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I am making a political website, and I have data on all of the roll call votes of the 113th congress.

The roll call votes have several categories, and one of them is passage-suspension. In regards to suspension of the rules, Wikipedia says,

"A suspension motion sets aside all procedural and other rules that would otherwise prohibit the House from consideration of the measure, but the specific rules that are to be suspended are never mentioned in the motion. Typically, a suspension motion is phrased as a motion to "suspend the rules and pass the bill," and, if the Motion is agreed to, the bill is considered to be passed by the House."

What rules are actually being suspended. I mean that as in, how would the bill be handled differently without suspending the rules to pass it?

I also noticed that this type of roll-call vote only happens in the house and must be motioned by the speaker and agreed to by 2/3 majority.

I am trying to decide how much weight these types of votes have to be used as a basis of comparison of different legislators

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At the beginning of each session, the House of Representatives agrees to the Rules of the House (link) which proscribe the conditions under which a bill can be brought to the floor, and the rules by which a bill is adopted. It is not unlike the famous Robert's Rules of Order, governing the procedure that a body will use to govern itself.

It provides for such things as:

  • the quorum needed to suggest that enough representatives are there to actually vote
  • who controls the calendar
  • the various committees that will take up bills (remember, committees aren't in the constitution)
  • the rights and privileges of the Speaker of the House, and other officers.

That the House adopts these rules is a duty found in the Constitution, Article I, Section 5:

Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member. Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

Probably the biggest sticking point of votes to suspend the rules is whether or not the purpose is to advance or impede a bill that might otherwise find its way to the floor. The Speaker has taken a lot of heat for an informal rule that a "majority of the majority" (i.e. a most Republicans) must be in favor of a bill before it comes to the floor. In some circumstances, the Minority may want to suspend the rules in order to force a bill to a vote - in other cases the majority may want to suspend the rules in order to delay one. And, in some cases, the roles may be reversed.

All this to say, a procedural vote must be analyzed in the context of the bill it is meant to advance. Typically most procedural votes are little more than tests of party loyalty, and the "way to vote" will be obvious by the partisan spread it is evidenced by.

  • "The Speaker has taken a lot of heat for an informal rule that a "majority of the majority." (i.e. a most Republicans) must be in favor of a bill before it comes to the floor." Seems prudent to me. A majority is still needed to pass a bill, what would be the point of calling a vote on a bill that doesn't have a simple majority and therefore no chance of passing. – user1873 Nov 25 '13 at 1:56
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    @user1873 - The problem is that a majority of the majority isn't necessarily a simple majority and vice versa. Assume a 80%/20% split. A MotM is only 41% of the total. But if a bill would have 35%+20% (less than half the majority but all of the minority), it would be able to pass by simple majority, except it never comes up for voting. – Bobson Nov 25 '13 at 15:51

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