Art. VI. Some Main and Unclassified Motions.
See 15 for a list of these motions.
35. To Take from the Table takes precedence of no pending question, but has the right of way in preference to main motions if made during the session in which it was laid on the table while no question is actually pending, and at a time when business of this class, or unfinished business, or new business, is in order; and also during the next session in societies having regular business meetings as frequently as quarterly. It yields to privileged  and incidental  motions, but not to subsidiary  ones. It is undebatable, and no subsidiary motion can be applied to it. It is not in order unless some business has been transacted since the question was laid on the table, nor can it be renewed until some business has been transacted since it was lost The motion to take from the table cannot be reconsidered, as it can be renewed repeatedly if lost, and, if carried, the question can be again laid on the table after progress in debate or business.
In ordinary deliberative assemblies, a question is supposed to be laid on the table only temporarily with the expectation of its consideration being resumed after the disposal of the interrupting question, or at a more convenient season.1 As soon as the question that was introduced when the first question was laid on the table, is disposed of, any one may move to take this first question from the table. When he rises to make the motion, if the chair recognizes some one else as having first risen, he should at once say that he rises to move to take a question from the table. The chair then assigns him the floor if the other member has risen to make a main motion. If the new main motion has been stated by the chair before he claims the floor, he must wait until that question is disposed of before his motion will be in order. When taken up, the question with everything adhering to it is before the assembly exactly as when it was laid on the table. Thus, if a resolution has amendments and a motion to commit pending at the time it was laid on the table, when it is taken from the table the question is first on the motion to commit. If a motion to postpone to a certain time is pending when the question is laid on the table, and it is taken from the table after that time, then the motion to postpone is ignored when the question is taken up. If the question is taken up on the day it was laid on the table, members who have exhausted their right of debate cannot again speak on the question. But if taken up on another day, no notice is taken of speeches previously made. The previous question is not exhausted if the question upon which it was ordered is taken from the table at the same session, even though it is on another day.
1. See foot note of 28. For the Congressional practice. As stated there, Congress has abandoned the ordinary parliamentary use of the motion to lay on the table and has converted it into a motion to enable the majority to kill a measure instantly. Therefore Congressional practice in regard to laying on, or taking from, the table is of no authority in assemblies using these motions in the common parliamentary law sense.
36. Reconsider.1 This motion is peculiar in that the making of the motion has a higher rank than its consideration, and for a certain time prevents anything being done as the result of the vote it is proposed to reconsider. It can be made only on the day the vote to be reconsidered was taken, or on the next succeeding day, a legal holiday or a recess not being counted as a day. It must be made by one who voted with the prevailing side. Any member may second it. It can be made while any other question is pending, even if another member has the floor, or after it has been voted to adjourn, provided the chair has not declared the assembly adjourned. It may be made after the previous question has been ordered, in which case it and the motion to be reconsidered are undebatable.
While the making of the motion to reconsider has such high privilege, its consideration has only the rank of the motion to be reconsidered, though it has the right of way in preference to any new motion of equal rank, as illustrated further on; and the reconsideration of a vote disposing of a main question either temporarily or permanently may be called up, when no question is pending, even though the general orders are being carried out. The motion to reconsider cannot be amended, postponed indefinitely, or committed. If the reconsideration is laid on the table or postponed definitely, the question to be reconsidered and all adhering questions go with it.2 The previous question and the motions limiting or extending the limits of debate may be applied to it when it is debatable. It is undebatable only when the motion to be reconsidered is undebatable. When debatable it opens to debate the merits of the question to be reconsidered. It cannot be withdrawn after it is too late to renew the motion. If the motion to reconsider is lost it cannot be repeated except by general consent. No question can be twice reconsidered unless it was materially amended after its first reconsideration. A reconsideration requires only a majority vote, regardless of the vote necessary to adopt the motion reconsidered.
