ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER
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Pocket Manual of Rules Of Order For Deliberative Assemblies
Part I. Rules of Order.
A Compendium of Parliamentary Law, based upon the rules and practice of Congress.
Part II. Organization and Conduct Of Business.
A simple explanation of the methods of organizing and conducting the business of societies, conventions, and other deliberative assemblies.
By Major Henry M. Robert, Corps of Engineers, U.S.A.
Chicago: S. C. Griggs & Company. 1876.
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Copyright, A.D. 1876, by H. M. Robert
Printed by Burdick & Armitage, Milwaukee
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There appears to be much needed a work on parliamentary law, based, in its general principles, upon the rules and practice of Congress, and adapted, in its details, to the use of ordinary societies. Such a work should give, not only the methods of organizing and conducting the meetings, the duties of the officers and the names of the ordinary motions, but in addition, should state in a systematic manner, in reference to each motion, its object and effect; whether it can be amended or debated; if debatable, the extent to which it opens the main question to debate; the circumstances under which it can be made, and what other motions can be made while it is pending. This Manual has been prepared with a view to supplying the above information in a condensed and systematic manner, each rule being either complete in itself, or giving references to every section that in any way qualifies it, so that a stranger to the work can refer to any special subject with safety.
To aid in quickly referring to as many as possible of the rules relating to each motion, there is placed immediately before the Index, a Table of Rules, which enables one, without turning a page, to find the answers to some two hundred questions. The Table of Rules is so arranged as to greatly assist the reader in systematizing his knowledge of parliamentary law.
The second part is a simple explanation of the common methods of conducting business in ordinary
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meetings, in which the motions are classified according to their uses, and those used for a similar purpose compared together. This part is expressly intended for that large class of the community, who are unfamiliar with parliamentary usages and are unwilling to devote much study to the subject, but would be glad with little labor to learn enough to enable them to take part in meetings of deliberative assemblies without fear of being out of order. The object of Rules of Order in deliberative assemblies, is to assist an assembly to accomplish the work for which it was designed, in the best possible manner. To do this, it is necessary to somewhat restrain the individual, as the right of an individual in any community to do what he pleases, is incompatible with the best interests of the whole. Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty. Experience has shown the importance of definiteness in the law; and in this country, where customs are so slightly established and the published manuals of parliamentary practice so conflicting, no society should attempt to conduct business without having adopted some work upon the subject, as the authority in all cases not covered by their own rules.
It has been well said by one of the greatest of English writers on parliamentary law: "Whether these forms be in all cases the most rational or not is really not of so great importance. It is much more material that there should be a rule to go by, than what that rule is, that there may be a uniformity of proceeding in business, not subject to the caprice of the chairman, or captiousness of the members. It is very material that order, decency and regularity be preserved in a dignified public body."
H. M. R. December, 1875.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS. Introduction. Page. Parliamentary Law .................................................. 9 Plan of the Work .................................................. 12 '' Part I .................................................... 13 '' Part II ................................................... 14 Definitions ....................................................... 15
Part I.—Rules of Order. Art. I.—Introduction of Business. Sec. 1. How introduced ................................................. 17 2. Obtaining the floor ............................................ 17 3. What precedes debate on a question ............................. 19 4. What motions to be in writing, and how they shall be divided ...................................... 20 5. Modification of a motion by the mover .......................... 21
Art. II.—General Classification of Motions. Sec. 6. Principal or Main motions ...................................... 22 7. Subsidiary or Secondary motions ................................ 22 8. Incidental motions ............................................. 23 9. Privileged motions ............................................. 24
Art. III.—Motions and their Order of Precedence. Privileged Motions. 10. To fix the time to which to adjourn ........................... 25 11. Adjourn ....................................................... 26 12. Questions of privilege ........................................ 28 13. Orders of the day ............................................. 28 Incidental Motions. 14. Appeal [Questions of Order] ................................... 30 15. Objection to the consideration of a question ...................................................... 32 16. Reading papers ................................................ 33 17. Withdrawal of a motion ........................................ 34 18. Suspension of the Rules ....................................... 34
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Subsidiary Motions. Sec. 19. Lie on the table .............................................. 35 20. Previous Question ............................................. 37 21. Postpone to a certain day ..................................... 40 22. Commit [or Re-commit] ......................................... 41 23. Amend ......................................................... 43 24. Postpone indefinitely ......................................... 46 Miscellaneous Motions. 25. Filling blanks, and Nominations ............................... 47 26. Renewal of a motion ........................................... 48 27. Reconsideration ............................................... 49
Art. IV.—Committees and Informal Action. Sec. 28. Committees .................................................... 54 29. '' Form of their Reports .............................. 58 30. '' Reception '' .............................. 59 31. '' Adoption '' .............................. 61 32. Committee of the Whole ........................................ 61 33. Informal consideration of a question .......................... 65
Art. V.—Debate and Decorum. Sec. 34. Debate ........................................................ 66 35. Undebatable questions and those opening the main question to debate ................................... 68 36. Decorum in debate ............................................. 71 37. Closing debate, methods of .................................... 72
Art. VI.—Vote. Sec. 38. Voting, various modes of ...................................... 74 39. Motions requiring more than a majority vote ................................................. 80
Art. VII.—Officers and the Minutes. Sec. 40. Chairman or President ......................................... 81 41. Clerk, or Secretary, and the Minutes .......................... 85
Art. VIII.—Miscellaneous. Sec. 42. Session ....................................................... 90 43. Quorum ........................................................ 93 44. Order of business ............................................. 94 45. Amendment of the Rules of Order ............................... 97
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Part II.-Organization and Conduct of Business.
Art. IX.—Organization and Meetings. Sec. 46. An Occasional or Mass Meeting. (a) Organization .............................................. 99 (b) Adoption of resolutions .................................. 101 (c) Committee on '' .................................. 102 (d) Additional Officers ...................................... 105 47. A Convention or Assembly of Delegates .................................................... 106 48. A Permanent Society. (a) First meeting ............................................. 108 (b) Second meeting ............................................ 111 49. Constitutions, By-Laws, Rules of Order and Standing Rules ..................................... 115
Art. X.—Officers and Committees. Sec. 50. President or Chairman ........................................ 119 51. Secretary, or Clerk, and the Minutes ......................... 120 52. Treasurer .................................................... 123 53. Committees ................................................... 127
Art. XI—Introduction of Business. Sec. 54. Introduction of Business ..................................... 129
Art. XII.—Motions. Sec. 55. Motions classified according to their object ....................................................... 131 56. To Amend or modify. (a) Amend .................................................... 133 (5) Commit ................................................... 134 57. To Defer action. (a) Postpone to a certain time ............................... 134 (b) Lie on the table ......................................... 135 58. To Suppress Debate. (a) Previous Question ........................................ 136 (b) An Order limiting or closing debate ................................................... 137
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Sec. 59. To Suppress the question. (a) Objection to its consideration ........................... 138 (b) Postpone indefinitely .................................... 139 (c) Lie on the table ......................................... 139 60. To Consider a question the second time (a) Reconsider ............................................... 140 61. Order and Rules. (a) Orders of the day ........................................ 142 (b) Special orders ........................................... 143 (c) Suspension of the rules .................................. 144 (d) Questions of order ....................................... 144 (e) Appeal ................................................... 145 62. Miscellaneous. (a) Reading of papers ........................................ 146 (b) Withdrawal of a motion ................................... 146 (c) Questions of privilege ................................... 146 63. To close a meeting. (a) Fix the time to which to adjourn ......................... 147 (b) Adjourn .................................................. 147 64. Order of Precedence of motions ............................... 149
Art. XIII.—Debate. Sec. 65. Rules of speaking in debate .................................. 150 66. Undebatable questions and those that open the main question to debate ............................. 151
Art. XIV.—Miscellaneous. Sec. 67. Forms of stating and putting questions ....................... 154 68. Motions requiring a two-thirds vote for their adoption ........................................... 154 69. Unfinished business .......................................... 154 70. Session ...................................................... 155 71. Quorum ....................................................... 156 72. Order of Business ............................................ 156 73. Amendment of Constitutions, By-Laws and Rules of Order ........................................... 157
Legal Rights of Deliberative Assemblies ............................ 158 Table of Rules Relating to Motions ................................. 166 Index .............................................................. 169
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Parliamentary Law refers originally to the customs and rules of conducting business in the English Parliament; and thence to the customs and rules of our own legislative assemblies. In England these customs and usages of Parliament form a part of the unwritten law of the land, and in our own legislative bodies they are of authority in all cases where they do not conflict with existing rules or precedents.
