What Does It Mean When a Bill Is Tabled?

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In the United States, a bill is tabled when a legislative body adopts a motion to suspend consideration of a bill indefinitely. A majority vote is required to table a bill. Tabling a bill does not kill it; however, for a tabled bill to pass, the legislative body must adopt a motion taking the bill off the table for reconsideration, which also requires a majority vote.

The motion to table is properly used only when, after the introduction of a bill, another event takes place that requires the immediate attention of the legislative body, making it necessary for consideration of the bill to be postponed. Despite this rule, the motion to table is commonly misused to kill a bill without debate.

“Robert’s Rules of Order” argues that since a two-thirds majority is required to officially kill a bill, those wishing to defeat a bill before debate should object to consideration of the question, which requires two-thirds majority to be adopted. After debate has started, a bill can be defeated with a motion to postpone consideration indefinitely, which also requires a two-thirds majority. This action helps prevent extensive discussion or filibusters regarding various matters; these measures are sometimes necessary to kill a bill.