Congressional Simulation Manual 2009

Claremont McKenna College Government 101: U.S. Congress (J. Pitney):
Pitzer College Political Studies 100: Congress and the Presidency (D. Ward):

Each participant in this exercise will play a role, either of a member of the United States Senate, or a member of the Executive branch. Before the simulation, you will be expected to research the role you have chosen to play as well as his/her views and constituencies.

Many sources of information are available to you, both on the Internet and in print. The course syllabi already offer sufficient website addresses for you to get started. For print information on individual legislators and interest groups you might consult The Almanac of American Politics , Politics in America , Public Interest Profiles , and Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report. Further information about the congressional process can be found in Walter Oleszek's Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process (4th ed., 1996). By watching C-SPAN, you can get an idea of congressional operations. For additional information about political issues or bills, consult major newspapers such as the Washington Post , New York Times , and Wall Street Journal ; periodicals such as Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report; or specialized publications such as Roll Call and National Journal.  You might also contact offices of the members of Congress or relevant interest groups.  For information on the pros and cons of various policy issues, good sources are Congressional Digest  and CQ Researcher.

Throughout the simulation you must represent the role you are playing as accurately as possible. Do not present your own political views as those of your role.


The four stages in the simulation are (1) Presidential statement (2) committee hearings, (3) committee markups, and (4) floor debate. During the second and third stages of the simulation, participants are divided into committees of relatively equal size and with party ratios reflecting numerical majority control in the United States Senate. A debriefing is scheduled at the conclusion of the simulation.

Presidential statement. (Monday)

The President will begin the simulation by presenting his views on the two policy matters under consideration.  (The President and representatives of the Executive branch will be available throughout the week to elaborate on those views.)  The opposition party may choose to present a response.

Committee hearings. (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday if necessary)

All bills related to policy matters will be referred to committee.  All bills to be considered must be submitted to both party leaders at least one week before their consideration, to allow all members to investigate the proposals and consider amendments.  No bill introduced or reported out of committee may be longer than 20 pages (single-spaced, 12-point type on standard paper with 1-inch margins).

No committee meetings beyond those already assigned by the faculty may be scheduled or held without the consent of the ranking minority member of the committee.

Any schedule and rules for procedure within each committee shall be arranged by agreement between the Chair and Ranking Minority Member of that committee if not specified already by this document.  No committee business may proceed in the absence of a quorum constituted by at least a majority of the committee's members, and including at least one member of the minority party.  The purpose of this quorum rule is to ensure minority participation, not to encourage dilatory tactics.  The faculty members reserve the right to respond appropriately to abuse of the rule.

Each committee will then conduct hearings in order to develop at least one piece of legislation. If the parties wish to have witnesses testify during hearings, they must arrange this themselves.  Witness roles may be played by members of the classes or people from outside the classes, providing (a) They are students of the Claremont Colleges and (b) They distribute written materials in support of their testimony to all members of the committee. Witnesses appear before the committee to present testimony for or against the legislation and answer the committee members' questions. As committee witnesses, these participants have an especially challenging assignment in preparing and presenting their testimony.

Committee Markups and Voting. (Tuesday if possible, Wednesday)

During the markup stage committees engage in detailed deliberations. Members may amend or rewrite a bill; however, their proposed amendments should be relevant to the title and the section of the title being read at any given time. Amendments to the bill that are not germane (or relevant) to the original subject matter of the bill may be subject to "points of order" during the markup. In other words, they could be ruled out of order and dismissed preemptively. The goal of the markup stage of the simulation is to have each committee vote out at least one final bill for consideration on the floor of the Senate.

Resolutions within the committee will require a simple majority of votes cast as "aye" or "nay."

Floor Debate. (Thursday, Friday if necessary)

In the final stage, all legislators gather in a plenary session to debate and act on the measures reported by the committees. Disputes may be resolved by the faculty advisors, who also will act as parliamentarians. Rules of debate follow those used in the House, for the most part. Final recorded votes will be taken on the measures as well as on major amendments. Any rules governing debate not specified in this document will be agreed upon by the majority and minority leader.  The quorum required for conducting business on the Senate floor is constituted by at least a majority of all members, and including at least one member of the minority party.  Note the comments above about quorum rules.

All bills on the floor coming from the Environment and Public Works Committee require a simple majority of those voting for final passage. All bills on the floor coming from the Finance Committee require a 60% majority of the full Senate (i.e., minimum of 19 votes) for final passage.

