Congressional Simulation Manual 2012

Pomona College Politics 30: U.S. Congress (Prof. David Menefee-Libey)
Claremont McKenna College Government 101: U.S. Congress (Prof Jack Pitney):


The course instructors reserve the right to change, delete, or add to any of the rules at will, without advance notice.  The course instructors may also create scenarios (e.g., a zombie invasion, a comet strike) to which members of the simulation must respond.

Welcome to the simulation! You are joining in this year's version of a long-standing tradition, invented in the 1970s by Profs. Jerome Garris of Claremont McKenna College, Walter Zelman of Pitzer, and Daniel Mazmanian of Pomona.

Each participant in this exercise will a member of either the Executive or Legislative Branch of the United States government. Before the simulation, you will be expected to research the role you have chosen to play as well as the person's policy views and, in the case of US Senators, the person's constituencies. Other students at the Claremont Colleges may portray additional members of the executive branch, lobbyists, reporters, committee witnesses and other appropriate roles.

As you prepare for the simulation, 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 or Politics in America. Further information about the congressional process can be found in Walter Oleszek's Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process. By watching C-SPAN, you can get an idea of congressional operations. (All C-SPAN coverage since 1987 is available for viewing at ). For additional information about political issues or bills, consult major sources such as the Politico or The Hill.  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 availably at the CQ Press Electronic Library.

As much as possible, players should be faithful to their members' public views and operating styles.  Players should always ask themselves:  "What would the person I'm playing do in this particular situation?"  Players are, however, free to be more vigorous and active than their real-life counterparts. Time is short, after all.

The four stages in the simulation are (1) Presidential statement (2) committee hearings, (3) committee markups, and (4) floor session. A debriefing may take place after the simulation.

In addition to the scheduled sessions described below, 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.

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 to be considered must be submitted to both party leaders by 11:59 PM on Friday before the simulation, to allow all members to investigate the proposals and consider amendments.  All bills related to policy matters will be referred to committee.  No bill reported out of committee may be longer than 20 pages (single-spaced, 12-point type on standard paper with 1-inch margins).

All work of each full committee, including hearings, will be presided over by the committee Chair or her/his designee. To ensure appropriate party balance, course instructors may authorize the committee chairs and ranking members to cast proxy votes in 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 meetings beyond those already assigned by the faculty may be scheduled or held without the consent of the ranking minority member of the committee.

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 course instructors reserve the right to respond appropriately to abuse of the rule.

Each committee will conduct hearings in order to develop at least one bill. Witness roles may be played by members of the classes or other students currently enrolled at the Claremont Colleges.  The parties should recruit witnesses and make clear to them that they need to be prepared.  Witnesses appear before the committee to present testimony for or against the legislation and answer the committee members' questions.

As a means of maintaining decorum, no member may disparage another member. Any violation may be subject to appropriate action by the committee and the Senate. Each member must address colleagues with respect. Appropriate forms of address  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.

The chair shall not allow personal accusations or any derogatory statements against witnesses. 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 will have time to present their testimony as the chair deems appropriate. Witnesses should summarize their testimony. Witnesses may not question the members of the committee or its subcommittees except by their permission.

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

During the markup stage committees consider bills referred to them, and engage in detailed deliberations. 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. Members may amend or rewrite any bill. The number and order of bills considered by the committee shall be arranged by agreement of the Chair and Ranking Member.

All work of each full committee, including markup and voting, will be presided over by the committee Chair or her/his designee. The presiding officer shall ensure the maintenance of parliamentary order as prescribed by this manual and, where necessary, the most current version of Roberts Rules of Order. To ensure appropriate party balance, course instructors may authorize the committee chairs and ranking members to cast proxy votes in committee.

Members may agree to markup procedure before they begin considering amendments. Such ground rules bring order to the consideration of bills. For example, the committee may begin consideration of a bill in markup with the first title, or first section, and continue through the last title and last section. Alternately, they may consider amendments on a first-come, first-served basis and work until a bill can command a majority vote. 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. Keep in mind that the objective is to report at least one bill to the Senate with amendments as voted by the committee.

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:

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 at least one hour before the bill is considered on the Senate floor unless otherwise provided.

Floor Action and Presidential Disposition. (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. The full session is required to pass at least one bill from each committee.

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 be responsible for the maintenance of parliamentary order, with whatever assistance he or she deems appropriate, and will rule on all parliamentary inquiries. Any rules governing debate not specified in this document will be agreed upon by the Majority and Minority leader, subject to the approval of the course instructors. 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 course instructors may arbitrate any dispute regarding this agreement.

To ensure appropriate party balance, course instructors may authorize the Majority and/or Minority Leader to cast proxy votes on the floor.  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. 

Bills will be presented sequentially, in whatever order the Majority Leader and Minority Leader deem appropriate. The Majority Leader and Minority Leader shall negotiate the floor rules for consideration of each bill, 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. Rules of debate follow those provided for here (which parallel those used in the House, for the most part).

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). 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."

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).

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).

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.

Final recorded votes will be taken on each measure as well as on major amendments. Passage of floor amendments shall be by simple majority.  Final floor passage of bills shall be by 60 percent supermajority. For the calculations of majorities and supermajorities, the denominator shall consist of all votes cast.  Because the number of total votes will never equal precisely 100, each vote cast by a member on resolutions requiring 60% may constitute irregular fractions of the voting percentage necessary for passage.  In such cases, the fractions will be rounded to the nearest full percent, with proportions greater than 0% but less than 0.5% rounding down to the nearest full percentage, and proportions equal to 0.5% but less than 1% rounding up.

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

If the President of the United States signs the bill, it becomes law.

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.

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

The simulation ends only when the president has signed one bill from each committee. If the session recesses Thursday night without completing those tasks, it will reconvene Friday evening.



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.




David Menefee-Libey and John J. Pitney, Jr.
Page last modified March 22, 2012.