or state his or her opposition to the measure “in its current form.” This requirement is in place to ensure that the motion is used to allow the Minority a final opportunity to have its version of the bill brought to a vote (using a motion to recommit with instructions), or to return the bill to committee (using a motion without instructions).
In choosing which Member opposed to the bill to recognize to offer a motion to recommit, the Speaker will first look to the Minority Leader or a designee, then to Minority members of the committee reporting the bill (in order of seniority on the committee), then to other Minority Members, and finally to Majority Members.
The motion to commit is ordinarily debatable for 10 minutes, five minutes in favor of the motion and five opposed.