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King of the Hill

The “king of the hill” is a special rule in the House of Representatives for sequencing different amendments.

Under this rule, all of the proposed substitutes are debated and voted on in a specific order set by the Rules Committee.

However, unlike a traditional voting process where each vote is final, under the King of the Hill rule, only the last amendment to receive a majority vote is adopted, regardless of whether previous amendments also received majority support.

In other words, the “last amendment standing” is the “king of the hill.”

The purpose of the King of the Hill rule is to allow for a structured debate on multiple alternatives without the need to reconcile different versions of the bill that may have received majority support.

It provides a clear process for determining which version of the bill will move forward.

However, the King of the Hill rule can also be strategically used by the majority party to manage the legislative process.

By controlling the order in which amendments are considered, the majority party can ensure that their preferred version of the bill is voted on last, thereby increasing its chances of being the “king of the hill.”

It’s important to note that the King of the Hill rule is not frequently used.

Origin of “King of the Hill”

It was more common in the past but has been largely replaced by other procedural rules that provide more predictability and control over the legislative process.

When it is used, it is typically for complex and contentious legislation where there are multiple competing proposals.

An excerpt from The American Congress explains the history:

Special rules are highly flexible tools for tailoring floor action to individual bills. Amendments may be limited or prohibited. The order of voting on amendments may be structured. For example, the House frequently adopts a special rule called a king-of-the-hill rule.

First used in 1982, a king-of-the-hill rule provides for a sequence of votes on alternative amendments, usually full substitutes for the bill. The last amendment to receive a majority wins, even if it receives fewer votes than some other amendment.

This rule allows members to vote for more than one version of the legislation, which gives them freedom both to support a version that is easy to defend at home and to vote for the version preferred by their party’s leaders.

Even more important, the procedure advantages the version voted on last, which is usually the proposal favored by the majority party leadership.

Use of “King of the Hill” in a sentence

  • The House Rules Committee decided to use the ‘King of the Hill’ rule to manage the debate on the complex legislation, allowing for a structured consideration of the multiple proposed amendments.
  • Under the ‘King of the Hill’ rule, even though several amendments might receive majority support, only the last one to do so will be adopted, making the order of consideration crucial.
  • While the ‘King of the Hill’ rule is not commonly used in today’s legislative process, it can be a strategic tool for the majority party to ensure their preferred version of a bill has the best chance of being adopted.