But as a people we have not the respect which the English have for customs and precedents, and are always ready for innovations which we think are improvements, and hence changes have been and are being constantly made in the written rules which our legislative bodies have found best to adopt. As each house adopts its own rules, it results that the two houses of the same legislature do not always agree in their practice; even in Congress the order of precedence of motions is not the same in both houses, and the Previous Question is admitted in the House of Representatives, but not in the Senate. As a consequence of this, the exact method of conducting business in any particular
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legislative body is to be obtained only from the Legislative Manual of that body.
The vast number of societies, political, literary, scientific, benevolent and religious, formed all over the land, though not legislative, are still deliberative in their character, and must have some system of conducting business, and some rules to govern their proceedings, and are necessarily subject to the common parliamentary law where it does not conflict with their own special rules. But as their knowledge of parliamentary law has been obtained from the usages in this country, rather than from the customs of Parliament, it has resulted that these societies have followed the customs of our own legislative bodies, and our people have thus been educated under a system of parliamentary law which is peculiar to this country, and yet so well established as to supersede the English parliamentary law as the common law of ordinary deliberative assemblies.
The practice of the National House of Representatives should have the same force in this country as the usages of the House of Commons have in England, in determining the general principles of the common parliamentary law of the land; but it does not follow that in every matter of detail the rules of Congress can be appealed to as the common law governing every deliberative assembly. In these matters of detail, the rules of each House of Congress are adapted to their own peculiar wants, and are of no force whatever in other assemblies.
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But upon all great parliamentary questions, such as what motions can be made, what is their order of precedence, which can be debated, what is their effect, etc., the common law of the land is settled by the practice of the U. S. House of Representatives, and not by that of the English Parliament, the U. S. Senate, or any other body.
While in extreme cases there is no difficulty in deciding the question as to whether the practice of Congress determines the common parliamentary law, yet between these extremes there must necessarily be a large number of doubtful cases upon which there would be great difference of opinion, and to avoid the serious difficulties always arising from a lack of definiteness in the law, every deliberative assembly should imitate our legislative bodies in adopting Rules of Order for the conduct of their business.* [Where the practice of Congress differs from that of Parliament upon a material point, the common law of this country follows the practice of Congress. Thus in every American deliberative assembly having no rules for conducting business, the motion to adjourn would be decided to be undebatable, as in Congress, the English parliamentary law to the contrary notwithstanding; so if the Previous Question were negatived, the debate upon the subject would continue as in Congress, whereas in Parliament the subject would be immediately dismissed; so too the Previous Question could be moved when there was before the assembly a motion either to amend, to commit, or to postpone definitely or indefinitely, just as in Congress, notwithstanding that, according to English parliamentary law, the Previous Question could not be moved under such circumstances. When the rules of the two Houses of Congress conflict, the H. R. rules are of greater authority than those of the Senate in determining the parliamentary law of the country, just as the practice of the House of Commons, and not the House of Lords, determines the parliamentary law of England. For instance, though the Senate rules do not allow the motion for the Previous Question, and make the motion to postpone indefinitely take precedence of every other subsidiary motion [Sec. 7] except to lie on the table, yet the parliamentary law of the land follows the practice of the House of Representatives, in recognizing the Previous Question as a legitimate motion, and assigning to the very lowest rank the motion to postpone indefinitely. But in matters of detail, the rules of the House of Representatives are adapted to the peculiar wants of that body, and are of no authority in any other assembly. No one for instance would accept the following H. R. rules as common parliamentary law in this country: That the chairman, in case of disorderly conduct, would have the power to order the galleries to be cleared; that the ballot could not be used in electing the officers of an assembly; that any fifteen members would be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members and make them pay the expenses of the messengers sent after them; that all committees not appointed by the Chair would have to be appointed by ballot, and if the required number were not elected by a majority vote, then a second ballot must be taken in which a plurality of votes would prevail; that each member would be limited in debate upon any question, to one hour; that a day's notice must be given of the introduction of a bill, and that before its passage it must be read three times, and that without the special order of the assembly it cannot be read twice the same day. These examples are sufficient to show the absurdity of the idea that the rules of Congress in all things determine the common parliamentary law.]
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Plan of the Work.
This Manual is prepared to partially meet this want in deliberative assemblies that are not legislative in their character. It has been made sufficiently complete to answer for the rules of an assembly, until they see fit to adopt special rules conflicting with and superseding any of its rules of detail, such as the Order of Business [Sec. 44], etc. Even in matters of detail the practice of Congress is followed, wherever it is not manifestly unsuited to ordinary assemblies, and in such cases, in Part I, there will be found, in a foot note, the Congressional practice. In the important matters referred to above, in which the practice of the House of
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Representatives settles the common parliamentary law of the country, this Manual strictly conforms to such practice.* [On account of the party lines being so strictly drawn in Congress, no such thing as harmony of action is possible, and it has been found best to give a bare majority in the House of Representatives (but not in the Senate) the power to take final action upon a question without allowing of any discussion. In ordinary societies more regard should be paid to the rights of the minority, and a two-thirds vote be required, as in this Manual [Sec. 39], for sustaining an objection to the introduction of a question, or for adopting a motion for the Previous Question, or for adopting an order closing or limiting debate. In this respect the policy of the Pocket Manual is a mean between those of the House and Senate. But some societies will doubtless find it advantageous to follow the practice of the H. R., and others will prefer that of the Senate. It requires a majority, according to the Pocket Manual, to order the yeas and nays, which is doubtless best in the majority of assemblies; but in all bodies in which the members are responsible to their constituents, a much smaller number should have this power. In Congress it requires but a one-fifth vote, and in some bodies a single member can require a vote to be taken by yeas and nays. Any society adopting this Manual, should make its rules govern them in all cases to which they are applicable, and in which they are not inconsistent with the By-Laws and Rules of Order of the society. Their own rules should include all of the cases where it is desirable to vary from the rules in the Manual, and especially should provide for a Quorum [Sec. 43], and an Order of Business [Sec. 44], as suggested in these rules.]
The Manual is divided into two distinct parts, each complete in itself. [The table at the end contains a large amount of information in a tabular form, for easy reference in the midst of the business of a meeting.]
Part I contains a set of Rules of Order systematically arranged, as shown in the Table of Contents. Each one of the forty-five sections is complete in itself, so that no one unfamiliar with the work can be misled in examining any particular subject. Cross references are freely used to save repeating
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from other sections, and by this means the reader, without using the index, is referred to everything in the Rules of Order that has any bearing upon the subject he is investigating. The references are by sections, and for convenience the numbers of the sections are placed at the top of each page. The motions are arranged under the usual classes, in their order of rank, but in the index under the word motion will be found an alphabetical list of all the motions generally used. In reference to each motion there is stated:
(1) Of what motions it takes precedence (that is, what motions may, be pending, and yet it be in order to make this motion). (2) To what motions it yields (that is, what motions may be made while this motion is pending). (3) Whether it is debatable or not. (4) Whether it can be amended or not. (5) In case the motion can have no subsidiary motion applied to it, the fact is stated [see Adjourn, Sec. 11, for an example: the meaning is, that the particular motion to adjourn, for example, cannot be laid on the table, postponed, committed or amended]. (6) The effect of the motion if adopted. (7) The form of stating the question when peculiar, and whatever other information is necessary to enable one to understand the question.
Part II. While the second part covers the entire ground of the first part, it does so in a much simpler manner, being intended for those who have
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no acquaintance with the usages of deliberative assemblies. It also explains the method of organizing an assembly or society, and conducting a meeting. The motions are treated on an entirely different plan, being classified according to the objects for which they are used, and those of each class compared together so that the reader may obtain the best motion for the accomplishment of any given object. It omits the complications of parliamentary law, and has but few references to the rules of Congress, or those in this Manual. In order to make it complete in itself, it was necessary to repeat a few pages from the first part.
In addition to the terms defined above (taking precedence of, yielding to and applying to, see p. 14), there are other terms that are liable to be misunderstood, to which attention should he called.
Meeting and Session.—In this Manual the term "meeting" is used to denote an assembling together of the members of a deliberative assembly for any length of time, during which there is no separation of the members by adjournment. An adjournment to meet again at some other time, even the same day, terminates the meeting, but not the session, which latter includes all the adjourned meetings. The next meeting, in this case, would be an "adjourned meeting" of the same session.
A "meeting" of an assembly is terminated by a
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temporary adjournment; a "session" of an assembly ends with an adjournment without day, and may consist of many meetings [see Session, Sec. 42].
Previous Question—This term is frequently understood to refer to the question previously under consideration. As used in this country it is equivalent to a motion to "Stop debate, and proceed to voting on all the questions before the assembly," with certain exceptions, where it affects only one motion (as to postpone, to reconsider and an appeal; see Sec. 20 for a full explanation).