The motion to reconsider cannot be applied to a vote on a motion that may be renewed within a reasonable time; or when practically the same result may be attained by some other parliamentary motion; or when the vote has been partially executed (except in case of the motion to limit debate), or something has been done as the result of the vote that the assembly cannot undo; or to an affirmative vote in the nature of a contract, when the other party to the contract has been notified of the vote; or to a vote on the motion to reconsider. In accordance with these principles, votes on the following motions cannot be reconsidered: Adjourn; Take a Recess; Lay on the Table; Take from the Table; Suspend the Rules or Order of Business; and Reconsider. Affirmative votes on the following cannot be reconsidered: Proceed to the Orders of the Day; Adopt, or after they are adopted, to Amend, or Repeal, or Rescind, the Constitution, By-laws, or Rules of Order or any other rules that require previous notice for their amendment; Elect to membership or office if the member or officer is present and does not decline, or if absent and has learned of his election in the usual way and has not declined; to Reopen Nominations. A negative vote on the motion to Postpone Indefinitely cannot be reconsidered as practically the same question comes up again when the vote is taken on the main question. After a committee has taken up the matter referred to it, it is too late to reconsider the vote committing it, though the committee may be discharged. But after debate has proceeded under an order limiting or extending the limits of debate, the vote making that order may be reconsidered, as the debate may develop facts that make it desirable to return to the regular rules of debate. The minutes, or record of proceedings, may be corrected at any time without reconsidering the vote approving them.
If the main question is pending and it is moved to reconsider the vote on any subsidiary , incidental , or privileged  motion, the chair states the question on the reconsideration the moment the motion to be reconsidered is in order if it were made then for the first time. Thus, if, while the motions to commit, for the previous question, and to lay on the table are pending, it is moved to reconsider a negative vote on postponing to a certain time, the chair proceeds to take the vote on laying on the table and, if that is lost, next on the previous question, and then on reconsidering the vote on the postponement, and if that is adopted, then on the postponement, and if that is lost, then on to commit. If the motion to lay on the table had been carried, then when the question was taken from the table the same method of procedure would be followed; that is, the question would be first on ordering the previous question, and next on reconsidering the vote on the postponement, etc. If the reconsideration of an amendment of the first degree is moved while another amendment of the same degree is pending, the pending amendment is first disposed of and then the chair announces the question on the reconsideration of the amendment. If the reconsideration of an amendment to an immediately pending question is moved the chair at once announces the question on the reconsideration.
If the reconsideration is moved while another subject is before the assembly, it cannot interrupt the pending business, but, as soon as that has been disposed of, if called up it has the preference over all other main motions and general orders. In such a case the chair does not state the question on the reconsideration until it is called up.
If the motion to reconsider is made at a time when the reconsideration could be called up if it had been previously made, the chair at once states the question on the reconsideration, unless the mover adds to his motion the words, "and have it entered on the minutes," as explained further on.
If, after the vote has been taken on the adoption of a main motion, it is desired to consider the vote on an amendment, it is necessary to reconsider the vote on the main question also, and one motion should be made to cover both votes. The same principle applies in case of an amendment to an amendment, whether the vote has been taken on the resolution, or only on the amendment of the first degree. When the motion covers the reconsideration of two or three votes, the debate is limited to the question that was first voted on. Thus, if the motion is to reconsider the votes on a resolution and amendments of the first and second degree, the debate is limited to the amendment of the second degree. If the motion to reconsider is adopted the chair states the question on the amendment of the second degree and recognizes the mover of the reconsideration as entitled to the floor. The question is now in exactly the same condition it was in just previous to taking the original vote on that amendment.
The Forms of making this motion are as follows: "I move to reconsider the vote on the resolution relating to a banquet." "I move to reconsider the vote on the amendment to strike out 'Wednesday' and insert 'Thursday.'" [This form is used when the resolution is still pending.] "I move to reconsider the votes on the resolution relating to a banquet and on the amendment to strike out 'Wednesday' and insert 'Thursday'" [This form is used when the vote has been taken on the resolution, and it is desired to reconsider the vote on an amendment.] When the motion to reconsider is made the chair states the question, if it can then be considered, and proceeds as with any other question. If it cannot be considered at that time, he says, "Mr. A moves to reconsider the vote on.... The secretary will make a note of it," and proceeds with the pending business. The reconsideration, after being moved, is brought before the assembly for action as explained in the previous paragraph. If it is called up by a member, he simply says, after obtaining the floor, "I call up the motion to reconsider the vote on ..." This call requires no second or vote. If the call is in order, as previously explained, the chair says, "The motion to reconsider the vote [or votes] on ... is called up. The question is, 'Will the assembly reconsider the vote [or votes] on ...? Are you ready for the question?'" If the reconsideration is one that the chair states the question on as soon as it can be considered (as when it is moved to reconsider an amendment while another amendment is pending), as soon as the proper time arrives the chair states the question on the reconsideration the same as if the motion to reconsider were made at this time.
