[§§ 19-24; see § 7.]
19. To Lie on the Table. This motion takes precedence of all other Subsidiary Questions [§ 7], and yields to any Privileged [§ 9] or Incidental [§ 8] Question. It is not debatable, and cannot be amended or have any other subsidiary motion [§ 7] applied to it. It removes the subject from consideration till the assembly vote to take it from the table.
The Form of this motion is, "I move that the question lie on the table," or, "that it be laid on the table," or, "to lay the question on the table." When it is desired to take the question up again, a motion is made, either "to take the question from the table," or "to now consider such and such a question;" which motion is undebatable, and cannot have any subsidiary motion applied to it.
The Object of this motion is to postpone the subject in such a way, that at any time it can be taken up, either at the same or some future meeting, which could not be accomplished by a motion to postpone, either definitely or indefinitely. It is also frequently used to suppress a question [§ 59], which it does, provided a majority vote can never be obtained to take it from the table during that session [§ 42].
The Effect of this motion is in general to place on the table everything that adheres to the subject; so that if an amendment be ordered to lie on the table, the subject which it is proposed to amend, goes there with it. The following cases are exceptional: (a) An appeal [§ 14] being laid on the table, has the effect of sustaining, at least for the time, the decision of the Chair, and does not carry the original subject to the table. (b) So when a motion to reconsider [§ 27] a question is laid on the table, the original question is left where it was before the reconsideration was moved. (c) An amendment to the minutes being laid on the table does not carry the minutes with it.
Even after the ordering of the Previous Question up to the moment of taking the last vote under it, it is in order to lay upon the table the questions still before the assembly.
20. The Previous Question* [The Previous Question is a technical name for this motion, conveying a wrong impression of its import, as it has nothing to do with the subject previously under consideration. To demand the previous question is equivalent in effect to moving "That debate now cease, and the assembly immediately proceed to vote on the questions before it," (the exceptions are stated above). The English Previous Question is an entirely different one from ours, and is used for a different purpose. In the English Parliament it is moved by the enemies of a measure, who then vote in the negative, and thus prevent for the day, the consideration of the main question, (which in this country could be accomplished by "objecting to the consideration of the question" [§ 15], if the objection were sustained). In our Congress, it is moved by the friends of a measure, who vote in the affirmative with a view to cutting off debate and immediately bringing the assembly to a vote on the questions before it. The rules in the two cases are as different as the objects of the motions. It requires only a majority vote for its adoption in the House of Representatives, and is not allowed in the United States Senate.] takes precedence of every debatable question [§ 35], and yields to Privileged [§ 9] and Incidental [§ 8] questions, and to the motion to Lie on the table [§ 19]. It is not debatable, and cannot be amended or have any other Subsidiary [§ 7] motion applied to it. It shall require a two-thirds vote for its adoption.
When a member calls for the previous question, and the call is seconded, the presiding officer must immediately put the question: "Shall the main question be now put?" If adopted, the member who introduced the pending measure still has the right to close the debate [§ 34]; after which the presiding officer, without allowing further discussion, shall put to vote the questions before the assembly, in their order of precedence, till the main question, with all its subsidiary and incidental questions, is disposed of (see the exceptions below). If it fails, the discussion continues as if this motion had not been made.
The previous question can be moved on a pending amendment, and if adopted, debate is closed on the amendment only. After the amendment is voted on, the main question is again open to debate and amendments. [In this case the form of the question would be similar to this : "Shall the amendment be now put to the question?"]
The Object of this motion is to bring the assembly to a vote on the question before it without further debate. In ordinary assemblies it is rarely expedient to deprive a large minority of the right of debate, and yet two-thirds of the members should have the right to close the debate when they think it best.
It applies to questions of privilege [§ 12] as well as any other debatable questions. It is allowable for a member to submit a resolution and at the same time move the previous question thereon.
To illustrate the Effect of this motion, suppose it is adopted when we have before the assembly, (a) the main question; (b) an amendment; (c) a motion to commit; (d) a motion to amend the last motion by giving the committee instructions. The previous question being carried, the presiding officer would immediately put the question on the last motion (d); then on the motion to commit, (c); and if this is adopted, of course the subject is referred to the committee and disposed of for the present; but if it fails, the amendment (b) is put, and finally the main question.
Exceptions: If the Previous Question is carried while a motion to Postpone is pending, its effect is only to bring the assembly to a vote on that motion; if it is voted not to postpone, the subject is again open for debate. So if an Appeal [§ 14] or a motion to Reconsider [§ 27] is pending when the Previous Question is ordered, it applies only to them and is exhausted by the vote on them.
An affirmative vote on the motion to Commit [§ 22] exhausts the Previous Question, and if the vote is reconsidered, it is divested of the Previous Question.
[For other methods of closing debate see § 37 and § 58].