Shall the Question be Considered (or discussed)? This question, which is put as soon as a subject is brought before an assembly, if any member "objects to its consideration" (or "discussion," or "introduction"), is not intended to merely cut off debate, but to prevent the question from coming before the assembly for its action. If decided by a two-thirds vote in the negative, the question is removed from before the assembly immediately [see Sec. 15].
Whenever the word "assembly," which is used throughout these rules, occurs in forms of motions (as in Appeals, Sec. 14), it is better to replace it by the special term used to designate the particular assembly; as for instance, "Society," or "Convention," or "Board." The term "Congress," when used in this Manual, refers to the House of Representatives of the U.S.
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Rules of Order.
Art. I. Introduction of Business. [Sec.Sec. 1-5.]
1. All business should be brought before the assembly by a motion of a member, or by the presentation of a communication to the assembly. It is not usual, however, to make a motion to receive the reports of committees [Sec. 30] or communications to the assembly; and in many other cases in the ordinary routine of business, the formality of a motion is dispensed with; but should any member object, a regular motion becomes necessary.
2. Before a member can make a motion or address the assembly upon any question, it is necessary that he obtain the floor; that is, he must rise and address the presiding officer
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by his title, thus: "Mr. Chairman" [Sec. 34], who will then announce the member's name. Where two or more rise at the same time the Chairman must decide who is entitled to the floor, which he does by announcing that member's name. From this decision, however, an appeal [Sec. 14] can he taken; though if there is any doubt as to who is entitled to the floor, the Chairman can at the first allow the assembly to decide the question by a vote—the one getting the largest vote being entitled to the floor.
The member upon whose motion the subject under discussion was brought before the assembly (or, in case of a committee's report, the one who presented the report) is entitled to be recognized as having the floor (if he has not already had it during that discussion), notwithstanding another member may have first risen and addressed the Chair. If the Chairman rise to speak before the floor has been assigned to any one, it is the duty of a member who may have previously risen to take his seat. [See Decorum in Debate, Sec. 36.]
When a member has obtained the floor, he cannot be cut off from addressing the assembly, nor be interrupted in this speech by a
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motion to adjourn, or for any purpose, by either the Chairman or any member, except (a) to have entered on the minutes a motion to reconsider [Sec. 27]; (b) by a call to order [Sec. 14]; (c) by an objection to the consideration of the question [Sec. 15]; or (d) by a call for the orders of the day [Sec. 13].* [See note to Sec. 61.] In such cases the member when he arises and addresses the Chair should state at once for what purpose he rises, as, for instance, that he "rises to a point of order." A call for an adjournment, or for the question, by members in their seats, is not a motion; as no motion can be made, without rising and addressing, the Chair, and being announced by the presiding officer. Such calls for the question are themselves breaches of order, and do not prevent the speaker from going on if he pleases.
3. Before any subject is open to debate [Sec. 34] it is necessary, first, that a motion he made; second, that it be seconded, (see exceptions below); and third, that it be stated by the presiding officer. When the motion is in writing it shall be handed to the Chairman, and read before it is debated.
This does not prevent suggestions of alterations, before the question is stated by the
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presiding officer. To the contrary, much time may be saved by such informal remarks; which, however, must never be allowed to run into debate. The member who offers the motion, until it has been stated by the presiding officer, can modify his motion, or even withdraw it entirely; after it is stated he can do neither, without the consent of the assembly. [See Sec.Sec. 5 and 17]. When the mover modifies his motion, the one who seconded it can withdraw his second.
Exceptions: A call for the order of the day, a question of order (though not an appeal), or an objection to the consideration of a question [Sec.Sec. 13, 14, 15], does not have to be seconded; and many questions of routine are not seconded or even made; the presiding officer merely announcing that, if no objection is made, such will be considered the action of the assembly.
4. All Principal Motions [Sec. 6], Amendments and Instructions to Committees, should be in writing, if required by the presiding officer. Although a question is complicated, and capable of being made into several questions, no one member (without there is a special rule allowing it) can insist upon its being divided; his resource is to move that the question be divided, specifying in his motion how it is to be divided. Any one else can move as
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an amendment to this, to divide it differently.
This Division of a Question is really an amendment [Sec. 23], and subject to the same rules. Instead of moving a division of the question, the same result can be usually attained by moving some other form of an amendment. When the question is divided, each separate question must be a proper one for the assembly to act upon, even if none of the others were adopted. Thus, a motion to "commit with instructions," is indivisible, because if divided, and the motion to commit should fail, then the other motion to instruct the committee would be improper, as there would be no committee to instruct.* [The 46th Rule of the House of Representatives requires the division of a question on the demand of one member, provided "it comprehends propositions in substance so distinct that one being taken away, a substantive proposition shall remain for the decision of the House." But this does not allow a division so as to have a vote on separate items or names. The 121st Rule expressly provides that on the demand of one-fifth of the members a separate vote shall be taken on such items separately, and others collectively, as shall be specified in the call, in the case of a bill making appropriations for internal improvements. But this right to divide a question into items extends to no case but the one specified. The common parliamentary law allows of no division except when the assembly orders it, and in ordinary assemblies this rule will be found to give less trouble than the Congressional one.]
The motion to "strike out certain words and insert others," is indivisible, as it is strictly one proposition.
5. After a question has been stated by the presiding officer, it is in the possession of the
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assembly for debate; the mover cannot withdraw or modify it, if any one objects, except by obtaining leave from the assembly [Sec. 17], or by moving an amendment.
Art. II. General Classification of Motions. [Sec.Sec. 6-9.]
6. A Principal or Main Question or Motion, is a motion made to bring before the assembly, for its consideration, any particular subject. No Principal Motion can be made when any other question is before the assembly. It takes precedence of nothing, and yields to all Privileged, Incidental and Subsidiary Questions [Sec.Sec. 7, 8, 9].
7. Subsidiary or Secondary Questions or Motions relate to a Principal Motion, and enable the assembly to dispose of it in the most appropriate manner. These motions take precedence of the Principal Question, and must be decided before the Principal Question can be acted upon. They yield to Privileged and Incidental Questions [Sec.Sec. 8, 9], and are as follows (being arranged in their order of precedence among themselves):
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Lie on the Table .................... See Sec. 19. The Previous Question ............... '' Sec. 20. Postpone to a Certain Day ........... '' Sec. 21. Commit .............................. '' Sec. 22. Amend ............................... '' Sec. 23. Postpone Indefinitely ............... '' Sec. 24.
Any of these motions (except Amend) can be made when one of a lower order is pending, but none can supersede one of a higher order. They cannot be applied* [See Plan of Work and Definitions, in Introduction, for explanation of some of these technical terms.] to one another except in the following cases: (a) the Previous Question applies to the motion to Postpone, without affecting the principal motion, and can, if specified, be applied to a pending amendment [Sec. 20]; (b) the motions to Postpone to a certain day, and to Commit, can be amended; and (c) a motion to Amend the minutes can be laid on the table without carrying the minutes with it [Sec. 19].
8. Incidental Questions are such as arise out of other questions, and, consequently, take precedence of, and are to be decided before, the questions which give rise to them. They yield to Privileged Questions [Sec. 9], and cannot be amended. Excepting an Appeal,
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they are undebatable; an Appeal is debatable or not, according to circumstances, as shown in Sec. 14. They are as follows:
Appeal (or Questions of Order) ........................... See Sec. 14. Objection to the Consideration of a Question ............. '' Sec. 15. The Reading of Papers .................................... '' Sec. 16. Leave to Withdraw a Motion ............................... '' Sec. 17. Suspension of the Rules .................................. '' Sec. 18.
9. Privileged Questions are such as, on account of their importance, take precedence over all other questions whatever, and on account of this very privilege they are undebatable [Sec. 35], excepting when relating to the rights of the assembly or its members, as otherwise they could be made use of so as to seriously interrupt business. They are as follows (being arranged in their order of precedence among themselves):
To Fix the Time to which the Assembly shall Adjourn ...... See Sec. 10. Adjourn .................................................. '' Sec. 11. Questions relating to the Rights and Privileges of the Assembly or any of its Members ............................................ '' Sec. 12. Call for the Orders of the Day ........................... '' Sec. 13.
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Art. III. Motions and their Order of Precedence.* [For a list of all the ordinary motions, arranged in their order of precedence, see Sec. 64. All the Privileged and Subsidiary ones in this Article are so arranged.] [Sec.Sec. 10-27.]
Privileged Motions. [Sec.Sec. 10-13. See Sec. 9.]
10. To Fix the Time to which the Assembly shall Adjourn. This motion takes precedence of all others, and is in order even after the assembly has voted to adjourn, provided the Chairman has not announced the result of the vote. If made when another question is before the assembly, it is undebatable [Sec. 35]; it can be amended by altering the time. If made when no other question is before the asembly, it stands as any other principal motion, and is debatable.** [In ordinary societies it is better to follow the common parliamentary law, and permit this question to be introduced as a principal question, when it can be debated and suppressed [Sec. 58, 59] like other questions. In Congress, it is never debatable, and has entirely superseded the unprivileged and inferior motion to "adjourn to a particular time."]
The Form of this motion is, "When this assembly
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adjourns, it adjourns to meet at such a time."
11. To Adjourn. This motion (when unqualified) takes precedence of all others, except to "fix the time to which to adjourn," to which it yields. It is not debatable, and cannot be amended, or have any other subsidiary motion [Sec. 7] applied to it. If qualified in any way it loses its privileged character, and stands as any other principal motion. The motion to adjourn can be repeated if there has been any intervening business, though it be simply progress in debate [Sec. 26]. When a committee is through with any business referred to it, and prepared to report, instead of adjourning, a motion should be made "to rise," which motion, in committee, has the same privileges as to adjourn in the assembly [Sec. 32].
The effect upon Unfinished Business of an adjournment is as follows* ["After six days from the commencement of a second or subsequent session of any Congress, all bills, resolutions and reports which originated in the House, and at the close of the next preceding session remained undetermined, shall be resumed, and acted on in the same manner as if an adjournment had not taken place." Rule 136, H. R. Any ordinary society that meets as seldom as once each year, is apt to be composed of as different membership at its successive meetings, as any two successive Congresses, and only trouble would result from allowing unfinished business to hold over to the next yearly meeting.] [see Session, Sec. 42]:
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(a) When it does not close the session, the business interrupted by the adjournment is the first in order after the reading of the minutes at the next meeting, and is treated the same as if there had been no adjournment; an adjourned meeting being legally the continuation of the meeting of which it is an adjournment.
(b) When it closes a session in an assembly which has more than one regular session each year, then the unfinished business is taken up at the next succeeding session previous to new business, and treated the same as if there had been no adjournment [see Sec. 44, for its place in the order of business]. Provided, that, in a body elected for a definite time (as a board of directors elected for one year), unfinished business falls to the ground with the expiration of the term for which the board or any portion of them were elected.
(c) When the adjournment closes a session in an assembly which does not meet more frequently than once a year, or when the assembly is an elective body, and this session ends
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the term of a portion of the members, the adjournment shall put an end to all business unfinished at the close of the session. The business can be introduced at the next session, the same as if it had never been before the assembly.
12. Questions of Privilege. Questions relating to the rights and privileges of the assembly, or any of its members, take precedence of all other questions, except the two preceding, to which they yield. The Previous Question [Sec. 20] can be applied to these, as to all other debatable questions.
13. Orders of the Day. A call for the Orders of the Day takes precedence of every other motion, excepting to Reconsider [Sec. 27], and the three preceding, to which latter three it yields, and is not debatable, nor can it be amended. It does not require to be seconded.
When one or more subjects have been assigned to a particular day or hour, they become the Orders of the Day for that day or hour, and they cannot be considered before that time, except by a two-thirds vote [Sec. 39]. And when that day or hour arrives, if called up, they take precedence of all but the three
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preceding questions [Sec.Sec. 10, 11, 12]. Instead of considering them, the assembly may appoint another time for their consideration. If not taken up on the day specified, the order falls to the ground.
When the Orders of the Day are taken up, it is necessary to take up the separate questions in their exact order, the one first assigned to the day or hour, taking precedence of one afterwards assigned to the same day or hour. (A motion to take up a particular part of the Orders of the Day, or a certain question, is not a privileged motion). Any of the subjects, when taken up, instead of being then considered, can be assigned to some other time.
The Form of this question, as put by the Chair when the proper time arrives, or on the call of a member, is, "Shall the Order of the Day be taken up?" or, "Will the assembly now proceed with the Orders of the Day?"
The Effect of an affirmative vote on a call for the Orders of the Day, is to remove the question under consideration from before the assembly, the same as if it had been interrupted by an adjournment [Sec. 11].
The Effect of a negative vote is to dispense
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with the orders merely so far as they interfere with the consideration of the question then before the assembly.
Incidental Motions. [Sec.Sec. 14-18; see Sec. 8]
14. Appeal [Questions of Order]. A Question of Order takes precedence of the question giving rise to it, and must be decided by the presiding officer without debate. If a member objects to the decision, he says, "I appeal from the decision of the Chair." If the Appeal is seconded, the Chairman immediately states the question as follows: "Shall the decision of the Chair stand as the judgement of the assembly?"* [The word Assembly can be replaced by Society, Convention, Board, etc., according to the name of the organization.] This Appeal yields to Privileged Questions [Sec. 9]. It cannot be amended; it cannot be debated when it relates simply to indecorum [Sec. 36], or to transgressions of the rules of speaking, or to the priority of business, or if it is made while the previous question [Sec. 20] is pending. When debatable, no member is allowed to speak but once, and whether debatable or not, the presiding officer, without leaving the
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Chair, can state the reasons upon which he bases his decision. The motions to Lie on the Table [Sec. 19], or for the Previous Question [Sec. 20], can be applied to an Appeal, when it is debatable, and when adopted they affect nothing but the Appeal. The vote on an Appeal may also be reconsidered [Sec. 27]. An Appeal is not in order when another Appeal is pending.
It is the duty of the presiding officer to enforce the rules and orders of the assembly, without debate or delay. It is also the right of every member, who notices a breach of a rule to insist upon its enforcement. In such cases he shall rise from his seat, and say, "Mr. Chairman, I rise to a point of order." The speaker should immediately take his seat, and the Chairman requests the member to state his point of order, which he does, and resumes his seat. The Chair decides the point, and then, if no appeal is taken, permits the first member to resume his speech. If the member's remarks are decided to be improper, and any one objects to his continuing his speech, he cannot continue it without a vote of the assembly to that effect. Instead of the method just described, it is usual, when it is simply a case of improper language used in debate, for a member to say, "I call the gentleman to order;" the Chairman
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decides whether the speaker is in or out of order, and proceeds as before. The Chairman can ask the advice of members when he has to decide questions of order, but the advice must be given sitting, to avoid the appearance of debate; or the Chair, when unable to decide the question, may at once submit it to the assembly. The effect of laying an appeal on the table, is to sustain, at least for the time, the decision of the Chair, and does not carry to the table the question which gave rise to the question of order.
15. Objection to the Consideration of a Question. An objection can be made to any principal motion [Sec. 6], but only when it is first introduced, before it has been debated. It is similar to a question of order [Sec. 14,] in that it can be made while another member has the floor, and does not require a second; and as the Chairman can call a member to order, so can he put this question if he deems it necessary, upon his own responsibility. It can not be debated [Sec. 35] or have any subsidiary motion [Sec. 7] applied to it. When a motion is made and any member "objects to its consideration," the Chairman shall immediately put the question, "Will the assembly consider it?" or, "Shall the question be considered"
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[or discussed]? If decided in the negative by a two-thirds vote [Sec. 39], the whole matter is dismissed for that session [Sec. 42]; otherwise the discussion continues as if this question had never been made.
The Object of this motion is not to cut off debate (for which other motions are provided, see Sec. 37), but to enable the assembly to avoid altogether any question which it may deem irrelevant, unprofitable or contentious.* [In Congress, the introduction of such questions could be temporarily prevented by a majority vote under the 41st Rule of the House of Representatives, which is as follows: "Where any motion or proposition is made, the question, 'Will the House now consider it?' shall not be put unless it is demanded by some member, or is deemed necessary by the Speaker." The English use the "Previous Question," for a similar purpose [see note to Sec. 20]. The question of consideration is seldom raised in Congress, but in assemblies with very short sessions, where but few questions can or should be considered, it seems a necessity that two-thirds of the assembly should be able to instantly throw out a question they do not wish to consider. The more common form, in ordinary societies, of putting this question, is, "Shall the question be discussed?" The form to which preference is given in the rule conforms more to the Congressional one, and is less liable to be misunderstood.]
Reading Papers. [For the order of precedence, see Sec. 8.] Where papers are laid before the assembly, every member has a right to have them once read before he can be compelled to vote on them, and whenever a member asks for the reading of any such
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paper, evidently for information, and not for delay, the Chair should direct it to be read, if no one objects. But a member has not the right to have anything read (excepting stated above) without getting permission from the assembly.
17. Withdrawal of a Motion. [For order of precedence, see Sec. 8.] When a question is before the assembly and the mover wishes to withdraw or modify it, or substitute a different one in its place, if no one objects, the presiding officer grants the permission; if any objection is made, it will be necessary to obtain leave to withdraw, etc., on a motion for that purpose. This motion cannot be debated or amended. When a motion is withdrawn, the effect is the same as if it had never been made.* [In Congress, a motion may be withdrawn by the mover, before a decision or amendment [Rule 40, H. R.]. Nothing would be gained in ordinary societies by varying from the common law as stated above.]
