Friday, November 17, 2017
Billy Long on the importance of conference committees
The House of Representative and the Senate don’t always agree on everything and often disagree on the exact details of a bill. Before a bill can be sent to the President and signed into law, it must pass both the House and the Senate with the exact same language. If a bill passed in the House is different than the version passed in the Senate (or vice versa) the two chambers must find a way to work their differences out. This can be achieved two ways – agreeing on the changes through amendments or by forming a conference committee.
A conference committee is made up of both House and Senate members who are tasked with coming to an agreement on the differences between both versions of a bill.
Conference committees are generally used for bigger pieces of legislation, such as tax reform. For example, the House and Senate have both recently proposed separate tax bills. While they have the same goal, these bills differ in a variety of ways. If both bills pass their respective chambers, they will be sent to the other chamber for consideration. At that point, they can either pass the other chamber’s bill or request a conference to work out the differences.
If a conference committee is called, the members responsible for negotiating the final piece of legislation are chosen. The Speaker of the House will choose the members from the House of Representatives, and the presiding officer will choose the members from the Senate. Usually, these individuals come from the committees or subcommittees where the legislation originated.
Once the conference committee is established, the negotiations begin. The committee must create a piece of legislation that can pass both the House and Senate. A majority of the conference members from both the House and Senate must agree to the new negotiated bill. After negotiations, the committee must release a joint statement explaining why some parts of previous bills are not included in the current bill. The new bill has to be voted on and pass both chambers before it can be sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
Conference committees are useful when it comes to passing comprehensive legislation and avoiding bills moving back-and-forth between the House and Senate. It allows for both sides to come together and talk differences out in a more practical way.