Adoption of Reports

31. Adoption of Reports. When the assembly is to consider a report, a motion should be made to "adopt," "accept," or "agree to" the report, all of which, when carried, have the same effect, namely, to make the doings of the committee become the acts of the assembly, the same as if done by the assembly without the intervention of a committee. If the report contains merely a statement of opinion or facts, the motion should be to "accept" the report; if it also concludes with resolutions or certain propositions, the motion should be to "agree to" the resolutions, or to "adopt" the propositions. After the above motion is made, the matter stands before the assembly exactly the same as if there had been no committee, and the subject had been introduced by the motion of the member who made the report. [See 34 for his privileges in debate, and 44 for the method of treating a report containing several propositions, when being considered by the assembly.]

Committee of the Whole

32. Committee of the Whole. When an assembly has to consider a subject which it does not wish to refer to a committee, and yet where the subject matter is not well digested and put into proper form for its definite action, or, when for any other reason, it is desirable for the assembly to consider a subject with all the freedom of an ordinary committee, it is the practice to refer the matter to the "Committee of the Whole."* [In large assemblies, such as the U. S. House of Representatives, where a member can speak to any question but once, the committee of the whole seems almost a necessity, as it allows the freest discussion of a subject, while at any time it can rise and thus bring into force the strict rules of the assembly.]

If it is desired to consider the question at once, the motion is made, "That the assembly do now resolve itself into a committee of the whole to take under consideration," etc., specifying the subject. This is really a motion to "commit" [see 22 for its order of precedence, etc.] If adopted, the Chairman immediately calls another member to the chair, and takes his place as a member of the committee. The committee is under the rules of the assembly, excepting as stated hereafter in this section.

The only motions in order are to amend and adopt, and that the committee "rise and report," as it cannot adjourn; nor can it order the "yeas and nays" [ 38]. The only way to close or limit debate in committee of the whole, is for the assembly to vote that the debate in committee shall cease at a certain time, or that after a certain time no debate shall be allowed excepting on new amendments, and then only one speech in favor of and one against it, of say, five minutes each; or in some other way regulate the time for debate.* [In Congress no motion to limit debate in committee of the whole is in order till after the subject has been already considered in committee of the whole. As no subject would probably be considered more than once in committee of the whole, in an ordinary society, the enforcement of this rule would practically prevent such a society from putting any limit to debate in the committee. The rule as given above, allows the society, whenever resolving itself into committee of the whole, to impose upon the debate in the committee, such restrictions as are allowed in Congress after the subject has already been considered in committee of the whole.]

If no limit is prescribed, any member may speak as often as he can get the floor, and as long each time as allowed in debate in the assembly, provided no one wishes the floor who has not spoken on that particular question. Debate having been closed at a particular time by order of the assembly, it is not competent for the committee, even by unanimous consent, to extend the time. The committee cannot refer the subject to another committee. Like other committees [ 28], it cannot alter the text of any resolution referred to it; but if the resolution originated in the committee, then all the amendments are incorporated in it.

When it is through with the consideration of the subject referred to it, or if it wishes to adjourn, or to have the assembly limit debate, a motion is made that "the committee rise and report," etc., specifying the result of its proceedings.

This motion "to rise" is equivalent to the motion to adjourn, in the assembly, and is always in order (except when another member has the floor), and is undebatable. As soon as this motion is adopted, the presiding officer takes the chair, and the chairman of the committee, having resumed his place in the assembly, arises and informs him, that "the committee have gone through the business referred to them, and that he is ready to make the report, when the assembly is ready to receive it;" or he will make such other report as will suit the case.

The clerk does not record the proceedings of the committee on the minutes, but should keep a memorandum of the proceedings for the use of the committee. In large assemblies the clerk vacates his chair, which is occupied by the chairman of the committee, and the assistant clerk acts as clerk of the committee. Should the committee get disorderly, and the chairman be unable to preserve order, the presiding officer can take the chair, and declare the committee dissolved. The quorum of the committee of the whole is the same as that of the assembly [ 43]. If the committee finds itself without a quorum, it can only rise and report the fact to the assembly, which in such a case would have to adjourn.

33. Informal Consideration of a Question (or acting as if in committee of the whole).

It has become customary in many assemblies, instead of going into committee of the whole, to consider the question "informally," and afterwards to act "formally." In a small assembly there is no objection to this.* [In the U. S. Senate all bills, joint resolutions and treaties, upon their second reading are considered "as if the Senate were in committee of the whole," which is equivalent to considering them informally. [U. S. Senate Rules 28 and 38.] In large assemblies it is better to follow the practice of the House of Representatives, and go into committee of the whole.] While acting informally upon any resolutions, the assembly can only amend and adopt them, and without further motion the Chairman announces that "the assembly acting informally [or as in committee of the whole] has had such a subject under consideration, and has made certain amendments, which he will report." The subject comes before the assembly then as if reported by a committee. While acting informally, the Chairman retains his seat, as it is not necessary to move that the committee rise, but at any time the adoption of such motions as to adjourn, the previous question, to commit, or any motion except to amend or adopt, puts an end to the informal consideration; as for example, the motion to commit is equivalent to the following motions when in committee of the whole: (1) That the committee rise; (2) that the committee of the whole be discharged from the further consideration of the subject, and (3) that it be referred to a committee.

While acting informally, every member can speak as many times as he pleases, and as long each time as permitted in the assembly [ 34], and the informal action may be rejected or altered by the assembly. While the clerk should keep a memorandum of the informal proceedings, it should not be entered on the minutes, being only for temporary use. The Chairman's report to the assembly of the informal action, should be entered on the minutes, as it belongs to the assembly's proceedings.