18. Suspension of the Rules. [For the order of precedence, see Sec. 8.] This motion is not debatable, and cannot be amended, nor can any subsidiary [Sec. 7] motion be applied to it, nor a vote on it be reconsidered [Sec. 27],
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nor a motion to suspend the rules for the same purpose be renewed [Sec. 26] at the same meeting, though it may be renewed after an adjournment, though the next meeting be held the same day.* [In Congress, it cannot be renewed the same day.] The rules of the assembly shall not be suspended except for a definite purpose, and by a two-thirds vote.
The Form of this motion is, to "suspend the rules which interfere with," etc., specifying the object of the suspension.
Subsidiary Motions. [Sec.Sec. 19-24; see Sec. 7.]
19. To Lie on the Table. This motion takes precedence of all other Subsidiary Questions [Sec. 7], and yields to any Privileged [Sec. 9] or Incidental [Sec. 8] Question. It is not debatable, and cannot be amended or have any other subsidiary motion [Sec. 7] applied to it. It removes the subject from consideration till the assembly vote to take it from the table.
The Form of this motion is, "I move that the question lie on the table," or, "that it be laid on the table," or, "to lay the question
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on the table." When it is desired to take the question up again, a motion is made, either "to take the question from the table," or "to now consider such and such a question;" which motion is undebatable, and cannot have any subsidiary motion applied to it.
The Object of this motion is to postpone the subject in such a way, that at any time it can be taken up, either at the same or some future meeting, which could not be accomplished by a motion to postpone, either definitely or indefinitely. It is also frequently used to suppress a question [Sec. 59], which it does, provided a majority vote can never be obtained to take it from the table during that session [Sec. 42].
The Effect of this motion is in general to place on the table everything that adheres to the subject; so that if an amendment be ordered to lie on the table, the subject which it is proposed to amend, goes there with it. The following cases are exceptional: (a) An appeal [Sec. 14] being laid on the table, has the effect of sustaining, at least for the time, the decision of the Chair, and does not carry the original subject to the table. (b) So when a motion to reconsider [Sec. 27] a question is
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laid on the table, the original question is left where it was before the reconsideration was moved. (c) An amendment to the minutes being laid on the table does not carry the minutes with it.
Even after the ordering of the Previous Question up to the moment of taking the last vote under it, it is in order to lay upon the table the questions still before the assembly.
20. The Previous Question* [The Previous Question is a technical name for this motion, conveying a wrong impression of its import, as it has nothing to do with the subject previously under consideration. To demand the previous question is equivalent in effect to moving "That debate now cease, and the assembly immediately proceed to vote on the questions before it," (the exceptions are stated above). The English Previous Question is an entirely different one from ours, and is used for a different purpose. In the English Parliament it is moved by the enemies of a measure, who then vote in the negative, and thus prevent for the day, the consideration of the main question, (which in this country could be accomplished by "objecting to the consideration of the question" [Sec. 15], if the objection were sustained). In our Congress, it is moved by the friends of a measure, who vote in the affirmative with a view to cutting off debate and immediately bringing the assembly to a vote on the questions before it. The rules in the two cases are as different as the objects of the motions. It requires only a majority vote for its adoption in the House of Representatives, and is not allowed in the United States Senate.] takes precedence of every debatable question [Sec. 35], and yields to Privileged [Sec. 9] and Incidental [Sec. 8] questions, and to the motion to Lie on the table [Sec. 19]. It is not debatable, and cannot be amended or have any other Subsidiary
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[Sec. 7] motion applied to it. It shall require a two-thirds vote for its adoption.
When a member calls for the previous question, and the call is seconded, the presiding officer must immediately put the question: "Shall the main question be now put?" If adopted, the member who introduced the pending measure still has the right to close the debate [Sec. 34]; after which the presiding officer, without allowing further discussion, shall put to vote the questions before the assembly, in their order of precedence, till the main question, with all its subsidiary and incidental questions, is disposed of (see the exceptions below). If it fails, the discussion continues as if this motion had not been made.
The previous question can be moved on a pending amendment, and if adopted, debate is closed on the amendment only. After the amendment is voted on, the main question is again open to debate and amendments. [In this case the form of the question would be similar to this : "Shall the amendment be now put to the question?"]
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The Object of this motion is to bring the assembly to a vote on the question before it without further debate. In ordinary assemblies it is rarely expedient to deprive a large minority of the right of debate, and yet two-thirds of the members should have the right to close the debate when they think it best.
It applies to questions of privilege [Sec. 12] as well as any other debatable questions. It is allowable for a member to submit a resolution and at the same time move the previous question thereon.
To illustrate the Effect of this motion, suppose it is adopted when we have before the assembly, (a) the main question; (b) an amendment; (c) a motion to commit; (d) a motion to amend the last motion by giving the committee instructions. The previous question being carried, the presiding officer would immediately put the question on the last motion (d); then on the motion to commit, (c); and if this is adopted, of course the subject is referred to the committee and disposed of for the present; but if it fails, the amendment (b) is put, and finally the main question.
Exceptions: If the Previous Question is
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carried while a motion to Postpone is pending, its effect is only to bring the assembly to a vote on that motion; if it is voted not to postpone, the subject is again open for debate. So if an Appeal [Sec. 14] or a motion to Reconsider [Sec. 27] is pending when the Previous Question is ordered, it applies only to them and is exhausted by the vote on them.
An affirmative vote on the motion to Commit [Sec. 22] exhausts the Previous Question, and if the vote is reconsidered, it is divested of the Previous Question.
[For other methods of closing debate see Sec. 37 and Sec. 58].
21. To Postpone to a Certain Day. This motion takes precedence of a motion to Commit, or Amend, or Indefinitely Postpone, and yields to any Privileged [Sec. 9] or Incidental [Sec. 8] question, and to the motion to Lie on the Table, or for the Previous Question. It can be amended by altering the time, and the Previous Question can be applied to it without affecting any other motions pending. It allows of very limited debate [Sec. 35], and that must not go into the merits of the subject matter any further than is necessary to enable the
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assembly to judge the propriety of the postponement.
The Effect of this motion is to postpone the entire subject to the time specified, until which time it cannot be taken up except by a two-thirds vote [Sec. 13]. When that time arrives it is entitled to be taken up in preference to every thing except Privileged questions. Where several questions are postponed to different times and are not reached then, they shall be considered in the order of the times to which they were postponed. It is not in order to postpone to a time beyond that session [Sec. 42] of the assembly, except* [In Congress a motion cannot be postponed to the next session, but it is customary in ordinary societies.] to the day of the next session when it comes up with the unfinished business, and consequently takes precedence of new business [Sec. 44]. If it is desired to hold an adjourned meeting to consider a special subject, the time to which the assembly shall adjourn [Sec. 10] should be first fixed before making the motion to postpone the subject to that day.
22. To Commit [or Recommit as it is called when the subject has been previously committed]. This motion takes precedence of the motions to Amend or Indefinitely Postpone, and yields to any Privileged [Sec. 9] or Incidental
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[Sec. 8] Question, and also to the motion to Lie on the Table, or for the Previous Question, or to Postpone to a certain day. It can be amended by altering the committee, or giving it instructions. It is debatable, and opens to debate [Sec. 35] the merits of the question it is proposed to commit.
The Form of this motion is "to refer the subject to a committee." When different committees are proposed they should he voted in the following order: (1) Committee the whole [Sec. 32], (2) a standing committee, and (3) a special (or select) committee. The number of a committee is usually decided without the formality of a motion, as in filling blanks [Sec. 25]: the Chairman asks "of how many shall the committee consist?" and a question is then put upon each number suggested, beginning with the largest. The number and kind of the committee need not be decided till after it has been voted to refer the subject to a committee. If the committee is a select one, and the motion does not include the method of appointing it, and there is no standing rule on the subject, the Chairman inquires how the committee shall be appointed, and this is usually decided informally. Sometimes the Chair "appoints," in which case he names the members of the committee and no vote is taken
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upon them; or the committee is "nominated" either by the Chair or members of the assembly (no member nominating more than one except by general consent), and then they are all voted upon together, except where more nominations are made than the number of the committee, when they shall be voted upon singly.
Where a committee is one for action (a committee of arrangements for holding a public meeting, for example), it should generally be small, and no one placed upon it who is not favorable to the proposed action; and if any such should be appointed he should ask to be excused. But when the committee is for deliberation or investigation, it is of the utmost importance that all parties be represented on it, so that in committee the fullest discussion may take place, and thus diminish the chances of unpleasant debates in the assembly.
