Reed's Parliamentary Rules
Reed's Parliamentary Rules
Chapter XI -- Recapitulation and Classification of Motions
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In order that a clearer idea may be had of the possible proceedings of a deliberative assembly, the motions will be set forth together, properly divided and the order prescribed.

196. First—The Main Question.— The main question is the subject of deliberation, which may be introduced by a member, or by the report of a committee, or may come from another branch of the legislature or convocation, or from another branch of the Government.

197. Second—Subsidiary Motions.— Subsidiary motions are those which directly concern the main question, and relate to the progress of that particular piece of business. They are of different rank, by which it is meant that some have precedence over the others. In the enumerations which follow they are stated in order of precedence. Those of superior rank precede those of inferior rank; those of the same rank have no precedence over each other.

        First Rank.— Question of consideration; not amendable and not debatable; applicable only to the main question.

        Second Rank.— Motion to lay on the table; not amendable and not debatable.

        Third Rank.— Motion to postpone to a day certain; amendable and debatable.
                Motion for the previous question; not amendable and not debatable.
                Motion for indefinite postponement; not amendable; not only debatable as to itself, but opens up the debate on the main question.
                Motion to commit; debatable and amendable.
                All motions of the third rank are of equal right, and when one is pending it must be disposed of before another can be moved.

        Fourth Rank.— Motion to amend; amendable and debatable.

198. Privileged Questions.— Privileged questions are those which arise out of the needs of the assembly as a deliberative body. They have precedence over the main question, and over all subsidiary questions, because they concern the whole body and are essential to its needs.

        First, to adjourn.

        Second, to fix the time to which to adjourn. (See Secs. 171-174 as to precedence.)

        Third, to take a recess.

        Fourth, a question of privilege concerning the assembly.

        Fifth, a question of privilege concerning the individual members.

In a general way, it may be said that these questions have rank in the order named; that is, each is entitled to be put before the other in the above order. But this statement is subject to exceptions, which have been already explained. (See Secs. 168-171.)

199. Incidental Questions.— Incidental questions are those which arise out of the needs of the orderly conduct of such business as comes before the assembly, whether it relates to the main question or to the privileged questions. They are:
        First, questions of order.
        Second, reading of papers.
        Third, withdrawal of a motion.
        Fourth, suspension of a rule.
        Fifth, division of the question.
        Sixth, motions as to method of consideration.

A question of order has precedence over all the others, provided it is made at once, but has no standing if the business has been entered upon, or in the case of unparliamentary language the offending member has been allowed to proceed. A point of order must be made at once or is deemed to be waived. If there be confusion, rising and endeavoring to make the point saves all rights. The other incidental motions have no precedence over each other, and each must be decided before another can be put, and before any action on the question which was pending when the incidental motion was entertained.

200. Practical Illustration of Order of Motions.— To illustrate the order of motions, we can imagine a very long series pending at the same time, as, for example:
        First, main question.
        Second, amendment.
        Third, amendment to the amendment.
        Fourth, motion for previous question.
        Fifth, point of order, as to the previous question.
        Sixth, question of privilege.
        Seventh, motion to adjourn.

Here are seven questions pending, and the question of privilege may raise many more. Many more also may come up as each question is passed upon by the assembly. These motions are all to be put in the reverse order. First, the motion to adjourn; if negatived, then, second, question of privilege (see Sec. 178); third, point of order, to be decided by the Chair subject to appeal; fourth, previous question; fifth, amendment to amendment; sixth, amendment; seventh, main question. This is the order if nothing interferes; but, to illustrate the possibility of the situation, let us add some of the things likely to happen.

After the motion to adjourn is negatived the question of privilege (2d) may of itself develop into a main question with all the motions enumerated above. Suppose all those to be finished, and the question of privilege disposed of, then the point of order (3d) may require a decision by the Chair and appeal to the assembly, with various privileged motions like adjournment. Then the previous question (4th) is voted on, and, if defeated, there may follow more amendments and more debate, and also motion to indefinitely postpone, motion for commitment, and motion for postponement to a time certain, and perhaps motion to lay on the table. If the previous question (4th) be carried, then comes the amendment to the amendment, and the amendment, and then the main question.

201. Motions in Their Relations to Debate, to Amendments, and to Each Other— Consideration.— Not debatable, not amendable. Takes precedence of all motions except points of order.

Lay on the Table.— Not debatable, not amendable. Takes precedence of all other motions except the privileged motions and motion to suspend rules. Renewable after an amendment.

Postpone to a Day Certain.— Debatable, amendable. Takes precedence of the motion to amend, but does not cut it off, and is of equal rank with motions for the previous question, to postpone indefinitely, to commit.

Postpone Indefinitely.— Not amendable. Debatable. Takes precedence of motion to amend. Is of equal rank with motions for the previous question, to postpone to a day certain, and to commit.

Previous Question.— Not debatable, not amendable. Takes precedence of the motion to amend, but does not cut it off, and is of equal rank with the motions to postpone indefinitely, to postpone to a day certain, and to commit.

To Commit.— Amendable, debatable. Has equal rank with previous question, postponement to a day certain, and indefinite postponement, and has precedence over the motion to amend.

To Amend.— Debatable, amendable. Has precedence over no other subsidiary motion. When pending, however, is not cut off by any other motion.

To Fix the Day of Adjournment.— Debatable, amendable. No precedence, except where no regular time has been fixed to which the assembly shall adjourn. In that case it has precedence over the motion to adjourn.

To Adjourn.— Not amendable, not debatable. Has precedence over all other motions. (But see Secs. 169-170.)

To Take a Recess.— Debatable and amendable, and not privileged, except where the time to resume session has been fixed, in which case it is, like the motion to adjourn, undebatable, unamendable, and highly privileged.

Questions of Privilege.— Take precedence of all others, and the action proposed becomes the main question until disposed of.

Incidental Questions.— Not debatable, not amendable, except motions relating to method of consideration and division of question, which are amendable.