Enactment of a Law
Motions, Quorums, and Votes
| Motions | Quorums
| Voting |
The motions which "shall be received" under Rule XXII when
"a question is pending" "and which shall have precedence
as they stand arranged" are:
- To adjourn.
- To adjourn to a day certain, or that when the Senate adjourn it
shall be to a day certain.
- To take a recess.
- To proceed to the consideration of executive business.
- To lay on the table.
- To postpone indefinitely.
- To postpone to a day certain.
- To commit.
- To amend.
All but the last four of these motions are not debatable.
The motion to adjourn should be distinguished from a resolution to
adjourn both houses of Congress. Neither is debatable. The Senate may adjourn
for as long a period of time as it sees fit, up to the Constitutional limitation
of three days, without the consent of the other House, or it may adjourn
for only a few minutes and reconvene on a new legislative day in the same
The motion to lay on the table is a simple way of taking final action
on pending business on which the Senate wishes to take a negative position.
It is applicable to a bill and amendments thereto as well as to certain
motions. An amendment can be laid on the table without prejudice to the
bill to which it was offered, but an amendment to the amendment would also
go to the table. Since the motion is not debatable, the question can be
brought to a vote in a hurry. The motion is used generally to reach a final
disposition on motions to reconsider or appeals from the decision of the
chair. While the motion is applicable to pending business, it is not commonly
used for the disposition of legislation--bills are generally either voted
up or down. The preamble to a bill or resolution may be laid on the table
without carrying the bill or resolution with it.
The motion to postpone indefinitely is the next in order, but it
is rarely used to dispose of bills except in the case of companion bills,
i.e., the Senate passes a House-passed bill and indefinitely postpones
a companion Senate bill which has been reported and placed on the calendar.
It is a way of effecting a final disposition of a measure. The motion to
postpone to a day certain is also used by the Senate. These motions are
debatable and amendable and take precedence over a motion to refer or commit.
A motion to take up another bill while unfinished business is pending has
precedence over a motion to postpone the unfinished business to a day certain.
A motion to recommit a bill to committee with instructions to report
the bill back forthwith with an amendment, if agreed to, requires that
the committee report the bill back to the Senate immediately with that
proposed amendment which is then before the Senate for consideration.
The last of this series of motions which shall be received under
Rule XXII, "when a question is pending," and in the order listed
above, is "to amend." Any bill, or amendment thereto, before
the Senate is open to amendment.
"If, at any time during the daily sessions of the Senate, a
question shall be raised by any Senator as to the presence of a quorum,
the Presiding Officer shall forthwith direct the Secretary to call the
roll and shall announce the result, and these proceedings shall be without
debate." "Whenever upon such roll call it shall be ascertained
that a quorum is not present, a majority of the Senators present may direct
the Sergeant at Arms to request, and, when necessary, to compel the attendance
of the absent Senators, which order shall be determined without debate;
and pending its execution, and until a quorum shall be present, no debate
nor motion, except to adjourn, shall be in order."
The Senate proceeds under the assumption that a quorum is present
unless the question is raised; in that case, the bells are rung to inform
the "absentee" Senators and the Presiding Officer directs a call
of the roll. All decisions incident thereto are made without debate, and
if a quorum is not present by the time the results from the roll call are
announced, a majority of the Senators present may direct the Sergeant at
Arms to request or compel the attendance of the absent Senators. Senators
may be forced to attend, unless granted a "leave of absence"
or by authority of the Senate, even if a quorum is present. Senators who
do not reach the chamber when the roll is being called in time to answer
to their names may gain recognition after the call and have their presence
or vote recorded, provided the results have not been announced.
Under the practice of the Senate, anyone, once recognized, can request
a quorum call, but a Senator who has the floor cannot be forced to yield
to another for that purpose. The chair is not permitted to count in order
to ascertain the presence of a quorum; it must be determined by roll call.