In ordinary assemblies, by judicious appointment of committees, debates upon delicate and troublesome questions can be mostly confined to the committees, which will contain the representative members of all parties. [See Reports of Committees, Sec. 29.]
23. To Amend. This motion takes precedence of nothing but the question which it proposed to amend, and yields to any Privileged
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[Sec. 9], Incidental [Sec. 8] or Subsidiary [Sec. 7] Question, except to Indefinitely Postpone. It can be amended itself, but this "amendment of an amendment" cannot be amended. An Amendment may be inconsistent with one already adopted, or may directly conflict with the spirit of the original motion, but it must have a direct bearing upon the subject of that motion. To illustrate: a motion for a vote of thanks could be amended by substituting for "thanks" the word "censure;" or one condemning certain customs could be amended by adding other customs.
An Amendment may be in any of the following forms: (a) to "add or insert" certain words or paragraphs; (b) to "strike out" certain words or paragraphs, the question, however, being stated by the Chair thus: "Shall these words (or paragraphs) stand as a part of the resolution?" and if this is adopted (that is, the motion to "strike out," fails) it does not preclude either amendment or a motion to "strike out and insert;" (c) "to strike certain words and insert others," which motion is indivisible, and if lost does not preclude
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another motion to strike out the same words and insert different ones; (d) to "substitute" another motion on the same subject for the one pending; (e) to "divide the question" into two or more questions, as the mover specifies, so as to get a separate vote on any particular point or points [see Sec. 4].
If a paragraph is inserted it should be perfected by its friends previous to voting on it, as when once inserted it cannot be struck out or amended except by adding to it. The same is true in regard to words to be inserted in a resolution, as when once inserted they cannot be struck out, except by a motion to strike out the paragraph, or such a portion of it as shall make the question an entirely different one from that of inserting the particular words. The principle involved is that when the assembly has voted that certain words shall form a part of a resolution, it is not in order to make another motion which involves exactly the same question as the one they have decided. The only way to bring it up again is to move a Reconsideration [Sec. 27] of the vote by which the words were inserted.
In stating the question on an Amendment the Chairman should read (1) the passage to be amended; (2) the words to be struck out, if any; (3) the words to be inserted, if any; and (4) the whole passage as it will stand if
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the amendment is adopted. [For amending reports of committees, and propositions containing several paragraphs, see Sec. 44.]
The numbers prefixed to paragraphs are only marginal indications, and should be corrected, if necessary, by the clerk, without any motion to amend.
The following motions cannot be amended:
To Adjourn (when unqualified) ............................ See Sec. 11. For the Orders of the Day ................................ '' Sec. 12. All Incidental Questions ................................. '' Sec. 8. To Lie on the Table ...................................... '' Sec. 19. For the Previous Question ................................ '' Sec. 20. An Amendment of an Amendment ............................. '' Sec. 23. To Postpone Indefinitely ................................. '' Sec. 24. Reconsider ............................................... '' Sec. 27.
An Amendment to Rules of Order, By-Laws or a Constitution shall require previous notice and a two-thirds vote for its adoption [see Sec. 45].
24. To Postpone Indefinitely. This motion takes precedence of nothing except the Principal Question [Sec. 6], and yields to any Privileged [Sec. 9], Incidental [Sec. 8] or Subsidiary [Sec. 7] Motion, except to Amend. It cannot be amended; it opens to debate the entire question which it is proposed to postpone. Its effect is to entirely remove the question from before the assembly for that session [Sec. 42].
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The Previous Question [Sec. 20], if ordered when this motion is pending, applies only to it without affecting the main question.
Miscellaneous Motions. [Sec.Sec. 25-27.]
25. Filling Blanks. In filling blanks the largest sum and the longest time proposed shall be first put to the question. Sometimes the most convenient way of amending a resolution is to create a blank by moving to strike out a certain number or time. It is customary for any number of members to propose numbers to fill a blank without the formality of a motion, these different propositions not being regarded in the light of amendments.
Nominations are treated in a similar manner, so that the second nomination, instead of being an amendment to the first, is an independent motion, which, if the first fails, is to be immediately voted upon. Any number of nominations can be made, the Chairman announcing each name as he hears it, and they
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should be voted upon in the order announced, until one receives a vote sufficient for an election.
26. Renewal of a Motion. When any Principal Question [Sec. 6] or Amendment has been once acted upon by the assembly, it cannot be taken up again at the same session [Sec. 42] except by a motion to Reconsider [Sec. 27]. The motion to Adjourn can be renewed if there has been progress in debate, or any business transacted. As a general rule the introduction of any motion that alters the state of affairs makes it admissible to renew any Privileged or Incidental motion (excepting Suspension of the Rules as provided in Sec. 18), or Subsidiary motion (excepting an amendment), as in such a case the real question before the assembly is a different one.
To illustrate: a motion that a question lie on the table having failed, suppose afterwards it be moved to refer the matter to a committee, it is now in order to move again that the subject lie on the table; but such a motion would not be in order, if it were not made till after the failure of the motion to commit, as
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the question then resumes its previous condition.
When a subject has been referred to a committee which reports at the same meeting, the matter stands before the assembly as if it had been introduced for the first time. A motion which has been withdrawn has not been acted upon, and therefore can be renewed.
27. Reconsider. It is in order at any time, even when another member has the floor, or while the assembly is voting on the motion to Adjourn, during the day* [In Congress any one can move a reconsideration, excepting where the vote is taken by yeas and nays [Sec. 38], when the rule above applies. The motion can be made on the same or succeeding day.] on which a motion has been acted upon, to move to "Reconsider the vote" and have such motion "entered on the record," but it cannot be considered while another question is before the assembly. It must be made, excepting when the vote is by ballot, by a member who voted with the prevailing side; for instance, in case a motion fails to pass for lack of a two-thirds vote, a reconsideration must be moved by one who voted against the motion.
A motion to reconsider the vote on a Subsidiary [Sec. 7] motion takes precedence of the main question. It yields to Privileged [Sec. 9]
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questions (except for the Orders of the Day), and Incidental [Sec. 8] questions.
This motion can be applied* [It is not the practice to reconsider an affirmative vote on the motion to lie on the table, as the same result can be more easily reached by the motion to take from the table. For a similar reason, an affirmative vote on the motion to take from the table cannot be reconsidered.] to every question, except to Adjourn and to Suspend the Rules. It is debatable or not, just as the question to be reconsidered is debatable or undebatable [Sec. 35]; when debatable, it opens up for discussion the entire subject to be reconsidered, and can have the Previous question [Sec. 20] applied to it without affecting any thing but the motion to reconsider. It can be laid on the table [Sec. 19], and in such cases the last motion cannot be reconsidered; it is quite common and allowable to combine these two motions (though they must be voted on separately); in this case, the reconsideration like any other question, can be taken from the table, but possesses no privilege.** [In Congress this is a common method used by the friends of a measure to prevent its reconsideration.] The motion to reconsider being laid on the table does not carry with it the pending measure. If an amendment to a motion has been either adopted or rejected, and then a vote taken on the motion as amended, it is not in order to reconsider the vote on the amendment until
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after the vote on the original motion has been reconsidered. If anything which the assembly cannot reverse, has been done as the result a vote, then that vote cannot be reconsidered.
The Effect of making this motion is to suspend all action that the original motion would have required until the reconsideration is acted upon; but if it is not called up, its effect terminates with the session [Sec. 42], provided,* [In Congress the effect always terminates with the session, and it cannot be called up by any one but the mover, until the expiration of the time during which it is in order to move a reconsideration.] that in an assembly having regular meetings as often as monthly, if no adjourned meeting upon another day is held of the one at which the reconsideration was moved, its effect shall not terminate till the close of the next succeeding session. [See note at end of this section.] While this motion is so highly privileged as far as relates to having it entered on the minutes, yet the reconsideration of another question cannot be made to interfere with the discussion of a question before the assembly, but as soon as that subject is disposed of, the reconsideration, if called up, takes precedence of every thing except the motions to adjourn, and to fix the time to which to adjourn. As long as its effect lasts (as shown above), any one can call up the motion to reconsider and have it acted upon—excepting that when its effect extends beyond the meeting at which the motion was made, no one but the mover can call it up at that meeting. But the reconsideration of an Incidental [Sec. 8] or Subsidiary [Sec. 7]
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motion shall be immediately acted upon, as otherwise it would prevent action on the main question.
The Effect of the adoption of this motion is to place before the assembly the original question in the exact position it occupied before it was voted upon; consequently no one can debate the question reconsidered who had previously exhausted his right of debate [Sec. 34] on that question; his only resource is to discuss the question while the motion to reconsider is before the assembly.
