In bringing a measure to a final passage vote, the Speaker is required under House rules to first put the question to a voice vote by stating, “As many as are in favor (as the question may be), say, ‘Aye.’ As many as are opposed, say ‘No.'” The Speaker then makes the “call” on which side prevails. The only remedy available to any Member that disagrees with the Speaker’s announcement on the voice vote is to demand a division or recorded vote.
Obtaining a Recorded Vote in the House:
Because the Constitution requires a quorum to be present to do business, whenever a quorum (218 Members) is not present, a recorded vote can be obtained by addressing the Chair and declaring: “Mr. Speaker, I object to the vote on the grounds that a quorum is not present and I make a point of order that a quorum is not present.” An alternate means of obtaining a recorded vote when a quorum is not present is to request the “yeas and nays,” which requires that one-fifth of those Members present stand up to order the vote. This could be as many as 87 if all 435 Members are present, or as few as one if less than five Members are on the Floor. Once the Chair determines that one-fifth of those present support the demand for the yeas and nays, the vote is ordered. A Member can obtain a recorded vote when a quorum (218 Members or more) is present by addressing the Chair and declaring: “Mr. Speaker, on that I demand a recorded vote.” A “recorded vote” under these circumstances requires only one-fifth of a quorum (44 Members) to stand and support the request.
It is customary, either just before or after consideration of a bill, for the majority Floor manager to ask unanimous consent that all Members have five legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and to include extraneous material on the subject of the bill. Once this request is granted, Members may insert remarks on the bill without having to ask permission personally. The remarks should be labeled “General Leave.” If the material is submitted rather than actually spoken on the Floor, it will appear in different type in the Congressional Record.
Revising and Extending Remarks:
Once a Member has requested to see his or her remarks before they are printed in the Congressional Record, especially those made during debate when other Members are involved, certain rules of courtesy should be followed. As soon as the Official Reporter gives the transcript to the Member, it should be corrected for grammatical errors and immediately returned so that other Members may do the same. The substance of a Member’s remarks should not be changed — only grammatical corrections are allowed to be made. If elaboration is desired with tables or other “extraneous material,” and permission has not been granted under general leave, specific permission must be obtained in the House and not in the Committee of the Whole. It will take approximately one hour between the time a speech is given and the time the transcribed remarks will be available on the Floor.
Motion to Reconsider:
The motion to reconsider is available to any Member who votes on the prevailing side of a question and who wishes to move reconsideration on the same or succeeding legislative day. This often occurs when Members (usually minority Members) determine there is a need to slow down the legislative process. After final passage, it is the common practice in the House for the Speaker to declare, “Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.” If no objection is raised, this has the parliamentary effect of ending any possibility that another vote on the bill can take place.
Postponement of Votes:
The Speaker has the discretion to postpone votes for up to two legislative days on a number of questions, including final passage of bills. Other questions that can be postponed by the Speaker include adoption of resolutions, motions to instruct, agreements to conference reports, previous question votes on any of the above matters, suspensions, motions to reconsider (and motions to table reconsideration), and agreements to amendments reported from the Committee of the Whole. The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole has the authority to postpone and cluster votes on amendments.
Clustering of Votes:
The Speaker may reduce the voting time to five minutes for electronic voting on certain questions after a fifteen- minute record vote has been taken. Votes can only be clustered by the Chair when there has not been intervening business between the votes in question.
Vote Pairs and Missed Votes:
The practice of announcing “general pairs” or the “pairing” of votes was eliminated in the 106th Congress. While “general pairs” are no longer announced, “live pairs” are still permitted. A “live pair” is an informal agreement between one Member present and voting and another on the opposite side of the question who is absent. By agreement, the voting Member withdraws his or her vote and records his or her self as “present.” If the present Member wishes to announce the “pair,” they must do so prior to the announcement of the final vote total. If a Member misses a vote, they may have their position on the missed vote made part of the public record by inserting a brief statement in the Congressional Record at the proper point indicating how the Member would have voted. Such statements appear in the Congressional Record under the heading “Personal Explanation.” For more information about this practice, contact the Floor staff.
Conflicts of Interest:
Each Member must be present in the Hall of the House during its sessions “unless excused or necessarily prevented” and “shall vote on each question put, unless he or she has a direct personal or pecuniary interest in the event of such question.” It has been ruled that only the Member can decide whether such a conflict exists and not even the Speaker will question his or her judgment, nor can any other Member challenge his or her vote on such grounds. Members should let their consciences be their guide. If Members believe they have such a conflict, they can vote “present” on the record vote and include an explanation in the Congressional Record.