When the debate, if there is any, is finished, he puts the question thus: "As many as are in favor of reconsidering the vote on the resolution relating to a banquet, say aye; those opposed say no. The ayes have it and the vote on the resolution is reconsidered. The question is now on the resolution, which is," etc. Or, the question may be put thus: "The question is, Will the assembly reconsider the votes on the resolution relating to a banquet, and on the amendment to strike out 'Wednesday' and insert 'Thursday?' As many as are in favor of the reconsideration say aye; those opposed say no. The ayes have it and the votes on the resolution and the amendment are reconsidered. The question is now on the amendment, which is," etc. If the motion to reconsider is adopted the business is in exactly the same condition it was in before taking the vote, or the votes, that have been reconsidered, and the chair instantly states the question on the immediately pending question, which is then open to debate and amendment as before.
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, this effect terminates with the session3 , except in an assembly having regular meetings as often as quarterly, when, if not called up, its effect does not terminate till the close of the next regular session. As long as its effect lasts, any one at an adjourned, or a special, or a regular meeting, may call up the motion to reconsider and have it acted upon, though it is not usual for any one but the mover to call it up on the day it is made if the session lasts beyond that day and there is no need of prompt action.
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, after the reconsideration is adopted, can debate the question reconsidered who had on that day exhausted his right of debate on that question; his only recourse is to discuss the question while the motion to reconsider is before the assembly. If the question is not reconsidered until a later day than that on which the vote to be reconsidered was taken, then it is open to free debate regardless of speeches made previously. When a vote taken under the operation of the previous question 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 by votes taken on all the questions covered by it, before the motion to reconsider was made.
In standing and special committees a vote may be reconsidered regardless of the time elapsed since the vote was taken, provided the motion is made by one who did not vote with the losing side, and that all members who voted with the prevailing side are present, or have received due notice that the reconsideration would be moved at this meeting. A vote cannot be reconsidered in committee of the whole.
Reconsider and Have Entered on the Minutes.4 The motion to reconsider, as previously explained in this section, provides means for correcting, at least on the day on which it occurred, errors due to hasty action. By using the same motion and having it entered on the minutes so that it cannot be called up until another day, a means is provided for preventing a temporary majority from taking action that is opposed by the majority of the society. This is needed in large societies with frequent meetings and small quorums, the attendance in many cases not exceeding ten per cent of the membership. It enables a society with a small quorum to protect itself from injudicious action by temporary majorities, without requiring previous notice of main motions and amendments as is done in the English Parliament. To accomplish this, however, it is necessary to allow this form of the motion to be applied to a vote finally disposing of a main motion, regardless of the fact that the motion to reconsider has already been made. Otherwise it would be useless, as it would generally be forestalled by the motion to reconsider, in its simple form, which would be voted down, and then this motion could not be made. As this form of the motion is designed only to be used when the meeting is an unrepresentative one, this fact should be very apparent, and some members of the temporary minority should vote with the temporary majority on adopting or postponing indefinitely a main motion of importance, when they think the action is in opposition to the wishes of the great majority of the society. One of them should then move "to reconsider the vote on the resolution [or motion] and have it [or, request that it be] entered on the minutes," which has the effect of suspending all action required by the vote it is proposed to reconsider, as previously explained, and thus gives time to notify absent members of the proposed action. If no member of the temporary minority voted with the majority, and it is too late for any one to change his vote so as to move to reconsider, then some one should give notice of a motion to rescind the objectionable vote at the next meeting, which may be done by a majority vote after this notice has been given.