When a vote taken under the operation of the previous question [Sec. 20] is reconsidered, the question is then divested of the previous question, and is open to debate and amendment, provided the previous question had been exhausted [see latter part of Sec. 20] by votes taken on all the questions covered by it, before the motion to reconsider was made.
A reconsideration requires only a majority vote, regardless of the vote necessary to adopt the motion reconsidered. [For reconsidering in committee see Sec. 28].
Note On Reconsider.—In the English Parliament a vote once taken cannot be reconsidered, but in our Congress it is allowed to move a reconsideration of the vote on the same or succeeding day, and after the close of the last day for making the motion, any one can call up the motion to reconsider, so that this motion cannot delay action more than two days, and the effect
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of the motion, if not acted upon, terminates with the session. There seems to be no reason or good precedent for permitting merely two persons, by moving a reconsideration, to suspend for any length of time all action under resolutions adopted by the assembly, and yet where the delay is very short the advantages of reconsideration overbalance the evils.
Where a permanent society has meetings weekly or monthly, and usually only a small proportion of the society is present, it seems best to allow a reconsideration to hold over to another meeting, so that the society may have notice of what action is about to be taken. To prevent the motion being used to defeat a measure that cannot be deferred till the next regular meeting, it is provided that in case the society adjourn, to meet the next day for instance, then the reconsideration will not hold over beyond that session; this allows sufficient delay to notify the society, while, if the question is one requiring immediate action, the delay cannot extend beyond the day to which they adjourn. Where the meetings are only quarterly or annual, the society should be properly represented at each meeting, and their best interests are subserved by following the practice of Congress, and letting the effect of the reconsideration terminate with the session.
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Art. IV. Committees and Informal Action. [Sec.Sec. 28-33.]
28. Committees. It is usual in deliberative assemblies, to have all preliminary work in the preparation of matter for their action, done by means of committees. These may be either "standing committees" (which are appointed for the session [Sec. 42], or for some definite time, as one year); or "select committees," appointed for a special purpose; or a "committee of the whole" [Sec. 32], consisting of the entire assembly. [For method of appointing committees of the whole, see Sec. 32; other committees, see commit, Sec. 22.] The first person named on a committee is chairman, and should act as such, without the committee should see fit to elect another chairman, which they are competent to do. The clerk should furnish him, or some other member of the committee, with notice of the appointment of the committee, giving the names
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of the members, the matter referred to them, and such instructions as the assembly have decided upon. The chairman shall call the committee together, and if there is a quorum (a majority of the committee, see Sec. 43,) he should read or have read, the entire resolutions referred to them; he should then read each paragraph, and pause for amendments to be offered; when the amendments to that paragraph are voted on he proceeds to the next, only taking votes on amendments, as the committee cannot vote on the adoption of matter referred to them by the assembly.
If the committee originate the resolutions, they vote, in the same way, on amendments to each paragraph of the draft of the resolutions, (which draft has been previously prepared by one of their members or a sub-committee); they do not vote on the separate paragraphs, but having completed the amendments, they vote on the adoption of the entire report. When there is a preamble, it is considered last. If the report originates with the committee, all amendments are to be incorporated in the report; but, if the resolutions were referred, the committee cannot alter
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the text, but must submit the original paper intact, with their amendments (which may be in the form of a substitute, Sec. 23) written on a separate sheet.
A committee is a miniature assembly that must meet together in order to transact business, and usually one of its members should be appointed its clerk. Whatever is not agreed to by the majority of the members present at a meeting (at which a quorum, consisting of a majority of the members of the committee, shall be present) cannot form a part of its report. The minority may be permitted to submit their views in writing also, either together, or each member separately, but their reports can only be acted upon, by voting to substitute one of them for the report of the committee. The rules of the assembly, as far as possible, shall apply in committee; but a reconsideration [Sec. 27] of a vote shall be allowed, regardless of the time elapsed, only when every member who voted with the majority is present when the reconsideration is moved.* [Both the English common parliamentary law and the rules of Congress prohibit the reconsideration of a vote by a committee; but the strict enforcement of this rule in ordinary committees, would interfere with rather than assist the transaction of business. The rule given above seems more just, and more in accordance with the practice of ordinary committees, who usually reconsider at pleasure. No improper advantage can be taken of the privilege, as long as every member who voted with the majority must be present when the reconsideration is moved.] A committee (except a committee
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of the whole, Sec. 32] may appoint a sub-committee. When through with the business assigned them, a motion is made for the committee to "rise" (which is equivalent to the motion to adjourn), and that the chairman (or some member who is more familiar with the subject) make its report to the assembly. The committee ceases to exist as soon as the assembly receives the report [Sec. 30].
The committee has no power to punish its members for disorderly conduct, its resource being to report the facts to the assembly. No allusion can be made in the assembly to what has occurred in committee, except it be by a report of the committee, or by general consent. It is the duty of a committee to meet on the call of any two its of members, if the chairman be absent or decline to appoint such meeting. When a committee adjourns without appointing a time for the next meeting, it is called together in the same way as at its first meeting. When a committee adjourns to meet at another time, it is not necessary (though
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usually advisable) that absent members should be notified of the adjourned meeting.
29. Forms of Reports of Committees. The form of a report is usually similar to the following:
A standing committee reports thus: "The committee on [insert name of committee] respectfully report," [or "beg leave to report," or "beg leave to submit the following report,"] etc., letting the report follow.
A select or special committee reports as follows: "The committee to which was referred [state the matter referred] having considered the same respectfully report," etc. Or for "The committee" is sometimes written "Your committee," or "The undersigned, a committee."
When a minority report is submitted, it should be in this form (the majority reporting as above): "The undersigned, a minority of a committee to which was referred," etc. The majority report is the report of the committee, and should never be made out as the report of the majority.
All reports conclude with, "All of which is
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respectfully submitted." They are sometimes signed only by the chairman of the committee, but if the matter is of much importance, it is better that the report be signed by every member who concurs. The report is not usually dated, or addressed, but can he headed, as for example, "Report of the Finance Committee of the Y. P. A., on Renting a Hall."
30. Reception of Reports. When the report of a committee is to be made, the chairman (or member appointed to make the report) informs the assembly that the committee to whom was referred such a subject or paper, has directed him to make a report thereon, or report it with or without amendment, as the case may be; either he or any other member may move that it be "received"* [A very common error is, after a report has been read, to move that it be received; whereas, the fact that it has been read, shows that it has been already received by the assembly. Another mistake, less common, but dangerous, is to vote that the report be accepted (which is equivalent to adopting it, see Sec. 31), when the intention is only to have the report up for consideration and afterwards move its adoption. Still a third error is to move that "the report be adopted and the committee discharged," when the committee have reported in full and their report been received, so that the committee has already ceased to exist. If the committee however have made but a partial report, or report progress, then it is in order to move that the committee be discharged from the further consideration of the subject.] now or at some other specified time.
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Usually the formality of a vote on the reception of a report of a committee is dispensed with, the time being settled by general consent. Should any one object, a formal motion becomes necessary. When the time arrives for the assembly to receive the report, the chairman of the committee reads it in his place, and then delivers it to the clerk, when it lies on the table till the assembly sees fit to consider it. If the report consists of a paper with amendments, the chairman of the committee reads the amendments with the coherence in the paper, explaining the alterations and reasons of the committee for the amendments, till he has gone through the whole. If the report is very long, it is not usually read until the assembly is ready to consider it [see Sec.Sec. 31 and 44].
When the report has been received, whether it has been read or not, the committee is thereby dissolved, and can act no more without it is revived by a vote to recommit. If the report is recommitted, all the parts of the report that have not been agreed to by the assembly, are ignored by the committee as if the report had never been made.
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31. Adoption of Reports. When the assembly is to consider a report, a motion should be made to "adopt," "accept," or "agree to" the report, all of which, when carried, have the same effect, namely, to make the doings of the committee become the acts of the assembly, the same as if done by the assembly without the intervention of a committee. If the report contains merely a statement of opinion or facts, the motion should be to "accept" the report; if it also concludes with resolutions or certain propositions, the motion should be to "agree to" the resolutions, or to "adopt" the propositions. After the above motion is made, the matter stands before the assembly exactly the same as if there had been no committee, and the subject had been introduced by the motion of the member who made the report. [See Sec. 34 for his privileges in debate, and Sec. 44 for the method of treating a report containing several propositions, when being considered by the assembly.]
32. Committee of the Whole. When an assembly has to consider a subject which it does not wish to refer to a committee, and yet where the subject matter is not well digested
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and put into proper form for its definite action, or, when for any other reason, it is desirable for the assembly to consider a subject with all the freedom of an ordinary committee, it is the practice to refer the matter to the "Committee of the Whole."* [In large assemblies, such as the U. S. House of Representatives, where a member can speak to any question but once, the committee of the whole seems almost a necessity, as it allows the freest discussion of a subject, while at any time it can rise and thus bring into force the strict rules of the assembly.]
