Reed's Parliamentary Rules
Reed's Parliamentary Rules
Chapter IX -- Conduct of Business, Continued
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Having thus described the method by which an assembly may dispose of the main question in various stages of its progress, and lay it aside permanently or temporarily, it remains to show how the assembly can modify and discuss the question.

129. Method of Procedure in Ordinary Cases.— In the assembly the proposition, or main question, should be first read, in order that the members may understand the question as a whole. It is then read a second time, when it is open to amendment and debate in all its parts. Unless otherwise ordered, an amendment can be offered to any part of the proposition, and after that is disposed of, to any other part, whether previous or subsequent. (But see Sec. 130.)

130. Method of Procedure by Paragraphs or Sections.— When the main question is in paragraphs or sections, the second reading is by paragraphs or sections for amendment, and each paragraph is amended in its turn; and it is not permissible, except by general consent, to recur to a paragraph already passed. The main question may be debated on the first reading as a whole, and then the second reading can be had for amendments.

Where the main question is prefaced by a preamble, the preamble is passed upon last, because, giving as it does the motives of action, it can not be properly worded until the action is determined upon.

131. Amendment—Object.— The object of an amendment is to so change the main proposition that it may more nearly conform to the judgment of the assembly. Were it not for the right to amend, the assembly would be obliged to take one of two courses, either of which might not express its convictions. To accept a proposition which was not wholly satisfactory, or to reject one which in many respects was suitable, was a hard alternative; yet this alternative was the one presented to the Corps Legislatif of France under the first Consulate. With no right to originate a proposition, and no right to amend it, the Corps Legislatif hardly seemed a deliberative body.

In all modern assemblies the right to originate and the right to amend are undisputed.

132. Amendment, Method of.— Amendment can be made in three ways: First, by inserting words; second, by striking out words; third, by striking out words and inserting others. (See Sec. 140, last paragraph.)

133. Amendment to the Amendment.— In case the amendment offered, while satisfactory in its design does not in the opinion of a member exactly meet the case, he is at liberty to propose an amendment to the amendment. Here, however, the process must end, for there must somewhere be a limit or confusion would ensue. The general judgment of assemblies has settled upon the limitation of amendments to the second degree. If the amendment to the amendment is not satisfactory to the assembly it can be voted down, and then a new amendment to the amendment will be in order, which in its turn can be rejected, and so on until the assembly is satisfied. (See Sec. 149.)

134. Amendment—One only at a Time.— When an amendment is pending all other amendments must be confined to that. Two amendments to different parts of the proposition can not be pending at the same time. The one originally pending must be disposed of before another can be entertained. It would not be in order, for instance, pending an amendment to one part of the proposition to entertain another relating to another part. One thing at a time is a most rigorous necessity for all successful parliamentary procedure.

135. Amendment by Insertion of Words.— This is the simplest form of amendment, and presents no difficulties. The motion should state the words to be inserted and the place of insertion. The description of the place where they are to be inserted should be definite, describing the words in the original proposition after which are to be placed the amendatory words. If no amendment to the amendment is offered, and no one rises to debate, the question is then put by the Chair in this way: “It is moved to insert the following words (reading them) in this place (describing it), and the question is, Will the assembly agree to the amendment?"

136. Amendment by Inserting—Effect of Action.— If the amendment is decided in the negative, it can not be repeated, although it may be again proposed to insert the same words with others, or a part of the same words with others, provided a substantially new proposition be thereby presented. Part of the same words can not be again proposed to be inserted, not only because the assembly has decided against it, but because that object might have been attained by an amendment to the amendment, and since it was not so attained the assembly is presumed to have decided against it specifically. If the amendment is decided in the affirmative, then the words inserted can not any of them be stricken out, except with other words, and then only when, with other words, they constitute a new proposition. These limitations rest upon the idea that when an assembly has come to a conclusion, that conclusion is not to be questioned. Otherwise nothing would stay done.

137. Amendment by Striking Out.— This amendment also is simple. The motion should state the words proposed to be stricken out, and their position in the original proposition. If no amendment to the amendment be offered, and no debate proposed, the question is then put by the Chair: “It is moved that the following words (stating them) in such a place (describing it) be stricken out, and the question is, Will the assembly agree to the amendment?"

138. Amendment by Striking Out, Continued—Effect of Action.— If the amendment to strike out be decided in the negative, it can not be renewed as to the whole or a part of the words. A negative vote is a decision on the part of the assembly that the words proposed to be stricken out shall stand part of the main question. It may, however, be proposed that these words with others, or a part of these words with others, be stricken out, provided the words newly proposed to be stricken out constitute substantially a new proposition different from the one already decided. In like manner if a motion to strike out a paragraph be lost, the paragraph can not be amended. Hence all motions to amend a paragraph should be put before the motion to strike out is put.

139. Amendment by Striking Out—Effect of Action—Continued.— If the amendment to strike out be decided in the affirmative, then the words stricken out definitely cease to be a part of the main question and can not be reinstated in whole or in part; but the same words with others, or a part of the same words with others, may be inserted, provided they constitute substantially a new proposition. In the United States House of Representatives, by Rule XVI, a motion to strike out being lost does not preclude amendment of words proposed to be stricken out. Under that rule it is as if no such motion had been made.

140. Amendment by Striking Out and Inserting.— The amendment by striking out and inserting is a combination of both the forms of amendment already described. It consists of a proposition to strike out certain words in the main question or pending question and to insert certain other words. It is in most cases the substitution of one set of words for another. It therefore embodies in itself all the results of both the first two forms of amendment combined. The words proposed to be inserted need not be inserted in the same place as the words stricken out; they may be inserted in different parts of the paragraph.

Amendment by way of substitute is a short and informal method of striking out and inserting usually applied to whole paragraphs or bills, and is made by offering a new paragraph or bill as a substitute for the old, and upon adoption the old paragraph or bill is stricken out and the new one inserted.

141. Motion to Strike Out and Insert Indivisible.— The earlier authorities left it in doubt whether this double motion could be divided or not; but the modern practice is to regard the motion as indivisible. The rules of the House of Representatives declare the motion to be indivisible, and the practice of the country has conformed to this rule. The practical results have justified the change. A division of the question leads in many cases to great confusion.

142. Motion to Strike Out and Insert—Effect of Negative Action.— If the motion to strike out and insert be decided in the negative it can not be renewed in the same terms; but inasmuch as it is a combination of the motion to strike out and the motion to insert, the negative result does not prevent a great variety of subsequent motions to strike out and insert, or to strike out or to insert, some of which are as follows:

1st. To strike out the same words and insert nothing.

2d. To strike out the same words and insert other words.

3d. To strike out the same words and insert part of the proposed words.

4th. To strike out the same words with others and insert the proposed words.

5th.To strike out the same words with others and insert part of the proposed words.

6th. To strike out part of the same words and insert the proposed words or part of them.

7th. To strike out part of the same words and insert other words.

8th. To strike out nothing, but insert the same words proposed.

Still other varieties may be suggested, but those named may give an idea of the others. Of course each one of these motions must involve a substantially new proposition.

143. Motion to Strike Out and Insert—Effect of Affirmative Action.— If the motion to strike out and insert prevails, then the words inserted, or any of them, can not be stricken out.

This, however, does not preclude the insertion of the same with other words, or a part of the same words with others, or to strike out the same words with others, or part of the same words with others. To state this in another form, the prevalence of the motion to strike out and insert does not prevent further use of the motion to strike out and the motion to insert, but the decision of the assembly already made must not be overthrown, though it may be modified.

144. Motion to Strike Out and Insert, etc., Which Relates to Whole Paragraphs.— What has been said above applies only to a motion to strike out certain words of a paragraph and substitute others therefor. Sometimes a motion is made to strike out a paragraph, or to insert a paragraph, or to strike out one paragraph and substitute another. As these motions apply to the whole paragraph, leaving no words remaining on which any remedial amendment could be ingrafted, it is evident that in such cases a new principle must come in. Otherwise the following would be the result: A motion to strike out being carried, the paragraph and every part of it would be definitively out; being defeated, the paragraph would be unalterably in. So if a motion to strike out a paragraph and insert another were made, and carried, the one would be out irrevocably and the other would be in unchangeable. In this case the assembly would have a choice between two paragraphs neither of which would be fully acceptable. It is true that by the use of the amendment to the amendment the result desired by the assembly might possibly be arrived at, but the process would be too complicated for an assembly, and hence the rules hitherto laid down are modified as to amendments striking out and inserting whole paragraphs. The modification is that where a motion is made to strike out a paragraph the friends of the paragraph have a right to perfect it by amendment before the motion to strike out is put. Whenever a motion to strike out a paragraph and insert another is made, the friends of each paragraph have a right to amend so as to make it acceptable, beginning with the paragraph proposed to be stricken out. It will be seen that this renders the motion to strike out and insert the equivalent of the amendment called a substitute. After the friends of both paragraphs have had an opportunity, with the assistance of the whole assembly, to perfect them, then the vote is taken as between the two in their perfected form.

145. Methods of Striking Out and Inserting in the United States House of Representatives.— Under the rules of the United States House of Representatives an amendment and an amendment to the amendment may be pending, and also a further amendment by way of a substitute, to which one amendment may be offered, but which shall not be voted on until the original matter is perfected. Accordingly in the House the custom is not to move to strike out a paragraph, section, or bill and insert another, but to offer a substitute. The original is then perfected, and after that the substitute, and then the House decides which it will have. If it desires neither, it votes against the substitute, and then on a motion to strike out it decides against the original paragraph.

146. Practical Suggestion.— If the assembly before which is pending a substitute or a motion to strike out and insert desires to decide against both propositions, against both the paragraph as it stands and the proposed amendment, it should decide in the negative as to the substitute or in the negative as to the motion to strike out and insert, and then on a new motion strike out the paragraph.

147. Amendment by Striking Out a Paragraph or Inserting a Paragraph.— Whenever a motion to strike out a paragraph is pending, it is in order for the assembly to amend the paragraph, its friends being entitled to perfect it before the vote on striking it out is taken. This is because if the motion to strike out is negatived, it is equivalent to an adoption of the words of the paragraph by the assembly, and it can not then be modified. Hence it must be amended before the vote on striking out, if at all.

For a similar reason the assembly may modify a paragraph proposed to be inserted pending the motion to insert, because when the motion to insert has prevailed the paragraph inserted becomes the decision of the assembly. Hence it must be modified before the insertion, as it can not be amended after.

148. The English System of Putting Questions of Amendment.— Although some books of rules give the English form of putting the question on amendments, it really had very little prevalence here at any time. Our habit in most things is to go directly to the point, and hence our presiding officers put the question that the words be inserted or stricken out, or that certain words be stricken out and other words inserted, that being the direct question to be acted on. Or they say what is equivalent, the amendment having been repeated, “The question is on agreeing to the amendment.”

The English method of putting the two motions to strike out and to strike out and insert is worth knowing, from the light it throws on the effect of action on the motions. In England the question is not put that the words be stricken out, but that the words proposed to be stricken out “do stand part of the question.” This reverses the motion, and an affirmative decision fixes the words in their place, while a negative decision strikes them out. The motion to strike out and insert is put in still more cumbersome fashion. It is first put, “Shall the words proposed to be stricken out stand part of the question?” If decided in the affirmative, then of course the rest of the question is not put. If in the negative, then the rest of the amendment may be put, or amended and then put. With this way of putting the question one may see a little more clearly that our vote not to strike out, being the same as the English vote that the words proposed shall “stand,” precludes any change in the words thus adopted by the assembly, for by not striking them out we have ordered them to “stand.”

