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Robert's Rules of Order/Article I

1. How IntroducedEdit

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 unusual, however, to make a motion to receive the reports of committees [§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. Obtaining the floorEdit

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 by his title, thus: "Mr. Chairman" [§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 [§14] can be 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. [§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 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 [§27]; (b) by a call to order [§14]; (c) by an objection to the consideration of the question [§15]; or (d) by a call for the orders of the day [§13][§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. What precedes debates on a questionEdit

Before any subject is open to debate [§34] it is necessary, first, that a motion be 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 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 [§5][§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 [§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. What motions to be in writing, and how they shall be dividedEdit

All Principal Motions [§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 an amendment to this, to divide it differently.

This Division of a Question is really an amendment [§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.[1]

The motion to "strike out certain words and insert others," is indivisible, as it is strictly one proposition.

5. Modification of a motion by the moverEdit

After a question has been stated by the presiding officer, it is in the possession of the assembly for debate; the mover cannot withdraw or modify it, if any one objects, except by obtaining leave from the assembly [§17], or by moving an amendment.

FootnotesEdit

  1. 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.