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Wonkology: Manager's Amendment

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August 6, 2019

A package of amendments introduced by the chair or lead sponsor of a piece of legislation.

Hakuna Matata

In recent years, Congress has ever so slowly started to return to regular order. As a result, legislation should follow the process we learned in elementary school: introduction, markup in the committees of jurisdiction, and passage by both the House and Senate. Committee chairs control when (and if) to markup bills. Once passed out of committee, the chamber's leadership decides which bills will receive floor consideration and typically establish rules to streamline the process and limit debate.

Circle Of Life

A manager's amendment is a tool to help streamline the legislative process. A "manager" leads consideration of the bill in committee and on the House or Senate floor, and the managers are typically the chair and ranking member of the committee or subcommittee with jurisdiction over the legislation.

When there are multiple amendments that are acceptable to both sides, they are packaged and offered together as one amendment by the manager in the majority instead of requiring separate consideration of each. For more partisan legislation, a manager's amendment may also include changes acceptable to a majority of members voting on its passage. That bill would then be the newly-revised base text of the legislation, and additional, more controversial amendments would be considered from there. This can either occur before subcommittee or full committee markup or before floor consideration. A manager's amendment is typically agreed to by unanimous consent but may be considered agreed to via the adoption of a rule governing debate.

Be Prepared

Manager's amendments have been used in recent years to help expedite the legislative process that has grown increasingly dysfunctional over the last few decades. In March 2017, the Republican House leadership offered a manager's amendment to the American Health Care Act, the bill intended to repeal Obamacare. In an attempt to appeal to more conservative members, it included changes to Medicaid and to tax credits. The vote was ultimately cancelled when it became clear that the measure would fall short of the necessary votes.

With the budget deal now passed, and the House and Senate out on recess, Congress will return in September with only 20 legislative days to pass all 12 appropriations bills to avert a full or partial government shutdown. Lawmakers will likely utilize manager's amendments to help gain additional support in their respective chambers before moving towards (formal or informal) conference committees and eventual passage of FY2020 spending bills.