149. Amendment to Amendments. (See Sec. 133.)— Amendments to amendments are the same in character and classification as original amendments, and are divided into the same three classes and governed by the same rules. After it has been voted on, an amendment ceases to exist as a pending amendment, and another may be presented until the assembly is satisfied that all needed modifications have been made.

150. Amendment—Modification by the Mover.— After the proposition has once been stated to the assembly by the presiding officer it is in the possession of the assembly, and can not be withdrawn except by the consent of the assembly. Hence it follows that the mover has no further control over its terms. He can not modify it himself or assent in any way that will bind the assembly to its modification by any other member.

Nevertheless, nothing is more common than a modification made by the mover or the acceptance by him of an amendment made by another, but all this must be understood to be done with the consent of the assembly, and can be prevented by the objection of any member. Thereupon the change can be made by the orderly process of amendment, as already described.

151. Amendment—Division of the Question.— When the main question is composed of more than one distinct proposition, it may be divided so as to enable the assembly to vote on each proposition separately, but each proposition into which it is proposed to separate the question must be distinct and capable of standing by itself as a substantive proposition, so that either can be adopted alone without the other or others and still be an intelligible expression of the opinion of the assembly. A division between a clause and its proviso could not be had, for instance, because the proviso standing alone would mean nothing.

152. Division, continued—Who May Demand It.— A division can not be demanded as of right by any member. It must be made pursuant to a motion stating precisely the division asked for, which motion can be amended. The presiding officer can decide, subject to an appeal to the assembly, that the division proposed can not be made. Otherwise it is submitted to the assembly and decided by it. In the House of Representatives under the rules any member may demand a division of the question.

153. Division of Question Refused—Method of Reaching the Same Result.— If the assembly refuses to divide the question, then the question may be amended by propositions to strike out or by a substitute, so as to accomplish the same purpose. For example, if the main question consists of two distinct propositions, and is divided, and one adopted and the other rejected, it is the same as if a motion to strike out the rejected proposition had been carried and then the main question thus amended had been adopted.

154. Amendment—Filling of Blanks.— Sometimes a measure is presented to an assembly with blanks for dates and amounts. In that case, when it is proposed to fill the blanks, the propositions, if there be more than one, are not treated as amendments, but are marshaled in such order that the largest sum or the longest time is put first, and then if this proposal be rejected, the next largest sum or longest time is put, and so on until the blank is filled. If the proposition to fill a blank were treated as an amendment, the first come would be the first served, but the assembly would in many cases by deprived of the proper opportunity to express its real sentiments. If, for example, it were proposed to put in various sums ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, and an amendment for $3,000 were put first, those who desired to have $5,000 appropriated might not dare to vote against $3,000 for fear that they might get less. But by putting the question first on the largest sum and then on the others, the assembly stops where a majority of the voices agree.

See, however, Jefferson's Manual, Sec. 29, for a distinction which does not seem now in use. In the House of Representatives a motion to fill a blank is treated like any other amendment.

155. Other Methods of Amendment.— It often happens that the main question, in the form of a bill with sections or a report with paragraphs, is presented in crude shape, so as to require transposition, consolidation, or revision. The most satisfactory way to dispose of such a main question is to refer it to a committee, with or without instructions, but if that be inconvenient, various expedients may be resorted to. Two sections which ought to be one may be consolidated by striking out one and then inserting it in the other, or adding it thereto, by separate motions. If a paragraph or section is misplaced it can be stricken out, and when the proper place for it is reached it may be inserted. So if a section or paragraph would be better if divided, part may be stricken out and inserted as a new paragraph or section. Such changes as these, however, are generally made by common consent on suggestion. Where such alterations are made involving alterations of the numbering of sections, the changes of the numbers are made by the Clerk, and need no motion.

