The Committee on Rules was first created as a select (or temporary) committee on April 2, 1789, later becoming a standing committee from 1849-53 and permanatly retaining that function from 1880 until the present.  The Rules Committee’s role has evolved dramatically since its inception.  Starting out as a select committee that only reported general House rules, the modern Rules Committee's main function is to report "special rules" governing the consideration of major legislation.  Among other things, special rules govern which legislation can go to the House Floor, when legislation goes to the Floor, how long bills can be debated, which amendments can be offered and who can offer them.  Rules are generally described as "open," "modified open," "structured," or "closed."

The Committee's party membership ratio has traditionally been weighted heavily in favor of the majority party, consisting of 9 majority and 4 minority members since the late 1970s. The Committee, often referred to as "the Speaker's Committee," works closely with House Majority Leadership to advance legislation.  The more than 2 to 1 supermajority ratio ensures the majority party controls which types of rules are reported from the Committee. 

General Types of Special Rules

(1) Open Rules: Under an open rule, any Member may offer an amendment that complies with the standing rules of the House and the Budget Act. Also included in the category of open rules are those special rules that are often referred to as ‘‘open plus.’’ These rules allow the offering of any amendment normally in order under an open rule plus the consideration of any amendments for which waivers of points of order have been granted by the special rule.

(2) Modified Open Rules: This type of rule permits only amendments preprinted in the Congressional Record, puts a time-cap on consideration of amendments, or does both.

(3) Structured Rules: This type of rule limits the amendments that may be offered to only those amendments designated in the special rule.

(4) Closed Rules: Under a Closed Rule no amendments may be offered other than amendments recommended by the committee reporting the bill. However, the Rules Committee is prohibited under the rules of the House from reporting a special rule providing for consideration of a bill or joint resolution that denies the minority the right to offer amendatory instructions in a motion to recommit.