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After a motion is stated by the speaker, it shall be deemed to be in possession of the house; but may be withdrawn at any time before decision or amendment. -R. of A. 10.
When a question is under debate, no motion shall be received, unless to amend it, to commit it, to postpone it to a day certain, for the previous question, or to adjourn. -R. of A. 11.
A motion to adjourn shall be always in order, and shall be decided without debate. R. of A. 12.
The previous question, until it is decided, shall preclude all amendment and debate of the main question, and shall be in this form-shall the main question be now put? R. of A. 13.
No member shall speak more than once without leave, upon a previous question. R. of A. 14.
A motion for commitment, until it is decided, shall preclude all amendment of the main question. R. of A. 15.
It is no possession of a bill, unless it be delivered to the clerk to be read, or the speaker reads the title. Lex. Parl. 274. Elsynge Mem. 95. Ord. House of Commons 64.
It is a general rule, that the question first moved and seconded, shall be first put. Scob. 28, 22. 2 Hats. 81. But this rule gives way to what may be called privileged questions: and the privileged questions are of different grades among themselves.
A motion to adjourn simply takes place of all others; for otherwise the house might be kept sitting against its will, and indefinitely. Yet this motion cannot be received after another question is actually put, and while the house is engaged in voting.
Orders of the day take place of all other questions, except for adjournment. That is to say, the question which is the subject of an order, is made a privileged one pro hac voce. The order is a repeal of the general rule as to this special case. When any member moves therefare for the orders of the day to be read, no further debate is permitted on the question which was before the house; for if the debate might proceed, it might continue through the day, and defeat the order. This motion, to entitle it to precedence, must be for the orders generally, and not for any particular one; and if it be car
ried on the question, "Whether the house will now proceed to the orders of the day," they must be read and proceeded on in the course in which they stand. 2 Hats. 83. For priority of order gives priority of right, which cannot be taken away but by another special order.
When the house have proceeded to the "general orders of the day," no other business shall be in order until the house have disposed of the same, by laying them upon the table, or by postponing them until the next day. R. of A. 41.
The final reading of all bills which require the sanction of a constitutional majority, shall be had on Tuesday or Friday in every week, and no other days, until otherwise ordered, except by unanimous consent. R. of A. 49.
All the unfinished business of the preceding day, shall have preference to any other, except special orders of the day, in committee of the whole. R. of A. 44.
After these, there are other privileged questions which will require considerable explanation.
It is proper that every parliamentary assembly should have certain forms of questions so adapted, as to enable them fitly to dispose of every proposition which can be made to them. Such are 1. The previous question. 2. To postpone indefinitely. 3. To adjourn a question to a definite day. 4. To lie on the table. 5. To commit. 6. To amend. The proper occasion for each of these questions should be understood.
1. When a proposition is moved, which it is useless or inexpedient now to express or discuss, the previous question has been introduced for suppressing for that time the motion and its discussion. 3 Hats. 188, 189.
2. But as the previous question gets rid of it only for that day, and the same proposition, may recur the next day if they wish to suppress it for the whole of that session, they postpone it indefinitely. 3 Hats. 183. This quashes the proposition for that session, as an indefinite adjournment is a dissolution, or the continuance of a suit sine die is a discontinuance of it.
3. When a motion is made which it will be proper to act on, but information is wanted, or something more pressing claims the present time, the question or debate is adjourned to such day within the session as will answer
the views of the house. 2 Hats. 81. And those who have spoken before may not speak again when the adjourned debate is resumed. 2 Hats. 73. Sometimes, however, this has been abusively used, by adjourning it to a day beyond the session, to get rid of it altogether, as would be done by an indefinite postponement.
4. When the house has something else which claims its present attention, but would be willing to reserve in their power to take up a proposition whenever it shall suit them, they order it to lie on their table. It may then be called for at any time.
5. If the proposition will want more amendment and digestion than the formalities of the house will conveniently admit, they refer it to a committee.
6. But if the proposition be well digested and may need but few and simple amendments, and especially if these be of leading consequence, they then proceed to consider and amend it themselves.
The senate of the United States, in their practice, vary from this regular gradation of forms. Their practice, comparatively with that of parliament stands thus:
For the Parliamentary,
Lying on the Table.
The Senate uses, postp. to a
day beyond the session.
Postp. to a day within the session.
SLying on the table.
In their 8th rule therefore, which declares that while a question is before the senate, no motion shall be received unless it be for the previous question, or to postpone, commit, or amend the main question, the term postponement must be understood according to their broad use of it, and not in its parliamentary sense. Their rule then establishes as privileged questions, the previous question, postponement, commitment and amendment.
But it may be asked, have these questions any privilege among themselves? Or, are they so equal, that the common principle of the "first moved, first put," takes place among them? This will need explanation. Their competitions may be as follow:
In the first class, where the previous question is first moved, the effect is peculiar. For it not only prevents the after motion to postpone or commit from being put to question before it, but also, from being put after it. For if the previous question be decided affirmatively, to wit, that the main question shall now be put, it would of course be against the decision to postpone or commit. And if it be decided negatively, to wit, that the main question shall not now be put, this puts the house out of possession of the main question, and consequently there is nothing before them to postpone or commit. So that neither voting for, or against the previous question, will enable the advocates for postponing or committing to get at their object. Whether it may be amended, shall be examined hereafter.
2d class. If postponement be decided affirmatively, the proposition is removed from before the house, and consequently there is no ground for the previous question, commitment, or amendment. But if decided negatively, that it shall not be postponed, the main question, may then be suppressed by the previous question, or may be committed, or amended.
The 3d class is subject to the same observations as the 2d.
The 4th class. Amendment of the main question first moved, and afterwards the previous question, the question of amendment shall be first put.
Amendment and postponement competing, postponement is first put, as the equivalent proposition to adjourn
the main question would be in parliament. The reason is, that the question for amendment is not suppressed by postponing or adjourning the main question, but remains before the house whenever the main question is resumed: and it might be that the occasion for other urgent business might go by, and be lost by length of debate on the amendment, if the house had it not in their power to postpone the whole subject.
Amendment and commitment. The question for committing, though last moved, shall be first put: because, in truth, it facilitates and befriends the motion to amend. Scobell is express. "On a motion to amend a bill, any one may notwithstanding, move to commit it, and the question for commitment shall be first put. Scob. 46. We have hitherto considered the case of two or more of the privileged questions contending for privilege between themselves, when both were moved on the original or main question; but now let us suppose one of them to be moved, not on the original primary question, but on the secondary one: e. g.
Suppose a motion to postpone, commit or amend the main question, and that it be moved to suppress that motion by putting a previous question on it. This is not allowed: because it would embarrass questions too much to allow them to be piled on one another several stories high; and the same result may be had in a more simple way, by deciding against the postponement, commitment or amendment. 2 Hats. 81, 2, 3, 4.
Suppose a motion for the previous question, or commitment, or amendment of the main question, and that it be then moved to postpone the motion for the previous question, or for commitment, or amendment of the main question. 1. It would be absurd to postpone the previous question, commitment or amendment alone, and thus separate the appendage from its principal. Yet it must be postponed separately from its original, if at all: because the 8th rule of the senate of the United States, says, that when a main question is before the house, no motion shall be received but to commit, amend, or prequestion the original question, which is the parliamentary doctrine also. Therefore the motion to postpone the secondary motion for the previous question, or for comN