156. Amendment by Striking Out All after Enacting Clause and Substituting a New Bill.— This form of amendment is much in use in legislative assemblies. After the bill has been perfected by amendments, either by the assembly or by the Committee of the Whole, then the member in charge of the bill, or some other member having the floor for that purpose, moves to strike out all after the enacting clause and substitute another bill on the same subject. This is the motion to strike out and insert applied to the whole bill.

157. Amendment by Striking Out the Enacting Clause.— This amendment, also in use in legislative assemblies, being one which would leave the bill without the words which give it life and make it a law, has for its result when adopted the complete defeat of the bill. The Morrison Tariff Bill in the Forty-ninth Congress was defeated by striking out the enacting clause, first in Committee of the Whole and afterward in the House. This amendment is not in order until the bill has been gone through by sections. In other words, pending the motion to strike out the enacting clause, motions to amend so as to perfect the text have preference. By special rule in the House of Representatives, however, striking out the enacting clause takes precedence of amendments.

158. Method of Stating Amendments to the Assembly.— In ordinary cases the presiding officer states the question as it is written out by the mover, but at the request of any member, or on his own suggestion, if he deems it needful to enable the assembly to comprehend the action proposed, he reads, or causes to be read, first, the paragraph or section proposed to be amended as it stands; second the motion to amend, and finally the paragraph or sentence as it will stand if amended.

159. Limitation as to Amendments.— In theory, amendments are made to perfect the main question, and to enable it to obtain the vote of the assembly, but if the assembly is opposed to the question it is not confined to a direct negative. It may oppose it in various ways. Hence the enemies of the proposition may present such amendments as will render it obnoxious to the assembly and cause its rejection. They may also change and reverse its purpose, make praise out of censure, condemn instead of approve, or otherwise alter the meaning. Hence it often happens that the proposer of a measure does not get off with a simple defeat. Sometimes his own weapon is turned on him, and he has to vote against his own motion, which has been so changed as no longer to express his will. These amendments, however, are often made so as to relieve the assembly from awkwardness of voting either for or against a proposition. As an example of the kind of amendments permitted, May (page 285, eighth edition) gives a proceeding in the House of Commons, in 1802, where the minority moved an address of thanks to the king for having removed Mr. Pitt. Whereupon the majority struck out all the words after the first, and substituted an eulogium of Mr. Pitt's policy. In another case, given by Professor Mell in his excellent book on Parliamentary Law, it was proposed by a religious convention to indorse a newspaper in a State. A very malapropos amendment, adding the name of a newspaper in another State, was offered. The assembly did not desire to be offensive to the newspaper in the other State, and so, instead of voting it down, added “all other religious newspapers,” and the amendment thus amended was negatived unanimously, and the disagreeable incident closed.

But while an amendment can not be ruled out because it changes the object of the proposition, yet it is not admissible when it merely changes the affirmative. The insertion of the word “not” or the striking it out is not a proper amendment, since it does not change the question, but merely reverses the vote. It would require two votes where one would accomplish the object.

160. Amendments Must Be Germane.— Notwithstanding what has been said as to the wide range which amendments may take, yet there is a limitation. They must be germane or relevant to the subject matter of the original proposition. It is impossible to lay down any precise rule upon this subject, and much depends on the good sense of the presiding officer. A rule of the House of Representatives is declaratory of the general parliamentary law, and expresses it in these words, “No motion or proposition on a subject different from that under consideration shall be admitted under color of amendment.”

161. Incompatibility or Inconsistency.— An amendment may be inconsistent or incompatible with the words left in the bill, or with other amendments already adopted, but that is for the assembly to decide, and not for the presiding officer. For him to pass upon such a question would be very embarrassing to the assembly, and still more so to him. So, also, the question of constitutionality is not for him to decide. Incompatibility, inconsistency, and unconstitutionality are matters of argument.