Table (parliamentary)

Table (parliamentary)

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In parliamentary procedure
Parliamentary procedure
Parliamentary procedure is the body of rules, ethics, and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies...

, a motion
Motion (parliamentary procedure)
In parliamentary procedure, a motion is a formal proposal by a member of a deliberative assembly that the assembly take certain action. In a parliament, this is also called a parliamentary motion and includes legislative motions, budgetary motions, supplementary budgetary motions, and petitionary...

 to table has two different and contradictory meanings:
  • In the United States, table usually means the motion to lay on the table or motion to postpone consideration; a proposal to suspend consideration of a pending motion. Much less often, it means a motion to "put on the table": a proposal to begin consideration -- a usage consistent with the rest of the English-speaking world.
  • In the United Kingdom and the rest of the English-speaking world
    English-speaking world
    The English-speaking world consists of those countries or regions that use the English language to one degree or another. For more information, please see:Lists:* List of countries by English-speaking population...

    , table means a motion to place upon the table (or motion to place on the table): a proposal to begin consideration of a proposal.

Use in the United States



In United States parliamentary practice, two phrases are used "Lay on table" and "To put on the table", which have opposite meaning. Approval of the subsidiary motion to 'lay on the table' immediately sets aside the pending main motion
Main motion
A main motion, in parliamentary procedure, is a motion that brings business before the assembly. Main motions are made while no other motion is pending...

 and all pending subsidiary motion
Subsidiary motion
A subsidiary motion, in parliamentary procedure, is a type of motion by which a deliberative assembly deals directly with a main motion prior to voting on the main motion itself.-Explanation:...

s. The motion is not debatable. Beyond these characteristics, the purpose and effect of the motion to table vary according to which parliamentary authority is being used. The motion requires a majority vote except as indicated below. To "put on the table" means to make the issue available for debate as in "President is prepared to put on the table"

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.

Under Robert's Rules of Order
Robert's Rules of Order
Robert's Rules of Order is the short title of a book containing rules of order intended to be adopted as a parliamentary authority for use by a deliberative assembly written by Brig. Gen...

, 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.

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 a quarterly time interval
Quarterly time interval
In parliamentary procedure, a quarterly time interval represents a time limitation on the taking or postponement of certain actions. A quarterly time interval between two meetings is said to be exceeded when more than three full calendar months elapse between those meetings.-Time calculation:For...

 (three months and until the end of the calendar month in which the three-month period ends) after the session in which it was laid on the table; if there is no session within that time, the motion may only be taken from the table during the current session. If these time limits are not met, the motion dies.

Robert's 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
Postpone indefinitely
The motion to postpone indefinitely, in parliamentary procedure, is a subsidiary motion used to kill a main motion without taking a direct vote on it.-Explanation and Use:-Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised :...

 (in order at any time, majority vote required) followed by an immediate motion for the previous question
Previous question
Previous question, in parliamentary procedure is a motion to end debate, and the moving of amendments, on any debatable or amendable motion and bring that motion to an immediate vote.-Explanation and Use:It is often invoked by a member saying, "I call [for] the...

 (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.

Congressional use


In both houses of the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

, 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
Suspend the rules
In parliamentary procedure, suspension of the rules is a procedure in which a deliberative assembly sets aside its normal rules of order in order to do something that it could not do otherwise.-Background and rationale:...

.

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised and Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure


Under Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised
Robert's Rules of Order
Robert's Rules of Order is the short title of a book containing rules of order intended to be adopted as a parliamentary authority for use by a deliberative assembly written by Brig. Gen...

(RONR), the subsidiary motion "to table" does not exist. The two motions with the word "table" included are the motion to "lay on the table" which is to set aside temporarily while another matter that has arisen is discussed, after which intervening matter is disposed of, the motion that was "laid on the table" may be renewed by the motion to "take from the table" or not as the assembly sees fit. The question or matter laid on the table is not permanently disposed of, and there are specific rules regarding adhering motions or pending points of order etc. which are determined by the parliamentary situation at the time the question was laid on the table. The motion to "lay on the 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. There IS no motion "to table" in RONR.

Robert's Rules of Order 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
Postpone indefinitely
The motion to postpone indefinitely, in parliamentary procedure, is a subsidiary motion used to kill a main motion without taking a direct vote on it.-Explanation and Use:-Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised :...

 (in order at any time, majority vote required) followed by an immediate motion to call the previous question
Previous question
Previous question, in parliamentary procedure is a motion to end debate, and the moving of amendments, on any debatable or amendable motion and bring that motion to an immediate vote.-Explanation and Use:It is often invoked by a member saying, "I call [for] the...

 (end debate and proceed to a vote on the motion), which 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
Temporary majority
A temporary majority exists when the positions of the members present and voting in a meeting of a deliberative assembly on a subject are not representative of the membership as a whole. It is in contrast to a "real majority." Parliamentary procedure contains some provisions designed to protect...

 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 not debatable, 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 motion to take from the table under Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure
Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure
Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, commonly referred to as Mason's Manual. This 700+ page book serves as the official parliamentary manual of most state legislative bodies in the United States. "Adopted as the authority on questions of parliamentary law and procedure in California, it is to...

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.

The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure


The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure
The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure
The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure is a book of rules of order. It is the second most popular parliamentary authority in the United States after Robert's Rules of Order. It was first published in 1950...

(TSC), 4th edition, the second-most-widely used parliamentary authority in the United States, approves of the motion to table either to temporarily set aside a main motion (in which case it is also called the motion to postpone temporarily, a motion not recognized in Robert's Rules) or to kill the main motion without a direct vote or further debate.

The Standard Code but also uses the short form, table, which is discouraged by Robert's Rules. 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 Robert's Rules. However, TSC also allows use of this motion to kill the main motion without a direct vote or further vote, a use which is expressly forbidden under Robert's Rules. The Standard Code states that if the motion to table is used in circumstances suggesting that the purpose is to kill the main motion, a two-thirds vote should be required. This provision addresses the objections stated in Robert's. Objection to consideration of a question and motion to postpone indefinitely
Postpone indefinitely
The motion to postpone indefinitely, in parliamentary procedure, is a subsidiary motion used to kill a main motion without taking a direct vote on it.-Explanation and Use:-Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised :...

 are not recognized in the Standard Code.

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

Related motions



Under Robert's Rules, 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.

The corresponding motion under The Standard Code
The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure
The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure is a book of rules of order. It is the second most popular parliamentary authority in the United States after Robert's Rules of Order. It was first published in 1950...

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

Use elsewhere


In the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 and other parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

s based on the Westminster system
Westminster System
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

, to "table" a measure means to propose it for consideration, as in bringing it to the table. In his book The Second World War, Volume 3: The Grand Alliance, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 relates the confusion that arose between American and British military leaders during the Second World War: