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The House Discharge Procedure and Majoritarian Politics


John W. Patty is assistant professor of government, Harvard University and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Cambridge, MA 02138.


This paper discusses the details of the discharge procedure in the House of Representatives and their implications for theories of legislative politics. While the discharge procedure is frequently cited as the tool by which committee obstruction within the House can be overcome, I argue that, under close examination, the procedure actually is far from purely majoritarian. Specifically, I argue that the details of the discharge procedure imply that the support of either the Speaker of the House or a majority of the Rules Committee is necessary to ensure floor consideration for a bill. Accordingly, in a de jure sense, the House's discharge procedure is irrelevant.