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The term “germane” is used to describe the requirement that proposed amendments or provisions introduced during the legislative process must be relevant and directly related to the subject matter of the bill under consideration.

The principle of germaneness is intended to ensure that legislative discussions remain focused and avoid unrelated or extraneous matters, promoting a more efficient and coherent lawmaking process.

When a proposed amendment or provision is deemed germane, it means that it is pertinent and connected to the central theme or purpose of the underlying bill.

The determination of whether an amendment is germane is typically made by the presiding officer, such as the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate, or by a parliamentary rules committee.

Why It’s Important

The concept of germaneness serves several important functions in the legislative process.

First, it helps maintain the integrity of the bill and ensures that it addresses a specific issue or topic. By requiring amendments to be directly relevant to the subject matter of the bill, it prevents legislators from introducing unrelated or extraneous provisions that could dilute or distort the original purpose of the legislation.

Second, germaneness helps streamline legislative debates by preventing excessive diversions and irrelevant discussions.

By limiting the scope of amendments to matters directly related to the bill, lawmakers are encouraged to focus on the merits, implications, and consequences of the proposed legislation, promoting more substantive and informed deliberations.

Broadly speaking, the purpose of the germane rule is to prevent legislators from putting irrelevant or immaterial legislation into unrelated bills as an underhanded way of getting legislation passed.

The rules in the U.S. House are a bit different:

Clause 7 of rule XVI, called the “germaneness rule,” stands for the simple proposition that an amendment must address the same subject as the matter being amended. The germaneness rule was adopted by the House in 1789 and has remained the same since it was last changed in 1822. The purpose of the rule is to provide for the orderly consideration of amendments to bills and resolutions by requiring a relationship between the amendment and the matter being amended. The existence of this rule is one of the key procedural differences between the House and Senate.

The word “germane” is also applicable not only to legislation, but to debate as well, with something called the “Pastore Rule,” which requires Senate floor debate to be germane during specific periods of a Senate workday.

In 2003, Roll Call described a violation of this rule:

As Byrd continued Friday to pound away at Bush on many fronts during consideration of the omnibus spending bill, McCain interrupted. McCain asserted that Byrd’s attack on the administration’s policy on North Korea was violating the ‘Pastore Rule,’ which stipulates that debate has to be germane to the matter at hand during the first three hours of debate on a bill.

Use of “Germane” in a sentence

  • The Senator objected to the amendment, arguing it was not germane to the bill’s original intent and therefore should be ruled out of order.
  • During the floor debate, the parliamentarian had to step in to determine whether the proposed changes were germane to the underlying legislation.
  • While the House often operates with fewer constraints, the Senate’s rules on germaneness strictly dictate that amendments must closely relate to the subject matter of the bill they seek to alter.