Blog Lecture No. 12: Congressional Rules on Motions

Ok class! Like you, I was watching intently the proceedings of Congress yesterday and you may be wondering why our esteemed congressmen can just interrupt anyone, even the Chairperson of the joint committees.

The reason is their own rules on motions. I got this from here.

The following is the House Rules on Motions for the this present Congress:

MOTIONS AND THEIR PRECEDENCE

Section 120. Recording of Motions. – Every motion shall be entered in the Journal with the name of the Member making it unless it is withdrawn on the same day.

Section 121. Reading and Withdrawal of Motions. – The Speaker shall state the motion or, if in writing, shall cause it to be read by the Secretary General before being debated. A motion may be withdrawn any time before its approval.

Section 122. Precedence of Motions During Debate.- When a question is under debate or before the body, no motion shall be entertained except the following, which shall take precedence in the following order:

First- Motion to Adjourn;
Second- Motion to Raise a Point of Order;
Third- Motion to Raise a Question of Privilege;
Fourth- Motion to Declare a Recess;
Fifth- Motion for Reconsideration;
Sixth- Motion to Lay on the Table;
Seventh- Motion to Postpone to a Day Certain;
Eighth- Motion to Refer to or to Re-Refer;
Ninth- Motion to Amend; and
Tenth- Motion to Postpone Indefinitely

The first seven (7) motions shall be decided without debate, while the last three (3) motions may be decided after debate subject to the five-minute rule.

Section 123. Rider Prohibited. – No motion or proposition on a subject matter different from that under consideration shall be allowed under the guise of amendment.

Section 124. One Motion for One Subject Matter. – A motion shall cover only one (1) subject matter.

Section 125. Point of Order. – A Point of Order is a privileged question that raises a violation of the rules in relation to the matter under discussion on the floor. A motion to read any part of the Rules is equivalent to a Point of Order and takes precedence over any motion other than to adjourn.

Section 126. Questions of Privilege. – Questions of privilege are those affecting the duties, conduct, rights, privileges, dignity, integrity or reputation of the House or of its Members, individually or collectively. Subject to the ten-minute rule, every member has the right to raise a question of personal or collective privilege. However, prior to availing of this right, a Member shall seek the permission of the Chair which shall, in turn, allow the Member to proceed upon a determination that the request is in order. On Mondays, a Member who has registered to speak on a specific subject matter in the Privilege Hour can not rise on a Question of Personal or Collective Privilege on the same subject matter.

Section 127. Reconsideration; Procedure; Exceptions. – When a bill, report or motion is adopted or lost, a Member who voted with the majority may move for its reconsideration on the same or succeeding session day. Only one (1) motion for reconsideration shall be allowed. The motion shall take precedence over all other questions except a motion to adjourn, a point of order, a question of privilege, and a motion to declare a recess. No bill, resolution, memorial or petition recommitted to a committee or ordered to be printed shall be brought back to the House on a motion to reconsider.

Section 128. Amendments. – When any matter is under consideration, a motion to amend and a further motion to amend the amendatory motion shall be in order. When an amendment is rejected by the proponent of the original motion, the proponent of the amendment may appeal to the body. The proponent of the original motion and the proponent of the amendment may explain their positions, on appeal, subject to the five-minute rule. It shall also be in order to move for amendment by substitution, but said motion shall not be voted upon until the text of the original matter is perfected. Any amendment may be withdrawn before a vote is had thereon.

Section 129. Amendment of Title. Amendment(s) to the title of a bill or resolution shall be in order only after amendment(s) to the text thereof have been completed. Amendment(s) to the title shall be decided without debate.

Section 130. Motion to Strike and Insert. – A motion to strike and insert is indivisible. The loss of a pure motion to strike shall not preclude an amendment or a motion to strike and insert.

Section 131. Motion to Postpone. After a motion to postpone to any day certain or to postpone indefinitely is lost, such motion shall not again be allowed on the same day.

Section 132. Vote on Paper Objected To. – A motion to read a paper other than that which the House is called to vote upon shall be voted on without debate.

What is the order of precedence of motions in this Congress?

1. Adjourn
2. Point of Order
3. Question of Privilege
4. Recess
5. Reconsideration
6. Lay on the Table
7. Postpone to a day certain
8. Refer or Re-refer
9. Amend
10. Postpone Indefinitely

What does this mean?

This means the a Committee Chairman and the Committee must recognize and deal with the more preferred motion first before dealing with the less preferred ones.

For example:

Between a motion to lay on the table and a point of order, the Committee deals with the point of order first, because it is the preferred motion.

Between a point of order and a question of privilege, the Chairman must entertain the point of order first.

Of course, all motions bow down to a motion to adjourn, the most preferred motion. Don’t ask me why.

A good chairman must know this order of preference by heart so he can effectively steer the proceedings. Also, he must also discern the motion called by a member and its actual content or simply recognize its real nature.

Some members just say “point of order” but they raise a lesser preferred motion just to have the floor. A good Chairman must recognize this and declare this member out of order and quickly move to the next preferred motion.

What is a motion to raise a point of order?

It is a privileged question that raises a violation of the rules in relation to the matter under discussion on the floor. Loosely, it can be termed as an objection.

For example, the Press Secretary is being asked on a matter pertaining to the Justice Secretary. A congressman can raise a point of order stating the Press Secretary cannot be subject to matters that does not pertain to another’s department.

What is a motion to raise a question of privilege?

Questions of privilege are those affecting the duties, conduct, rights, privileges, dignity, integrity or reputation of the House or of its Members, individually or collectively.

For example, Congressman “ER” stated on the floor that Congressman “MZ” was using dilatory tactics. Congressman MZ can raise a question of privilege to answer that.

What is a motion to lay on the table?

No, it is not a pro-wrestling finishing move (or something kinky…hehehheheh!). It is simply a motion to defer consideration of a pending motion, to “enable the assembly, in order to attend to more urgent business.” (from Roberts Rules of Order a good reading actually, as this is also used for board/stockholder meetings worldwide).

So you see, class, our Congressmen ARE doing their jobs…

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