Motion Precedence

Precedence of Motions:

The Ranking Motions in Order of Precedence:

1. Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn

2. Adjourn

3. Recess

4. Raise a Question of Privilege

5. Call for the Orders of the Day

6. Lay on the Table

7. Previous Question

8. Limit or Extend Limits of Debate

9. Postpone to a Certain Time

10. Commit or Refer

11. Amend

12. Postpone Indefinitely



This motion is privileged only when made while another question is pending and in an assembly that has made no provision for another meeting on the same or the next day. The time fixed cannot be beyond the time of the next meeting. If made in an assembly that already has provided for another meeting on the same or the next day, or if made in an assembly when no question is pending, this is a main motion and may be debated and amended and have applied to it the other subsidiary motions, like other main motions. Whenever the motion is referred to in these rules the privileged motion is meant, unless specified to the contrary. This motion when privileged takes precedence of all others, and is in order even after it has been voted to adjourn, provided the chairman has not declared the assembly adjourned. It can be amended, and a vote on it can be reconsidered. When the assembly has no fixed place for its meetings, this motion should include the place as well as the time for the next meeting, and in this case the place is subject to amendment as well as the time. When the assembly meets at the time to which it adjourned, the meeting is a continuation of the previous session. Thus, if the Annual Meeting is adjourned to meet on another day, the adjourned meeting is a legal continuation of the Annual Meeting. The form of this motion is, I move that when we adjourn, we adjourn (or stand adjourned) to 2 P.M. tomorrow.


The motion to adjourn (when unqualified) is always a privileged motion except when, for lack of provision for a future meeting, as in a mass meeting, or at the last meeting of a convention, its effect, if adopted, would be to dissolve the assembly permanently. In any organized society holding several regular meetings during the year, it is, when unqualified, always a privileged motion. When not privileged it is treated as any other main motion, being debatable and amendable, etc. The motion to adjourn, like every other motion, cannot be made except by a member who has the floor. When made by one who has not risen and addressed the chair and been recognized, it can be entertained only by general consent. It cannot be made when the assembly is engaged in voting, or verifying the vote, but is in order after the vote has been taken by ballot before it has been announced. In such case the ballot vote should be announced as soon as business is resumed. Where much time will be consumed in counting ballots the assembly may adjourn, having previously appointed a time for the next meeting, or, still better, may take a recess as explained in the next section. No appeal, or question of order, or inquiry, should be entertained after the motion to adjourn has been made, unless it is of such a nature that its decision is necessary before an adjournment, or unless the assembly refuses to adjourn, when it would be in order. When the motion to adjourn is qualified in any way, or when its effect is to dissolve the assembly without any provision being made for holding another meeting of the assembly, it loses its privilege and is a main motion, debatable and amendable and subject to having applied to it any of the subsidiary motions.


This motion is practically a combination of the two preceding, to which it yields, taking precedence of all other motions. If made when other business is before the assembly, it is a privileged motion and is undebatable and can have no subsidiary motion applied to it except amend. It can be amended as to the length of the recess. It takes effect immediately. A motion to take a recess made when no business is before the assembly, or a motion to take a recess at a future time, has no privilege, and is treated as any other main motion. A recess is an intermission in the day's proceedings, as for meals or for counting the ballots when much time is required; or in the case of meetings like conventions lasting for several days a recess is sometimes taken over an entire day. When a recess is provided for in the order of exercises, or program, the chair, when the time arrives, announces the fact and says the assembly stands adjourned, or in recess, to the specified hour. The assembly by a two-thirds vote can postpone the time for taking a recess, or adjournment. When the hour has arrived to which the recess was taken, the chairman calls the assembly to order and the business proceeds the same as if no recess had been taken. If the recess was taken after a vote had been taken and before it was announced, then the first business is the announcement of the vote. The intermissions in the proceedings of a day are termed recesses, whether the assembly voted to take a recess, or whether it simply adjourned having previously adopted a program or rule providing for the hours of meeting. When an assembly has frequent short regular meetings not lasting over a day, and an adjourned meeting is held on another day, the interval between the meetings is not referred to as a recess.


Questions relating to the rights and privileges of the assembly, or to any of its members, take precedence of all other motions except the three preceding relating to adjournment and recess, to which they yield. If the question is one requiring immediate action it may interrupt a member's speech; as, for example, when, from any cause, a report that is being read cannot be heard in a part of the hall. But if it is not of such urgency it should not interrupt a member after he has commenced his speech. Before a member has commenced speaking, even though he has been assigned the floor, it is in order for another member to raise a question of privilege.


A Call for the Orders of the Day (which, in an ordinary assembly, is a demand that the assembly conform to its program or order of business) can be made at any time when no other privileged motion is pending and the order of business is being varied from, and only then. It requires no second, and is in order when another has the floor, even though it interrupts a speech, as a single member has a right to demand that the order of business be conformed to. It is out of order to call for the orders of the day when there is no variation from the order of business. Thus, the orders of the day cannot be called for when another question is pending, provided there are no special orders made for that time or an earlier time, as general orders cannot interrupt a question actually under consideration. The call must be simply for the orders of the day, and not for a specified one, as the latter has no privilege. When the time has arrived for which a special order has been made, a call for the orders of the day taken precedence of everything except the other privileged motions, namely, those relating to adjournment and recess, and questions of privilege, to which it yields. If there are no special orders a call for the orders of the day cannot interrupt a pending question; but, if made when no question is pending, it is in order even when another has the floor an has made a main motion, provided the chair has not stated the question. Until the time of actually taking up the general orders for consideration this call yields to a motion to reconsider, or to a calling up of a motion to reconsider, previously made. A call for the orders of the day cannot be debated or amended, or have any other subsidiary motion applied to it.


The Object of this motion is to enable the assembly, in order to attend to more urgent business, to lay aside the pending question in such a way that its consideration may be resumed at the will of the assembly as easily as if it were a new question, and in preference to new questions competing with it for consideration. It is to the interest of the assembly that this object should be attained instantly by a majority vote, and therefore this motion must either apply to, or take precedence of, every debatable motion whatever its rank. It is undebatable, and requires only a majority vote, notwithstanding the fact that if not taken from the table the question is suppressed. These are dangerous privileges which are given to no other motion whose adoption would result in final action on a main motion. There is a great temptation to make an improper use of them, and lay questions on the table for the purpose of instantly suppressing them by a majority vote, instead of using the previous question, the legitimate motion to bring the assembly to an immediate vote. The fundamental principles of parliamentary law require a two-thirds vote for every motion that suppresses a main question for the session without free debate. The motion to lay on the table being undebatable, and requiring only a majority vote, and having the highest rank of all subsidiary motions, is in direct conflict with these principles, if used to suppress a question. If habitually used in this way, it should, like the other motions to suppress without debate, require a two-thirds vote.


The Effect of ordering the previous question is to close debate immediately, to prevent the moving of amendments or any other subsidiary motions except to lay on the table, and to bring the assembly at once to a vote on the immediately pending question, and such other pending questions as were specified in the demand, or motion. If the previous question is ordered on more than one question, then its effect extends to those questions and is not exhausted until they are voted on, or they are disposed of as shown below under exhaustion of the previous question. If the previous question is voted down, the discussion continues as if this motion had not been made. The effect of the previous question does not extend beyond the session in which it was adopted. Should any of the questions upon which it was ordered come before the assembly at a future session they are divested of the previous question and are open to debate and amendment.


Motions, or orders, to limit or extend the limits of debate, like the previous question, take precedence of all debatable motions, may be applied to any debatable motion or series of motions, and, if not specified to the contrary, apply only to the immediately pending question. If it is voted to limit the debate, the order applies to all incidental and subsidiary motions and the motion to reconsider, subsequently made, as long as the order is in force. But an order extending the limits of debate does not apply to any motions except the immediately pending one and such others as are specified. They are undebatable, and require a two-thirds vote for their adoption.


The Effect of postponing a question is to make it an order of the day for the time to which it was postponed, and if it is not then disposed of, it becomes unfinished business. Postponing a question to a certain hour does not make it a special order unless so specified in the motion.


The Object of the motion to refer to a standing or special committee is usually to enable a question to be more carefully investigated and put into better shape for the assembly to consider, than can be done in the assembly itself. Where an assembly is large and has a very large amount of business it is safer to have every main question go to a committee before final action on it is taken. A special committee to investigate and report upon a subject should consist of representative members on both sides of the question, so that both parties in the assembly may have confidence in the report, or reports in case there is disagreement and a minority report is submitted.


An amendment is debatable in all cases except where the motion to be amended is undebatable. An amendment of a pending question requires only a majority vote for its adoption, even though the question to be amended requires a two-thirds vote. An amendment of a constitution or by-laws, or rules of order, or order of business, previously adopted, requires a two-thirds vote; but an amendment of that amendment requires only a majority vote. When a motion or resolution is under consideration only one amendment of the first degree is permitted at a time, and one amendment of that amendment -- that is, an amendment of the second degree is allowed also. An amendment of the third degree would be too complicated and is not in order. Instead of making it, a member may say that if the amendment of the amendment is voted down, he will offer such and such an amendment of the amendment. While there can be only one amendment of each degree pending at the same time, any number of them may be offered in succession. An amendment must be germane to the subject to be amended -- that is, it must relate to it, as shown further on. So an amendment to an amendment must be germane to the latter.


The Object of this motion is not to postpone, but to reject, the main motion without incurring the risk of a direct vote on it, and it is made only by the enemies of the main motion when they are in doubt as to their being in the majority.


Is a motion made to bring before the assembly, for its consideration, any particular subject. It takes precedence of nothing -- that is, it cannot be made when any other question is before the assembly; and it yields to all Privileged, Incidental, and Subsidiary Motions -- that is, any of these motions can be made while a main motion is pending. Main motions are debatable, and subject to amendment, and can have any subsidiary motions applied to them. When a main motion is laid on the table, or postponed to a certain time, it carries with it all pending subsidiary motions. If a main motion is referred to a committee it carries with it only the pending amendments. As a general rule, they require for their adoption only a majority vote -- that is, a majority of the votes cast; but amendments to constitutions, by-laws, and rules of order already adopted, all of which are main motions, require a two-thirds vote for their adoption, unless the by-laws, etc., specify a different vote for their amendment; and the motion to rescind action previously taken requires a two-thirds vote, or a vote of a majority of the entire membership, unless previous notice of the motion has been given.


For additional information, refer to RONR 10th ed., tinted pages 1-29.