Stage 6: The Bill Goes to Conference
Resolving Differences Between the House and Senate Versions
Once a Chamber has passed its version of a bill, the measure is referred to the other Chamber. At this point, the bill is officially an Act. The second Chamber can either:
- Accept the first Chamber's bill without changes and send it to the President, or
- Amend the bill, perhaps with text of its own bill should there be a companion or similar bill in process, and return the bill to the first Chamber.
The first Chamber must then decide whether to:
- Accept the second Chamber's amendment and send the bill to the President;
- Amend the second Chamber's amendment and return the bill to the first Chamber for approval of the amendment or for further amending; or
- Insist on its original language and request a conference to resolve the differences between the two versions of the bill.
Most differences are resolved through the first two methods and can be tracked using the Congressional Record. Less than one-eighth of measures considered in any given Congress require a conference.
Should a conference be requested and agreed to, the leadership in both Chambers appoints conferees to meet in conference. Conferees usually come from the Chamber's committee with jurisdiction over the original bill, although someone who successfully offered a major amendment to the bill also might be appointed a conferee. The conferees negotiate a resolution of the differences in the two versions of the bill, producing a compromise version that must be accepted without change by both Chambers before it can be sent to the President.
The conference report is the product of successful negotiations in the conference committee. The report is printed both as a House Report and also in the Congressional Record (the only type of report that can be found in the Record) for the date the report was filed. Both Chambers must vote to accept the conference report as submitted (that is, without amendment) before the bill can be sent to the President.