In addition to these scheduled sessions, participants may hold party, committee, regional, or other caucuses as the occasion may warrant. Committee leaders (the chair and ranking minority member) and floor leaders (the Speaker and majority and minority floor leaders) will be chosen prior to the simulation. Any additional leadership positions (whips, special interest caucus chairs, etc) can be developed by participants however they see fit.

As the simulation unfolds, interaction among the players will be unpredictable in its specifics, but the results should resemble those that occur in congressional committees and on the Senate floor. It is this personal interaction among members, each expressing individual views and human reactions, that allows the diversities of the country to be expressed and resolved into legislation.


As participants in this legislative exercise, you and your colleagues will gain from the experience what you put into it. It is essential that you adhere to your role at all times and that you prepare carefully for committee and floor sessions. No matter how you feel about simulations in general, and no matter how extensive your knowledge about the legislative process, you will be able to profit from this exercise. The Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, for example, has for some years run a similar exercise for Capitol Hill staff members that has been remarkably successful.

* You are always speaking to the chair.

* A member must attract the chair's attention by saying "Mr. Chairman" (or "Madam Chairman") in committee, or "Mr. President" (or "Madam President") in full session.

* Thus, remarks commonly begin with "Mr. (or Madam) Chairman" in committee, or "Mr. President" in full session.

* Do not refer to your colleagues directly when addressing a committee or the chamber. For instance, if you wish to comment on the remarks of a colleague you would say, "Mr. (or Madam) Chairman, my distinguished colleague from Maryland has just said black is white and I would like to point out that . . . ."

* To ask a question or to make a comment while another member is speaking, you would say, "Mr. (or Madam) Chairman, will the gentleman (gentlewoman) yield?"

* You should refer to yourself as "I."

* To signify the conclusion of your remarks: "I yield back the balance of my time."

* To ask for clarification of the parliamentary situation: "A parliamentary inquiry, Mr. (or Madam) Chairman."

* To do something not permitted by the rules: "I ask unanimous consent that . . . ."

* To discuss or ask for clarification of a unanimous consent request: "Reserving the right to object . . . ."

* To enforce a rule: "I make a point of order against on the grounds that . . . ."

* The legitimate purpose of "a point of information" is to ask a question, not to inject one's view of the facts of a situation.


The committee hearing stage is one of the most important and most interesting of the entire legislative process. Unlike citizens in many political systems, American citizens can participate in forming legislation by speaking before members of Congress in a public forum. Hearings also provide members with an occasion to champion causes and further the interests of their districts or states.

Purpose of Committee Hearings
One important purpose of the committee hearing is to determine the positions of various interests throughout the country concerning the legislation being considered. Members of Congress who wish to testify before committee hearings are usually heard as a matter of courtesy and protocol. Any other Claremont Colleges student may participate in the simulation as a witness, as long as they accurately represent a real organization. The most likely recruits are students who have previously taken this class or participated in past simulations in some way.

Witnesses must provide the committee with multiple copies of testimony to be presented to the committee at the time of testimony or in advance if possible. Having the copies in advance gives the members time to study the testimony and prepare questions for the witnesses.

After the witnesses have presented their views, committee members question them. The answers, and the questions that elicit them, become part of the legislative history of the bill being considered. For example, if a committee member learns from a witness that the measure would do something radically different from the intended outcome, the member might seek to amend the measure and would state the reasons for the amendment. If that amendment were then signed into law, the amendment's intention could be discerned from the discussion that occurred during the hearing.

Protocol and Procedure for Testifying

* The chair of the committee may begin with short welcoming remarks and may read an opening statement outlining his or her views on the legislation. The ranking member and other committee members may have opening remarks of their own.

* Witnesses may be invited to testify individually, or in panels (groups).

* Each witness leads off with a brief statement for or against the bill in question.

* The chair starts the questioning, followed by the ranking member. The questioning alternates back and forth from Republican to Democrat until the least senior member on each side of the aisle has been heard. (Variants: Some committees use a "first come, first heard" system, in which members are recognized for questions in the order in which they arrived at the session. The chair and ranking member may negotiate situations in which only a limited number of committee members ask questions. Use of these variants must gain unanimous consent.)

* Each member is usually allotted time (for example, five minutes) to question each witness before the committee. The chair usually determines the time allotted for questioning as the session proceeds, given the constraints of time allotted for the entire session. The chair is sole judge of the time expended by each member and cannot be questioned officially as to whether the count is accurate. If there is time left over, the chair may divide it among those members who have further questions.

* The chair usually concludes the questioning.

Playing the Roles. Committee Members and Witnesses Once the simulation begins, the chair is in charge of the committee session. Insofar as possible, problems should be resolved by the players within the context of the simulation. If the students play this exercise with creativity and animation, the results will be more enjoyable and meaningful.

It is important for players first to understand their own roles thoroughly and then to learn as much as possible about the other roles so that they can gather hints about acting their roles. There is no right or wrong way to proceed, as long as the tenets established in the role outline are regarded. Players are free to embellish their roles to further their prime objectives: to represent their states, to make public policy, and to gain reelection. Players may seek to make their roles predominantly legislative ones, they can attempt to voice the interests of their state, or they can aim for some variation in between.

* Method of Address. As a means of maintaining decorum during the proceedings, no member may speak derogatorily of another member. Any member violating this rule may be subject to appropriate action by the committee and the Senate. Each member must address colleagues with the respect due the office. Appropriate forms of address in the context of debate or colloquy within the committee are "My distinguished colleague," or "I am happy to yield to my colleague from the state of ---," or "I do not wish to yield any of my time to the Senator from ---," and so forth.

* Treatment of Witnesses. No personal accusations or any derogatory statements should be made against invited witnesses before a committee. Violations of this rule should be met with appropriate responses from the chair. Responses may include a warning to the member about the inappropriate conduct and in extreme cases expulsion from the chamber. Witnesses are given time to present their testimony as the chair deems appropriate, given the schedule of the committee's hearings. Witnesses are encouraged to summarize their testimony. Witnesses are not allowed to question the members of the committee or its subcommittees except by their permission. Each witness may provide as elaborate a presentation, with charts or other aids, as time allows. Such decisions are wholly within the control of the individual members.


After the hearings have been completed, the committee meets to select which bill or bills they wish to work on, after which they "mark up" the bill(s). Members decide whether bills must be altered (in part or in entirety) or whether the bill may proceed to the floor unchanged. It is during this vital series of sessions that the final construction of at least one bill is decided upon by each committee. Members may amend each bill line by line on each page, sometimes striking unwanted punctuation, phrases, whole paragraphs, whole titles, or the entire bill. Substitute language is proposed title by title and section by section within each title.

It is rare that a bill is sent to the floor for a vote without having been altered. Any member may propose germane amendments to each section of each title of the bill. Each amendment thus is subject to challenge of germaneness by another member. The chair's rulings are subject to a vote by the members.

Markup Strategies and Rules.  Committee chairs keep the bill moving and mediate deputes between members with different interests and concerns. Like most steps of the legislative process, markup is an opportunity for members to express their views and represent their constituent interests. It often is an occasion for members to delete portions of a bill that they deem harmful to their district or state or to include provisions that they think would be beneficial.

Several strategies are used at this stage of the legislative process. Proponents of a bill may attempt to broaden it, thereby giving the bill a better chance to succeed on the floor. To get a bill through markup, a chair may accept amendments geared to specific members' interests. With state or regional interests on the line, members may lobby their colleagues to support the bill, either in the committee or on the floor. A common strategy during markup is for opponents to add many unnecessary amendments to make the legislation fail. Last-minute additions to a bill can slow the markup process and make the bill too complicated and confusing for easy disposition.

Markup Rules
The committee rules used in the simulation are derived from the rules of the House, though they are somewhat more flexible. These rules are not exhaustive but will be sufficient for the purposes of the simulation. If questions arise during the role play that require additional rulings, the chair has the discretion to render a ruling. Like all rules, it may be appealed by the aggrieved member, thus allowing a vote to be taken by the full committee. Although a member can challenge a ruling of the chair, the challenging member must remember that winning such a battle may, in the long run, lose the war. The challenging member may find his or her ability to function within the committee impaired. Thus, members must calculate carefully before making such a challenge. Custom dictates, too, that all majority party committee members vote to support the chair's rulings, especially if the challenge comes from the minority side.

The committee begins consideration of a bill in markup with the first title, or first section, and continues through the last title and last section. The committee may decide to take tentative decisions on amendments, then return to take final votes on each amendment or each title or each section. Members can agree to the procedure before they begin considering amendments. Such ground rules bring order to the consideration of bills. Keep in mind that the objective is to report at least one bill to the Senate with amendments as voted by the committee.

* Germaneness. The Senate and its committees may consider only those amendments that properly relate to the legislation. If the amendment in question does not fall within the area of the legislation being considered, it is subject to a point of order of "nongermaneness" and can be stricken. Points of order are liable to being raised on the floor of the Senate as well, if the subcommittee or committee allows nongermane amendments to remain. Whether an amendment is germane is determined by the presiding officer; that decision is subject to a vote, if called, by the full subcommittee or committee.

* Origin of Amendments. Any member of the committee can present an amendment to any title or section of a title of any legislation before the committee as long as that amendment is germane to the title or section to be amended. Amendments must be seconded.

* Second-Degree Amendments. An amendment to a proposed amendment may be presented by any member and seconded at the appropriate time after the introduction of the original amendment. Amendments to the third degree -- that is, an amendment to an amendment to an amendment -- are out of order. After amendments are introduced, the sponsor or author of the amendment should be allowed time, subject to the chair, to explain and support the amendment. At least one opponent should be allowed to address the committee. A call of the question (a call for a vote) takes precedence over further debate, once it is recognized by the chair, and is not debatable.

* Quorum. In this simulation, a quorum requires at least a majority of the committee's members, including at least one member of the minority party.

* Recognition. If a member seeks recognition for a point of order, that member must be recognized. The member must then state the point of order succinctly, and it must relate to a suspected violation of rules upon which the chair must rule. Similarly, a member may seek to be recognized for a parliamentary inquiry, in which the member seeks to clarify the present status of debate, discussion, rights, or rules upon which that member is not clear and is seeking advice or a ruling from the chair at a later time. This course is to be used for a genuine inquiry, not simply to make a statement or otherwise to pursue one's political or legislative goals. A member may be ruled out of order by the chair if it is determined that the inquiring member does not seek to make a germane inquiry.

Reporting the Bill
At the end of the markup session, the committee must vote whether to report the bill. The chair calls for a roll call vote and counts the yeas and nays from all participants. Here are some of the options the committee has in reporting a bill:

* Report the bill without amendment: the committee makes no changes to the text of the bill as introduced.

* Report the bill with one comprehensive amendment: the committee adopts what is called an amendment in the nature of a substitute (that is, it strikes all text after the enacting clause and substitutes the text of the amended bill approved by the committee).

* Report the bill with a series of discrete amendments: the committee may adopt multiple amendments.

* Order a clean bill reported: a clean bill is simply the original bill, along with the amendments adopted by the full committee, which is introduced again and assigned a new number.

* Report unfavorably or adversely: committees rarely report a bill adversely because it is easier simply to kill the legislation in committee. (This latter course is not an option in the simulation.)

To make a motion to report the bill (as amended) you would say, "Mr. Chairman (or Madam Chairman), I move that the committee report the bill (as amended). Furthermore, I move that we prepare the legislative report, to make the technical and conforming amendments, and that the chairperson take all necessary steps to bring the bill before the Senate for consideration." (Note: When the full committee has approved the motion to report the bill to the Senate, the bill is considered ordered reported. The bill is not considered reported until the legislative report accompanying it has been filed in the Senate.)

The committee provides the Senate with a report of the bill. The function of the report is to allow the rest of the members to know what actions committee members took on the bill and why. The report includes the original language in the bill, the changes in legislative language, the reasons the language was changed, and the votes of committee members. Dissenting views to those changes are included in the report. Separate views may also be included. Members who voted for the amended version may express the reasons for their assent, even though they may be different from those of the majority.

The report must be made available to the members one hour before the bill is considered on the Senate floor unless otherwise provided. The rule for consideration of each bill is to be negotiated by the Majority Leader and Minority Leader.


Presiding Officer
The Vice President of the United States will preside over the full session of the Senate, acting as the President of the Senate. In the absence of the Vice President, the Majority Leader will designate a Presiding Officer. Members will address the Presiding Officer as "Mr. (or Madame) President."

The Presiding Officer will rule on all parliamentary inquiries, with whatever assistance he or she deems appropriate.

Presenting Legislation
In advance of the full session, the Majority Leader and Minority Leader will prepare a rule governing each bill's consideration, providing for scheduling and amendment rules for each bill. Each bill will be allotted a certain period of debate, evenly divided between majority and minority members. For the purposes of the simulation, these rules will not be subject to objection by the membership of the Senate, as it is customary for these agreement to be consented to by unanimous consent. The faculty members may arbitrate any dispute regarding this agreement.

The bills will be presented sequentially, in whatever order the Majority Leader and Minority Leader deem appropriate. The bills will be presented by a majority floor manager to be designated by the Majority Leader (it will usually be the chair of the relevant committee).

Debate Procedures
As floor managers, the committee chair and the ranking minority member (or their designee) control the allocation of the debate time under the rule. They stand at the committee tables on the floor of the chamber. Members of the committee get first preference, followed by other members of the Senate.

The Presiding Officer recognizes the majority and minority floor managers for debate. To begin debate time, the floor manager says "Mr. President (or Madam President), I yield myself such time as I may consume."

The majority floor manager, who introduces the bill, explains the bill, and begins the general debate, is followed by the minority floor manager. The Presiding Officer then alternates in recognizing the majority and minority floor managers, who then yield time to their partisan colleagues. Senate members are granted time in minutes or blocks of minutes. Majority and minority floor managers are responsible for monitoring usage of time. Members desiring to speak on the measure will arrange time in advance with the floor manager.

Debate expires at the end of the time allotted under the rule or when all requests for time have been honored, if earlier. To end debate time, the floor manager says, "Mr. President (or Madam President), I have no further requests for time and yield back the balance of my time."

Amendment and Voting Procedures
At the conclusion of the initial debate period, the amendment process commences. By precedent, the Presiding Officer looks first to the majority side for amendment and then to the minority side.

Any member may propose an amendment. Amendments must be consistent with the instruction in the rule and should be submitted to the Presiding Officer/Clerk before they are offered. Members may check with the clerk during general debate for any amendments that have been submitted. The present rule requires that members notify their colleagues beforehand; the rule may be suspended but usually is not.

The author of the bill can speak about the amendment for five minutes (hence, the designation of the five-minute rule).

Usually, by custom, only a few proponents and opponents will speak on any given amendment. Otherwise, it would be possible for large numbers of speakers to delay the legislative progress.

Members must present germane amendments or they may be subject to a point of order in which the amendment may be ruled out of order by the Presiding Officer. Other members usually challenge and debate the merits of the amendments and vote them up or down, following the initial presentation of the amendment and any second-degree amendment to it (second-degree amendments are voted on before the first-degree amendment).

The following votes are possible, depending on the desires of a sponsor or group of sponsors of any amendment:

* Voice vote.

* Vote by raised hands.

* Vote by division - ayes and nays standing separately and counted.

* Vote by tellers - ayes and nays file down the aisles of the Senate chamber, depositing red (nay) or green (aye) cards in each ballot box. Each card is signed by the member and recorded in the day's Congressional Record .

Reporting a Bill
After all debate and voting on amendments are concluded, the Presiding Officer announces that "under the rule, the previous question is ordered." Thus, no further debate is allowed, and the Senate will vote on the measure before it.

First, however, the Presiding Officer will recognize a member who voted against the bill, and allow that member to offer the recommittal motion (one last opportunity for minority party opponents of the bill either to record a vote on their policy alternative or to send the bill back to committee, thus effectively killing the bill). Recommittal motions may take one of two forms: a "straight" recommittal motion or a recommittal with instructions. A straight motion ("I move to recommit the bill to committee"), if adopted, kills the bill. The "with instructions" form ("I move to recommit the bill to the committee on with instructions that it report back forthwith a new bill") gives the minority party one last chance to pass its version of the bill.

If the motion to recommit passes, committees must reconvene and report out an acceptable bill to return to the full chamber. Once the measure is returned to the full Senate, there will be a simple yea/nay vote on the amended bill.

If the recommittal motion is defeated, the Presiding Officer moves to engage the chamber in the final vote on the measure. Any bill which changes the Rules of the Senate must pass by a two thirds majority. Once passed, the bill is sent to the President of the United States for signature or veto.

Presidential Disposition

If the President of the United States signs the bill, it becomes law and the simulation is over.

The President may choose instead to veto the bill. Under those circumstances, the President must explain the reasons for the veto in a brief message. (Very commonly, the President may choose to threaten a veto during the legislative process as a tool to ensure the passage of a more acceptable version of a bill.)

Members can seek, by a two-thirds vote, to override the president's veto. Failing that, the Senate must decide whether to seek to amend the bill in full session, or to refer it back to committee for further markup and report. An amended version of the bill may then be passed and again submitted to the President for his signature.

Rules Vote:
Consistent with actual Senate practice, any proposal to change standing rules of procedure (e.g., impeachment process) requires a two-thirds vote.


Last modified: March 14, 2008