There is no limit to the number of requests for quorum calls that
may be made during the course of a day; a request is generally held dilatory
if no business has transpired since the last one, and it is not in order
immediately after a roll call vote showing that a quorum is present. The
reception of a message from the House has not been ruled as the transaction
of business sufficient to justify a quorum call. The following have been
ruled to be business: the ordering of engrossment and third reading of
a joint resolution, presentation and reference of a communication, granting
of permission to insert an article in the Record, objection to a
bill under call of the calendar under Rule VIII, the making of a motion
or ordering of the yeas and nays, voting on motions to recess, adjourn,
and lay on table and on an appeal from the decision of the chair, the offering
of an amendment, agreeing to a motion for an executive session, and submitting
a report out of order.
A motion may be made to request attendance of those absent, and instructions
to compel their attendance may be added. Such a motion is not debatable.
A quorum call on various occasions has been withdrawn by unanimous consent
while the roll was being called; but when an announcement of no quorum
has been made, it is not in order to vacate the call even by unanimous
consent. In the absence of a quorum, neither debate nor the transaction
of business, including motions (except the motion to adjourn), is in order;
it is not even in order to move to recess.
Rule XII, relating to voting, provides:
- When the yeas and nays are ordered, the names of Senators shall
be called alphabetically; and each Senator shall, without debate, declare
his assent or dissent to the question, unless excused by the Senate, and
no Senator shall be permitted to vote after the decision shall have been
announced by the Presiding Officer, but may for sufficient reasons, with
unanimous consent, change or withdraw his vote. No motion to suspend this
rule shall be in order, nor shall the Presiding Officer entertain any request
to suspend it by unanimous consent.
- When a Senator declines to vote on call of his name, he shall be
required to assign his reasons therefor, and having assigned them, the
Presiding Officer shall submit the question to the Senate: "Shall
the Senator, for the reasons assigned by him, be excused from voting?"
which shall be decided without debate; and these proceedings shall be had
after the roll call and before the result is announced; and any further
proceedings in reference thereto shall be after such announcement.
Any one of the several methods of voting utilized by the Senate may
be resorted to for final disposition of any amendment or bill or question.
The methods are: voice vote, division, and yea and nay. The yeas and nays
may be ordered when the request is seconded by 1/5 of a presumptive quorum,
but frequently the Presiding Officer does not bother to count; he merely
takes a glance at the "showing" of hands and orders the call;
simultaneously the bells ring in both the Senate wing of the Capitol and
the Senate office buildings. The names of the Senators are called in their
alphabetical order. Voting and changes of votes are in order until the
decision has been announced by the chair.
A Senator can change his vote at any time before the result is announced.
In the case of a veto, a yea and nay vote is required by the Constitution.
Otherwise, the Senators may utilize any of the methods. After the result
of a vote has been announced, a request for a division or yea and nay vote
comes too late; the announcement that the "ayes (or nays) seem to
have it" is not a final result. The yeas and nays may be demanded
prior to announcement of the results of a division vote.
Where less than a quorum votes and the number of pairs announced
are not sufficient to make a quorum, it is the duty of the chair to order
a quorum call; the vote is valid if a quorum was present, even if a quorum
did not vote, provided that a number of those not voting, sufficient to
make a quorum, announced they were present but paired.
"Pairing" is the practice that has been developed in both
houses to enable Representatives and Senators to register their opinion
on any particular issue or issues when they are unavoidably absent from
the chamber on public or private business. By the use of "pairs"
a Senator (or Representative) favoring a particular issue, and who is absent
when a roll-call vote is taken on it, may make his opinion effective by
contracting (pairing) with a colleague opposing the issue that neither
of the Senators will vote. "Pairs" are not counted as yeas or
nays in the official tabulation of the roll call for the purpose of determining
the adoption or rejection of the issue being voted on.
After all amendments to an original amendment to a bill have been
disposed of, the question recurs on the adoption of the amendment as amended,
if amended. After all amendments to a bill have been acted on, the question
recurs on third reading and passage of the bill. After the Senate acts
on an amendment or on a bill, or almost any question on which the Senate
has voted, any Senator voting on the side that prevailed may offer a motion
to reconsider the vote by which that action was taken. A Senator voting
in the minority cannot move to reconsider a yea and nay vote; if he did
not vote he may.
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