If it is desired to consider the question at once, the motion is made, "That the assembly do now resolve itself into a committee of the whole to take under consideration," etc., specifying the subject. This is really a motion to "commit" [see Sec. 22 for its order of precedence, etc.] If adopted, the Chairman immediately calls another member to the chair, and takes his place as a member of the committee. The committee is under the rules of the assembly, excepting as stated hereafter in this section.
The only motions in order are to amend and adopt, and that the committee "rise and report," as it cannot adjourn; nor can it order the "yeas and nays" [Sec. 38]. The only way to close or limit debate in committee of the whole, is for the assembly to vote that the debate in committee shall cease at a certain time, or that after a certain time no debate shall be allowed excepting on new amendments, and then only one speech in favor of
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and one against it, of say, five minutes each; or in some other way regulate the time for debate.* [In Congress no motion to limit debate in committee of the whole is in order till after the subject has been already considered in committee of the whole. As no subject would probably be considered more than once in committee of the whole, in an ordinary society, the enforcement of this rule would practically prevent such a society from putting any limit to debate in the committee. The rule as given above, allows the society, whenever resolving itself into committee of the whole, to impose upon the debate in the committee, such restrictions as are allowed in Congress after the subject has already been considered in committee of the whole.]
If no limit is prescribed, any member may speak as often as he can get the floor, and as long each time as allowed in debate in the assembly, provided no one wishes the floor who has not spoken on that particular question. Debate having been closed at a particular time by order of the assembly, it is not competent for the committee, even by unanimous consent, to extend the time. The committee cannot refer the subject to another committee. Like other committees [Sec. 28], it cannot alter the text of any resolution referred to it; but if the resolution originated in the committee, then all the amendments are incorporated in it.
When it is through with the consideration of the subject referred to it, or if it wishes to adjourn, or to have the assembly limit debate, a motion is made that "the committee rise and report," etc., specifying the result of its proceedings.
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This motion "to rise" is equivalent to the motion to adjourn, in the assembly, and is always in order (except when another member has the floor), and is undebatable. As soon as this motion is adopted, the presiding officer takes the chair, and the chairman of the committee, having resumed his place in the assembly, arises and informs him, that "the committee have gone through the business referred to them, and that he is ready to make the report, when the assembly is ready to receive it;" or he will make such other report as will suit the case.
The clerk does not record the proceedings of the committee on the minutes, but should keep a memorandum of the proceedings for the use of the committee. In large assemblies the clerk vacates his chair, which is occupied by the chairman of the committee, and the assistant clerk acts as clerk of the committee. Should the committee get disorderly, and the chairman be unable to preserve order, the presiding officer can take the chair, and declare the committee dissolved. The quorum of the committee of the whole is the same as that of the assembly [Sec. 43]. If the committee finds itself without a quorum, it can only rise and report the fact to the assembly, which in such a case would have to adjourn.
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33. Informal Consideration of a Question (or acting as if in committee of the whole).
It has become customary in many assemblies, instead of going into committee of the whole, to consider the question "informally," and afterwards to act "formally." In a small assembly there is no objection to this.* [In the U. S. Senate all bills, joint resolutions and treaties, upon their second reading are considered "as if the Senate were in committee of the whole," which is equivalent to considering them informally. [U. S. Senate Rules 28 and 38.] In large assemblies it is better to follow the practice of the House of Representatives, and go into committee of the whole.] While acting informally upon any resolutions, the assembly can only amend and adopt them, and without further motion the Chairman announces that "the assembly acting informally [or as in committee of the whole] has had such a subject under consideration, and has made certain amendments, which he will report." The subject comes before the assembly then as if reported by a committee. While acting informally, the Chairman retains his seat, as it is not necessary to move that the committee rise, but at any time the adoption of such motions as to adjourn, the previous question, to commit, or any motion except to amend or adopt, puts an end to the informal consideration; as for example, the motion to commit is equivalent to the following motions when in committee of the whole: (1) That the committee rise; (2) that the committee of
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the whole be discharged from the further consideration of the subject, and (3) that it be referred to a committee.
While acting informally, every member can speak as many times as he pleases, and as long each time as permitted in the assembly [Sec. 34], and the informal action may be rejected or altered by the assembly. While the clerk should keep a memorandum of the informal proceedings, it should not be entered on the minutes, being only for temporary use. The Chairman's report to the assembly of the informal action, should be entered on the minutes, as it belongs to the assembly's proceedings.
Art. V. Debate and Decorum.
34. Debate.* [In connection with this section read Sec.Sec. 1-5.] When a motion is made and seconded, it shall be stated by the Chairman before being debated [see Sec. 3]. When any member is about to speak in debate, he shall rise and respectfully address himself to "Mr. Chairman." ["Mr. President" is used where that is the designated title of the presiding
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officer; "Brother Moderator" is more common in religious meetings.] The Chairman shall then announce his name [see Sec. 2]. By parliamentary courtesy, the member upon whose motion a subject is brought before the assembly is first entitled to the floor, even though another member has risen first and addressed the Chair; [in case of a report of a committee, it is the member who presents the report] ; and this member is also entitled to close the debate, but not until every member choosing to speak, has spoken. This right to make the last speech upon the question, is not taken away by the Previous Question [Sec. 20] being ordered, or in any other way. With this exception, no member shall speak more than twice to the same question (only once to a question of order, Sec. 14), nor longer than ten minutes at one time, without leave of the assembly, and the question upon granting the leave shall be decided by a majority vote without debate.* [The limit in time should vary to suit circumstances, but the limit of two speeches of ten minutes each will usually answer in ordinary assemblies, and it can be increased, when desirable, by a majority vote as shown above, or diminished as shown in Sec. 37. In the U. S. House of Representatives no member can speak more than once to the same question, nor longer than one hour. The fourth rule of the Senate is as follows: "No Senator shall speak more than twice in any one debate on the same day, without leave of the Senate, which question shall be decided without debate." If no rule is adopted, each member can speak but once to the same question.]
If greater freedom is desired, the
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proper course is to refer the subject to the committee of the whole [Sec. 32], or to consider it informally [Sec. 33]. [For limiting or closing the debate, see Sec. 37.] No member can speak the second time to a question, until every member choosing to speak has spoken. But an amendment, or any other motion being offered, makes the real question before the assembly a different one, and, in regard to the right to debate, is treated as a new question. Merely asking a question, or making a suggestion, is not considered as speaking.
35. Undebatable Questions. The following questions shall be decided without debate, all others being debatable [see note at end of this section]:
To Fix the Time to which the Assembly shall Adjourn (when a privileged question, Sec. 10). To Adjourn [Sec. 11], (or in committee, to rise, which is used instead of to adjourn). For the Orders of the Day [Sec. 13], and questions relating to the priority of business. An Appeal [Sec. 14] when made while the Previous Question is pending, or when simply relating to indecorum or transgressions of the rules of speaking, or to the priority of business. Objection to the Consideration of a Question [Sec. 15].
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Questions relating to Reading of Papers [Sec. 16], or Withdrawing a Motion [Sec. 17], or Suspending the Rules [Sec. 18], or extending the limits of debate [Sec. 34], or limiting or closing debate, or granting leave to continue his speech to one who has been guilty of indecorum in debate [Sec. 36]. To Lie on the Table or to Take from the Table [Sec. 19]. The Previous Question [Sec. 20]. To Reconsider [Sec. 26] a question which is itself undebatable.
The motion to Postpone to a certain time [Sec. 21] allows of but very limited debate, which must be confined to the propriety of the postponement; but to Reconsider a debatable question [Sec. 26], or to Commit [Sec. 22], or Indefinitely Postpone [Sec. 24], opens the main question [Sec. 6] to debate. To Amend [Sec. 23] opens the main question to debate only so far as it is necessarily involved in the amendment.
The distinction between debate and making suggestions or asking a question, should always be kept in view, and when the latter will assist the assembly in determining the question, is allowed to a limited extent, even though the question before the assembly is undebatable.
Note On Undebatable Questions.—The English common parliamentary law makes all motions
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debatable, without there is a rule adopted limiting debate [Cushing's Manual, Sec. 330]; but every assembly is obliged to restrict debate upon certain motions. The restrictions to debate prescribed in this section conform to the practice of Congress, where, however, it is very common to allow of brief remarks upon the most undebatable questions, sometimes five or six members speaking; this of course is allowed only when no one objects.
By examining the above list, it will be found, that, while free debate is allowed upon every principal question [Sec. 6], it is permitted or prohibited upon other questions in accordance with the following principles: