34. Debate.* [In connection with this section read §§ 1-5.] When a motion is made and seconded, it shall be stated by the Chairman before being debated [see § 3]. When any member is about to speak in debate, he shall rise and respectfully address himself to "Mr. Chairman." ["Mr. President" is used where that is the designated title of the presiding officer; "Brother Moderator" is more common in religious meetings.] The Chairman shall then announce his name [see § 2]. By parliamentary courtesy, the member upon whose motion a subject is brought before the assembly is first entitled to the floor, even though another member has risen first and addressed the Chair; [in case of a report of a committee, it is the member who presents the report] ; and this member is also entitled to close the debate, but not until every member choosing to speak, has spoken. This right to make the last speech upon the question, is not taken away by the Previous Question [§ 20] being ordered, or in any other way. With this exception, no member shall speak more than twice to the same question (only once to a question of order, § 14), nor longer than ten minutes at one time, without leave of the assembly, and the question upon granting the leave shall be decided by a majority vote without debate.* [The limit in time should vary to suit circumstances, but the limit of two speeches of ten minutes each will usually answer in ordinary assemblies, and it can be increased, when desirable, by a majority vote as shown above, or diminished as shown in § 37. In the U. S. House of Representatives no member can speak more than once to the same question, nor longer than one hour. The fourth rule of the Senate is as follows: "No Senator shall speak more than twice in any one debate on the same day, without leave of the Senate, which question shall be decided without debate." If no rule is adopted, each member can speak but once to the same question.]
If greater freedom is desired, the proper course is to refer the subject to the committee of the whole [§ 32], or to consider it informally [§ 33]. [For limiting or closing the debate, see § 37.] No member can speak the second time to a question, until every member choosing to speak has spoken. But an amendment, or any other motion being offered, makes the real question before the assembly a different one, and, in regard to the right to debate, is treated as a new question. Merely asking a question, or making a suggestion, is not considered as speaking.
35. Undebatable Questions. The following questions shall be decided without debate, all others being debatable [see note at end of this section]:
To Fix the Time to which the Assembly shall Adjourn (when a privileged question, § 10). To Adjourn [§ 11], (or in committee, to rise, which is used instead of to adjourn). For the Orders of the Day [§ 13], and questions relating to the priority of business. An Appeal [§ 14] when made while the Previous Question is pending, or when simply relating to indecorum or transgressions of the rules of speaking, or to the priority of business. Objection to the Consideration of a Question [§ 15].
Questions relating to Reading of Papers [§ 16], or Withdrawing a Motion [§ 17], or Suspending the Rules [§ 18], or extending the limits of debate [§ 34], or limiting or closing debate, or granting leave to continue his speech to one who has been guilty of indecorum in debate [§ 36]. To Lie on the Table or to Take from the Table [§ 19]. The Previous Question [§ 20]. To Reconsider [§ 26] a question which is itself undebatable.
The motion to Postpone to a certain time [§ 21] allows of but very limited debate, which must be confined to the propriety of the postponement; but to Reconsider a debatable question [§ 26], or to Commit [§ 22], or Indefinitely Postpone [§ 24], opens the main question [§ 6] to debate. To Amend [§ 23] opens the main question to debate only so far as it is necessarily involved in the amendment.
The distinction between debate and making suggestions or asking a question, should always be kept in view, and when the latter will assist the assembly in determining the question, is allowed to a limited extent, even though the question before the assembly is undebatable.
Note On Undebatable Questions.--The English common parliamentary law makes all motions debatable, without there is a rule adopted limiting debate [Cushing's Manual, § 330]; but every assembly is obliged to restrict debate upon certain motions. The restrictions to debate prescribed in this section conform to the practice of Congress, where, however, it is very common to allow of brief remarks upon the most undebatable questions, sometimes five or six members speaking; this of course is allowed only when no one objects.
By examining the above list, it will be found, that, while free debate is allowed upon every principal question [§ 6], it is permitted or prohibited upon other questions in accordance with the following principles:
(a) Highly privileged questions, as a rule, should not be debated, as in that case they could be used to prevent the assembly from coming to a vote on the main question; (for instance, if the motion to adjourn were debatable, it could be used [see § 11] in a way to greatly hinder business). High privilege is, as a rule, incompatible with the right of debate on the privileged question.
(b) A motion that has the effect to suppress a question before the assembly, so that it cannot again be taken up that session [§ 42], allows of free debate. And a subsidiary motion [§ 7, except commit, which see below,] is debatable to just the extent that it interferes with the right of the assembly to take up the original question at its pleasure.
Illustrations: To "Indefinitely Postpone" [§ 24] a question, places it out of the power of the assembly to again take it up during that session, and consequently this motion allows of free debate, even involving the whole merits of the original question.
To "Postpone to a certain time" prevents the assembly taking up the question till the specified time, and therefore allows of limited debate upon the propriety of the postponement.
To "Lie on the Table" leaves the question so that the assembly can at any time consider it, and therefore should not be, and is not debatable.
To "Commit" would not be very debatable, according to this rule, but it is an exception, because it is often important that the committee should know the views of the assembly on the question, and it therefore is not only debatable, but opens to debate the whole question which it is proposed to refer to the committee.