Using the new Q&A tool, a visitor asked (
What does “Ordered to be reported with an amendment in the nature of a substitute favorably” mean?
GovTrack tries to answer. Read on…
This is something you’ll see in the Last Action line for a bill’s status. We don’t write that summary at GovTrack: it’s what Congress reports itself over at the website. But they don’t explain it there either. Since the question was general, beyond the bill where the question was posted, I collected the answers other visitors provided and also asked my expert friends, and here’s what I found out.
First let’s set the scene. After a bill is introduced, it gets assigned to committees where it may get scheduled for a “mark-up” session, when committee members suggest and make revisions to the bill. A bill doesn’t move forward to full consideration by the Senate or House until the committee reports
the possibly revised bill to the full body. Tom Jones, who is a staffer in the Senate Commerce committee and kindly took the time to help us out, tells me what happens next in the case of a “substitute amendment“:
In advance of the mark-up there is a substitute drafted up – sometimes there are significant substantive changes, sometimes not. Usually it’s something that is hacked out between the chairman [of the committee], ranking member [meaning the most senior member of the minority party on the committee] and their staffs – sometimes not. This text is then distributed to the members of the committee and is treated as the base text for the purpose of amendment at the committee mark-up. Substitutes are a procedural device to avoid having 50 amendments that say “at page 5 line 17 strike “shall” and insert “may””.
Ok, so what we understand so far is that a substitute bill was drafted up, possibly by the highest committee members, that makes substantive changes to the original, and the bill has been replaced by this substitute. This substitute is actually drafted in the form of an amendment to the original that reads “strike all after the enacting clause and insert the following”, i.e. it’s an amendment that says start over with this
. This is the substitute amendment.
The substitute amendment is provided to the committee for consideration. Tom writes:
[Committee] members offer amendments to the substitute, the [new] amendments win or lose, and the substitute text as amended (or not) is reported out of the committee.
Procedurally speaking, then the committee “orders ” the chairman to report the bill to the whole House or Senate for general consideration, with the bill as modified according to the substitute amendment and possibly other amendments to the substitute amendment. Now we know what it means for a bill to be “ordered to be reported with an amendment in the nature of a substitute”.
As for the term favorably , this means that a majority of the members of a committee support the bill beinig reported. Tom says bills that wouldn’t be reported favorably usually aren’t reported at all, but there are cases where committees are required by statute to report a bill, and the members of the committee have the opportunity to indicate their preference for the bill while still letting it go to the next step in the legislative process. Tom gives an example:
If say there was something leadership wanted to move and act on but the majority of the committee was opposed to – they would report it out unfavorably to put their stamp on it but still not cross ways with leadership.
If the bill was changed in committee, as it was in this case, you ought to see a revised version of the bill’s text listed with status “reported in house/senate”, although this wasn’t the case for the bill in question (and I don’t know why). As for who in committee supported any particular change, this is very difficult to figure out sometimes. You can try looking for a committee report on the website which may detail the committee actions, but there don’t always seem to be reports and the reports are generally difficult to read and sometimes not detailed enough to understand if you are not a capitol insider.
Others helping me out with answers recommend some background reading: and the
If you have a general question like this one on congressional procedure, please post it in the comments section here or email me at the address on the bottom of the page at and I’ll try to get you an answer.