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Congress-ese: A Suspension of...Rules

Allie Bohm,
Policy Counsel,
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September 3, 2008

The suspension calendar is used in the House of Representatives to quickly pass (usually) non-controversial bills (for example, bills authorizing the use of the Capitol Grounds for the Greater Washington Soap Box Derby, designating July as National Watermelon Month, or designating July 26, 2008 as National Day of the American Cowboy). Suspension, in this case, refers to suspending normal congressional procedure rules (not suspending children from school). In this streamlined process, a bill that comes up may be debated by Congress for up to 40 minutes, but may not be amended (changed) and requires two-thirds of the representatives to vote in favor of it for passage. A bill on the suspension calendar will usually pass by “voice vote” — in which all in favor say “aye” and all opposed say “no”. When a bill passes (or fails) by voice vote, there is no recorded roll call, so constituents have no way of finding out how their Representative voted.

So we’ll never know how all the House members feel about watermelons, evidently.

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