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Parliamentary practice

Table (parliamentary)

In parliamentary procedure, the motion to table or more properly, to lay on the table, is a proposal to suspend consideration of the pending motion. The circumstances under which this motion is appropriate are the subject of considerable controversy among the different parliamentary authorities.

Explanation and Use

In United States parliamentary practice, approval of the subsidiary motion to "lay on the table", "to table" or "to postpone consideration" immediately sets aside the pending main motion and all pending subsidiary motions. When used to temporarily lay aside business, this motion is not debatable and requires a majority vote.

The use of terms such as "tabling a motion" in connection with setting aside or killing a main motion sometimes causes confusion with the usage of this term in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, where it has an opposite meaning -- that is, to propose a motion for consideration.

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR)

Under Robert's Rules of Order, the subsidiary motion to table is properly used only when it is necessary to suspend consideration of a main motion in order to deal with another matter that has come up unexpectedly and which must be dealt with before the pending motion can be properly addressed. It has, however, become common to misuse the motion to end consideration of the pending main motion without debate, or to mistakenly assume that its adoption prevents further consideration of the main motion at all, or until a specified time.

RONR states that the use of the motion to "table" to kill a motion is improper because a majority vote should not be sufficient to permanently cut off debate on a main motion. Robert's recommends that a member seeking to avoid a direct vote on a main motion while immediately cutting off debate instead make a motion that requires a two-third vote: Either an objection to consideration of the question, which is in order only before debate has begun and requires a two-thirds vote to block further consideration of the main motion, or a motion to postpone indefinitely (in order at any time, majority vote required) followed by an immediate motion for the previous question (two-thirds vote required.) One of the disadvantages of trying to kill a measure by laying it on the table is that, if some opponents of the measure subsequently leave the meeting, a temporary majority favoring the measure can then take it from the table and act on it; or they may do so at a future session held within the next quarterly time interval.

Although the motion is undebatable, the chair can ask the maker of the motion to state his reason in order to establish the urgency and legitimate intent of the motion, or the maker can state it on his own initiative.

The Standard Code (TSC)

The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure uses the name postpone temporarily instead of the RONR motion Lay on the Table, but also uses the short form, table, which is discouraged by RONR. TSC allows use of the motion to postpone temporarily (or table) to temporarily set aside a main motion in a purpose and manner similar to RONR. However, TSC also allows use of this motion to kill the main motion without a direct vote or further vote. Such use is expressly forbidden under RONR. When used to kill the main motion, TSC requires a two-thirds vote to pass this motion.

Legislative Use

In both houses of the U.S. Congress, the motion to table is used to kill a motion without debate or a vote on the merits of the resolution. The rules do not provide for taking the motion from the table, and therefore consideration of the motion may be resumed only by a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules.

Related Motions and Concepts

Take from the table (RONR)

A main motion that has been laid on the table may be taken up again by adoption of a motion to take from the table. This motion is not debatable and requires a majority for adoption. A motion may be taken from the table only until the end of the next session (commonly, the next meeting) after the one in which it was laid on the table, if that session occurs within three months after the session in which it was laid on the table; if there is no session within those three months, the motion may only be taken from the table during the current session. If these time limits are not met, the motion dies.

Resume Consideration (TSC)

The corresponding motion under The Standard Code is called resume consideration. This motion must be made prior to the end of the current session, unlike Robert's Rules which permits the Take from the table motion to be made prior to the end of the following session if one is held within a quarterly time interval.

Mason's Manual

The motion to take from the table under Mason's Manual has the same characteristics as under RONR. Mason's Manual has a similar sounding motion, take from the desk which a member uses when they desire to take up a matter that is on the desk, but on which no action has yet been taken. The differences between the two motions are that take from the table is used after an item has been placed on the desk by a previous use of lay on the table and the motion is given a preference over new main motions offered at the same time. Take from the desk is used when an item is taken up that has not yet been introduced and this motion has no preference over new main motions that may be made at the same time.

References


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