Should a minority make an improper use of this form of the motion to reconsider by applying it to a vote which required action before the next regular business meeting, the remedy is at once to vote that when the assembly adjourns it adjourns to meet on another day, appointing a suitable day, when the reconsideration could be called up and disposed of. The mere making of this motion would probably cause the withdrawal of the motion to reconsider, as it would defeat the object of that motion if the majority of the society is in favor of the motion to be reconsidered. If the motion to reconsider is withdrawn, of course the other would be.
(1) It can be made only on the day the vote to be reconsidered is taken. If a meeting is held on the next day the simple form of the motion to reconsider, made then, accomplishes the object of this motion by bringing the question before the assembly on a different day from the one when the vote was taken.
(2) It outranks the simple form of the motion to reconsider, and may be made even after the vote has been taken on the motion to reconsider, provided the result of the vote has not been announced. If made after the simple form of the motion to reconsider, it supersedes the latter, which is thereafter ignored.
(3) It can be applied only to votes which finally dispose of the main question. They are as follows: an affirmative or negative vote on adapting, and an affirmative vote on postponing indefinitely, a main question. And it may be applied to a negative vote on the consideration of a question that has been objected to, provided the session extends beyond that day.
(5) It cannot be called up on the day it is made, except when it is moved on the last day of a session of an assembly not having regular business sessions as often as quarterly, when any one can call it up at the last business meeting of the session.
1. H.R. Rule 18. §l, is as follows: "1. When a motion has been made and carried, or lost, it shall be in order for any member of the majority, on the same or succeeding day, to move for the reconsideration thereof, and such motion shall take precedence of all other questions except the consideration of a conference report or a motion to adjourn, and shall not be withdrawn after the said succeeding day without the consent of the House, and thereafter any member may call it up for consideration: Provided, that such motion, if made during the last six days of a session, shall be disposed of when made." This rule is construed to mean that the motion to reconsider may be made by any member who voted on the question, except when the yeas and nays were ordered to be recorded in the journal, which is done, however, with every important vote.
2. In Congress it is usual for the member in charge of an important bill as soon as it is passed to move its reconsideration, and at the same time to move that the reconsideration be laid on the table. If the latter motion is adopted the reconsideration is dead and the bill is in the same condition as if the reconsideration bad been voted on and lost. These Rules, like the common parliamentary law, carry the bill to the table, from which it could be taken at any time. [See note, 35.] Unless there is a special rule allowing it, the two motions could not be made at the same time in an ordinary society.
3. 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 will be in order to move a reconsideration.
4. In Congress, where the quorum is a majority of the members elected, and the members are paid for their services, there is no need for this form of the motion. On the contrary, it has been found necessary to provide means by which the majority may, when it pleases, prevent the making of the motion to reconsider by any one except the member in charge of the measure.
37. Rescind, Repeal, or Annul. Any vote taken by an assembly, except those mentioned further on, may be rescinded by a majority vote, provided notice of the motion has been given at the previous meeting or in the call for this meeting; or it may be rescinded without notice by a two-thirds vote, or by a vote of a majority of the entire membership. The notice may be given when another question is pending, but cannot interrupt a member while speaking. To rescind is identical with the motion to amend something previously adopted, by striking out the entire by-law, rule, resolution, section, or paragraph, and is subject to all the limitations as to notice and vote that may be placed by the rules on similar amendments. It is a main motion without any privilege, and therefore can be introduced only when there is nothing else before the assembly. It cannot be made if the question can be reached by calling up the motion to reconsider which has been previously made. It may be made by any member; it is debatable, and yields to all privileged and incidental motions; and all of the subsidiary motions may be applied to it. The motion to rescind can be applied to votes on all main motions, including questions of privilege and orders of the day that have been acted upon, and to votes on an appeal, with the following exceptions: votes cannot be rescinded after something has been done as a result of that vote that the assembly cannot undo; or where it is in the nature of a contract and the other party is informed of the fact; or, where a resignation has been acted upon, or one has been elected to, or expelled from, membership or office, and was present or has been officially notified. In the case of expulsion, the only way to reverse the action afterwards is to restore the person to membership or office, which requires the same preliminary steps and vote as is required for an election.
Where it is desired not only to rescind the action, but to express very strong disapproval, legislative bodies have, on rare occasions, voted to rescind the objectionable resolution and expunge it from the record, which is done by crossing out the words, or drawing a line around them, and writing across them the words, "Expunged by order of the assembly," etc., giving the date of the order. This statement should be signed by the secretary. The words expunged must not be so blotted as not to be readable, as otherwise it would be impossible to determine whether more was expunged than ordered. Any vote less than a majority of the total membership of an organization is certainly incompetent to expunge from the records a correct statement of what was done and recorded and the record of which was officially approved, even though a quorum is present and the vote to expunge is unanimous.
38. Renewal of a Motion. When an original main motion or an amendment has been adopted, or rejected, or a main motion has been postponed indefinitely, or an objection to its consideration has been sustained, it, or practically the same motion, cannot be again brought before the assembly at the same session, except by a motion to reconsider or to rescind the vote. But it may be introduced again at any future session.
In assemblies having regular sessions as often at least as quarterly, a main motion cannot be renewed until after the close of the next regular session, if it was postponed to that next session; or laid on the table; or adopted, or rejected, or postponed indefinitely, and the motion to reconsider was made and not acted on at the previous session. In these cases the question can be reached at the next session at the time to which it was postponed, or by taking it from the table, or by reconsidering the vote.
In assemblies whose regular sessions are not as frequent as quarterly, any motion which has not been committed or postponed to the next session may be renewed at that next session. The motions to adjourn, to take a recess, and to lay on the table, may be made again and again, provided there has been progress in debate or business, but the making of, or voting on, these motions is not business that justifies the renewal of a motion. Neither a motion to postpone indefinitely nor an amendment can be renewed at the same session, but the other subsidiary motions may be renewed whenever the progress in debate or business is such as to make the question before the assembly practically a different one. To take from the table and a call for the orders of the day may be renewed after the business is disposed of that was taken up when the motion to take from the table, or for the orders of the day, was lost. To postpone indefinitely cannot be renewed even though the main motion has been amended since the indefinite postponement was previously moved. A point of order cannot be raised if an identical one has been raised previously without success during the same session. And after the chair has been sustained in a ruling he need not entertain an appeal from a similar decision during the same session. Minutes may be corrected regardless of the time elapsed and of the fact that the correction had been previously proposed and lost.
The following motions, unless they have been withdrawn, cannot be renewed at the same session: to adopt or postpone indefinitely an original main motion; to amend; to reconsider, unless the question to be reconsidered was amended materially when previously reconsidered; to object to the consideration of a question; to fix the same time to which to adjourn; to suspend the rules for the same purpose at the same meeting, though it may be renewed at another meeting held the same day.
It is the duty of the chair to prevent the privilege of renewal from being used to obstruct business, and when it is evident that it is being so misused he should protect the assembly by refusing to recognize the motions, as explained under Dilatory Motions .
39. Ratify. This is a main motion and is used when it is desired to confirm or make valid some action which requires the approval of the assembly to make it valid. The assembly may ratify only such actions of its officers or committees, or delegates, as it had the right to authorize in advance. It cannot make valid a viva voce election when the by-laws require it to be by ballot, nor can it ratify anything done in violation of the laws of the state, or of its own constitution or by-laws, except that it may ratify emergency action taken at a meeting when no quorum was present, even though the quorum is provided for in a by-law. A motion to ratify may be amended by substituting a motion of censure, and vice versa, when the action has been taken by an officer or other representative of the assembly. It is debatable and opens the entire question to debate.
40. Dilatory, Absurd, or Frivolous Motions. For the convenience of deliberative assemblies, it is necessary to allow some highly privileged motions to be renewed again and again after progress in debate or the transaction of any business, and to allow a single member, by calling for a division, to have another vote taken. If there was no provision for protecting the assembly, a minority of two members could be constantly raising questions of order and appealing from every decision of the chair, and calling for a division on every vote, even when it was nearly unanimous, and moving to lay motions on the table, and to adjourn, and offering amendments that are simply frivolous or absurd. By taking advantage of parliamentary forms and methods a small minority could practically stop the business of a deliberative assembly having short sessions, if there was no provision for such contingency. Congress met it by adopting this rule: "No dilatory motion shall be entertained by the speaker." But, without adopting any rule on the subject, every deliberative assembly has the inherent right to protect itself from being imposed upon by members using parliamentary forms to prevent it from doing the very thing for which it is in session, and which these forms were designed to assist, namely, to transact business. Therefore, whenever the chair is satisfied that members are using parliamentary forms merely to obstruct business, he should either not recognize them, or else rule them out of order. After the chair has been sustained upon an appeal, he should not entertain another appeal from the same obstructionists while they are engaged evidently in trying by that means to obstruct business. While the chair should always be courteous and fair, he should be firm in protecting the assembly from imposition, even though it be done in strict conformity with all parliamentary rules except this one, that no dilatory, absurd, or frivolous motions are allowed.
As an illustration of a frivolous or absurd motion, suppose Mr. A is to be in the city next week and a motion has been made to invite him to address the assembly at its next meeting, the meetings being weekly. Now, if a motion is made to refer the question to a committee with instructions to report at the next regular meeting, the chair should rule it out of order as frivolous or absurd.
41. Call of the House.1 (This cannot be used in ordinary assemblies, as they have not the power to compel the attendance of members.)
The object of a call of the house is to compel the attendance of absent members, and is allowable only in assemblies that have the power to compel the attendance of absentees. It is usual to provide in such assemblies that when no quorum is present, a specified small number can order a call of the house. In Congress a call of the house may be ordered by a majority vote, provided one-fifth of the members elect are present. A rule like the following would answer for city councils and other similar bodies that have the power to enforce attendance.
Rule. When no quorum is present, if one-fifth of the members elect are present, they may by a majority vote order a call of the house and compel the attendance of absent members. After the call is ordered, a motion to adjourn, or to dispense with further proceedings in the call, cannot be entertained until a quorum is present, or until the sergeant-at-arms2 reports that in his opinion no quorum can be obtained on that day.
If no quorum is present, a call of the house takes precedence of everything, even reading the minutes, except the motion to adjourn, and only requires in its favor the number specified in the rule. If a quorum is present a call should rank with questions of privilege , requiring a majority vote for its adoption, and if rejected it should not be renewed while a quorum is present at that meeting. After a call is ordered, until further proceedings in the call are dispensed with, no motion is in order except to adjourn and a motion relating to the call, so that a recess could not be taken by unanimous consent. An adjournment puts an end to all proceedings in the call, except that the assembly before adjournment, if a quorum is present, can order such members as are already arrested to make their excuse at an adjourned meeting.
Proceedings in a Call of the House. When the call is ordered the clerk calls the roll of members alphabetically, noting the absentees; he then calls over again the names of absentees, when excuses3 can be made; after this the doors are locked, no one being permitted to leave, and an order similar in form to the following is adopted: "Ordered, That the sergeant-at-arms take into custody, and bring to the bar of the House, such of its members as are absent without the leave of the House." A warrant signed by the presiding officer and attested by the clerk, with a list of absentees attached, is then given to the sergeant-at-arms, who immediately proceeds to arrest the absentees. When he appears with members under arrest, he proceeds to the chairman's desk (being announced by the doorkeeper in large bodies), followed by the arrested members, and makes his return. The chairman arraigns each member separately, and asks what excuse he has to offer for being absent from the sittings of the assembly without its leave. The member states his excuse, and a motion is made that he be discharged from custody and admitted to his seat either without payment of fees or after paying his fees. Until a member has paid the fees assessed against him he cannot vote or be recognized by the chair for any purpose.
1. In the early history of our Congress a call of the house required a day's notice and in the English parliament it is usual to order that the call shall be made on a certain day in the future, usually not over ten days afterwards, though it has been as long as six weeks afterwards. The object of this is to give notice so that all the members may be present on that day, when important business is to come before the house. In Congress a call of the house is only used now when no quorum is present, and as soon as a quorum appears it is usual to dispense with further proceedings in the call, and this is in order at any stage of the proceedings. In Congress it is customary afterwards to remit the fees that have been assessed. In some of our legislative bodies proceedings the call cannot be dispensed with except a majority of the members elect to vote in favor of so doing.
3. It is usual in Congress to excuse those who have "paired off," that is, two members on opposite sides of the pending question who have agreed that while one is absent the other will not vote on the question. Pairing should not be allowed on questions requiring a two-thirds vote.