As I understand, When US Senate approves some law, there can be amendments, attached to it. But sometimes, such amendments seem to not relate to the parent law at all, for example: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/congress/2019/06/these-four-amendments-made-it-last-minute-into-the-senate-ndaa/ - I don't clearly understand how civil education system is related to military budget (it is, of course, related, but very indirectly)

Are there any restrictions on amendments? And what is the(short) history of such instrument?

For me, it seems quite odd, but it exists and works, so it have to be a working instrument. Was it done to making compromises between parties more simple?

  • The downvote isn't mine but "Why" questions do tend to be largely opinion-based. In most cases, the exact motives of the people who did something aren't available to us, so all people can do is guess. Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 21:12
  • But this is not "Why" question, I thought.. Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 6:11
  • "Was it done to...?" is basically "why?" Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 9:24

1 Answer 1


The rules regarding amendments to a bill are controlled by their respective chambers. The constitution allows the Senate and House to make their own rules and is very hands off with respect to what those rules are. The short answer is that there are no restrictions on amendments with a couple small exceptions. A longer answer would be that amendments can be as restricted or unrestricted on any particular bill as members see fit to allow, rules can and do change for individual bills on occasion. There are two big ways that amendments can be restricted in the Senate, invoking cloture restricts further amendments to being germane to the bill, and unanimous consent can similarly restrict amendments. Finally general appropriation bills have similar restrictions as well.

There are other more minor restrictions, and various edge cases that are also restricted. Proposing an amendment that has been tabled (though there are ways around this) is restricted or heavily discouraged. once a measure has been fully amended no further amendments are allowed to that measure. Amendments that appropriate new funds are subject to review of the appropriations committee and the amount can't be changed in further amendments once passed. A detailed list of all the practices and procedures can be found here.

There are a couple big features of the amendment process, it allows for compromise since a single bill can affect multiple disparate things, and creates an overly complicated process that can confuse outsiders and create the illusion of progress being made. The first is important because it removes the trust factor involved in a deal if all parts of that deal happen simultaneously, and it leaves the maximum possible room for negotiation. The second seems to be not useful at first, but it provides a way for senators to "fulfill" campaign promises, it prevents anyone from pulling a fast one, and it provides an incumbents advantage over new members on how the arbitrary system of rules works.

  • 1
    Amendment serves one additional purpose: It can be used to pass legislation more quickly. The idea is that, at any given time, there are almost always a large number of bills which have no realistic chance of passing. So you just take one of those and amend it "in the nature of a substitute" - i.e. strike out all of the text and replace it with a completely different bill. This is faster than the usual committee process and might bypass other procedural hurdles as well. The other chamber still has to agree to your amendment, of course, but the same would be true of a new bill.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 21:18
  • @Kevin, interesting - I suppose something like that when talking about simplifying compromises, but don't know if it take place in fact. Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 6:12
  • @user: See for example HR 695 which originally had to do with child protection, but was converted into a continuing resolution in a failed attempt to prevent a government shutdown.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 9:57
  • There's also the ACA, which started off as a completely different bill that got rewritten by the Senate from top to bottom, including the name. That it started out as a tax bill from the house and ended up a tax bill was held by SCOTUS to be good enough to satisfy the origination clause, so there's very little you can't do to a bill. Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 10:05
  • @Kevin, zibadawa, thank you! never suppose, that am-s can be SUCH unrelated. Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 10:07

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