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Wonkology: Queen of the Hill

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April 8, 2015

Wonkology: Queen of the Hill

Queen of the Hill is a seldom-used special rule issued by the House Rules Committee when considering legislation on the floor of the House. If the rule is adopted by the full House, it permits multiple votes on a series of competing amendments, and only the amendment that obtains the highest number of votes is incorporated into the legislation.

Another One Bites the Dust

Queen of the Hill was formed out of the House’s King of the Hill rule, itself originally created in 1971. King of the Hill, now out of common use, deemed that the last amendment in a series to secure a majority vote would be considered the prevailing amendment; even if another amendment received a higher vote tally, the last amendment to receive the majority vote would be the amendment considered adopted. This process fell into disuse because the order of the amendments came to matter more than the total vote tally.

We are the Champions

Queen of the Hill, created as an alternative in 1995, instead means that the amendment receiving the most votes, regardless of order, is the amendment deemed adopted by the House. Even if other amendments could have been adopted, Queen of the Hill only permits the one with the highest number of votes to prevail. This newer rule was used nearly 40 times between 1995 and 2002, with it last being used to pass the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation.

Under Pressure

Until Speaker Boehner used the rule to pass a House Budget Resolution two weeks ago, Queen of the Hill had not been used for 13 years. By using it for the Budget Resolution, Speaker Boehner was able to successfully bridge the divide between fiscal and defense hawks within the House Republican Caucus. Six different budget substitute amendments were considered in order, including the original budget proposed by the House Budget Committee and an alternative that increased defense spending, allowing the House to choose among the competing versions. Of these, the amendment that included increased defense spending was agreed to by the largest margin (a vote of 219-208 ); none of the other amendments received a majority vote. In the final vote to approve the Budget Resolution, Speaker Boehner was able to pass the measure with an even stronger GOP majority, having placated both sides of his party by giving the competing factions of the House Republican Caucus a voice on their preferred version of the budget.


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