Each federal state has a seat on the committee, while the other half of the committee is made up of representatives from the Bundestag; the seats are distributed among the parties represented in the Bundestag as a function of the relative size of the various parliamentary groups. As there are 16 federal states, the committee comprises 32 members.
A substitute is nominated for each member, who may however only attend meetings should the member they represent be unable to attend. This is to ensure that the number of participants at meetings is kept small. Each parliamentary group or federal state may choose a new representative at most four times in each Bundestag term.
The meetings are strictly confidential. The two chairs, one a member of the Bundesrat, the other a member of the Bundestag, take turns in chairing the meetings during a three-month period and may stand in for each other if necessary.
The mediation process
None of the members of this committee are bound by instructions. It would however be unrealistic to assume they would not take the (party) political balance of power into account, for the Mediation Committee is only successful if the Bundestag and the Bundesrat ultimately accept its proposals.
The committee may only act on the basis of a request from the Bundesrat, the Bundestag or the Federal Government to address a specific bill. Given the way in which legislative procedure is structured, the Bundesrat is of course the main source of such requests. The Bundesrat may request a meeting of the Mediation Committee for all bills adopted by the Bundestag. The Bundestag or the Federal Government may only convene the Mediation Committee if the Bundesrat has not expressed approval of a consent bill. Three mediation processes may be held in succession for this category of legislation. That is however the upper limit, as each constitutional body is only authorised to make one request per bill that the Mediation Committee meet.
Results of mediation
Mediation Committee decisions are taken on a majority basis. This means that a committee decision, known as a compromise proposal, does not require unanimous backing from all committee members.
In accordance with the rules of procedure, the mediation process can lead to four different outcomes:
- The Committee may recommend that a bill passed by the Bundestag be revised, i.e. that provisions not acceptable to the Bundesrat be reformulated, that additions be made, or that parts be deleted.
- A bill passed by the Bundestag may be confirmed. In this case draft amendments submitted by the Bundesrat are rejected.
- The proposal may be made that the Bundestag repeal the bill in question. This happens when the Bundesrat rejects a bill in its entirety and is successful in having this accepted by the Mediation Committee.
Mediation Committee proceedings may be concluded without the submission of a compromise proposal. This happens, for instance, when no majority decision can be reached in the committee.
The Mediation Committee may only make proposals to resolve differences of opinion between the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, but is not empowered to adopt bills itself. It is not a "super-parliament".