paulmcclintock

End or limit debate in committees

19 posts in this topic

"In order that there may be no interference with the assembly's having the benefit of its committees' matured judgment, motions to close or limit debate are not allowed in committees" (RONR 11th ed., p. 500, ll. 18-21).

Q1:  Can this rule be suspended? 

Q2a:  If not, by what cited rule / principle, on pp. 263-264, or elsewhere?

Q2b:  If it can be suspended, does the p. 261, l. 15 rule ("no rule protecting a minority of a particular size can be suspended in the face of a negative vote as large as the minority protected by the rule") cause Suspend to require at least one more vote than two-thirds?

I lean toward the notion that it cannot be suspended, because the group "protected" is the assembly, rather than some subset of the committee (whether present or absent). 

And even if there was no objection to "suspend the rules and close debate" (for instance), I'd think that it would not be in order, but that the chair could appropriately say something like, "Although the rules may not be suspended to close debate, the fact that there is no objection to doing so indicates that no one else is seeking to debate, thus we will proceed to putting the motion to a vote."

Or am I missing something?

 

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7 minutes ago, paulmcclintock said:

"In order that there may be no interference with the assembly's having the benefit of its committees' matured judgment, motions to close or limit debate are not allowed in committees" (RONR 11th ed., p. 500, ll. 18-21).

Q1:  Can this rule be suspended? 

Q2a:  If not, by what cited rule / principle, on pp. 263-264, or elsewhere?

Q2b:  If it can be suspended, does the p. 261, l. 15 rule ("no rule protecting a minority of a particular size can be suspended in the face of a negative vote as large as the minority protected by the rule") cause Suspend to require at least one more vote than two-thirds?

OK, i'll take the first bite at this.

As to Q1, I believe the rule can be suspended.  I also believe that the assembly could adopt a special rule of order permitting motions to limit debate in committees. 

Q2:  Not applicable as I believe the rule can be suspended.

Q2b:  I do not see the rule as protecting a minority of a particular size (or any minority, for that matter), so I believe it can be suspended with the traditional two thirds vote.

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I agree with Paul that it is the assembly's right to have the benefit of the committee's full and free deliberation that is protected by the rule, and it therefore can't be suspeced by the commiottee, by any vote. If I were chairing the committee, I would rule a motion to end debate (or to suepsnd the rules to allow the motion to end debate) not in order; but I would then ask if there is anyone else who wishes to debate. This really differs only in formn from Paul's suggested response by the chair, but it seems to be more parliamentarilly proper.

I also agree with Richard that the assembly could adopt a special rule allowing the motion to close debate in committees.

Finally, I think George's "devil's advocate" question is moot, since all three motions require a two-thirds vote (or maybe higher for suspend the rules, depending ion the rule that is to be suspended).

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49 minutes ago, paulmcclintock said:

"In order that there may be no interference with the assembly's having the benefit of its committees' matured judgment, motions to close or limit debate are not allowed in committees" (RONR 11th ed., p. 500, ll. 18-21).

Q1:  Can this rule be suspended? 

No. A committee may not suspend this rule, because the rule is for the benefit of the assembly. In extreme circumstances, however...

"If a member abuses his privilege of speaking an unlimited number of times in debate in order to obstruct the business of the committee, such dilatory behavior should be reported to the committee's parent, which may then remove that member from the committee, adopt an order limiting or closing debate in the committee, or take such other action as it deems advisable. However, if there will be no opportunity for this to occur within the time needed to effectively resolve the problem, it is the duty of the committee chairman to deny such a member any further recognition to speak in debate on the pending question. (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 500, footnote)

I think this footnote is also additional evidence that the rule cannot be suspended. If it could be, the procedures in that footnote would be unnecessary.

49 minutes ago, paulmcclintock said:

I lean toward the notion that it cannot be suspended, because the group "protected" is the assembly, rather than some subset of the committee (whether present or absent). 

And even if there was no objection to "suspend the rules and close debate" (for instance), I'd think that it would not be in order, but that the chair could appropriately say something like, "Although the rules may not be suspended to close debate, the fact that there is no objection to doing so indicates that no one else is seeking to debate, thus we will proceed to putting the motion to a vote."

Or am I missing something?

I think you have this exactly right.

38 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

OK, i'll take the first bite at this.

As to Q1, I believe the rule can be suspended.  I also believe that the assembly could adopt a special rule of order permitting motions to limit debate in committees. 

Q2:  Not applicable as I believe the rule can be suspended.

Q2b:  I do not see the rule as protecting a minority of a particular size (or any minority, for that matter), so I believe it can be suspended with the traditional two thirds vote.

I am in complete agreement that the assembly may adopt a special rule of order permitting motions to limit debate in committees. I disagree, however, that the committee may suspend the rule, let alone by a mere 2/3 vote. If the committee could suspend the rule by the same vote as is required to limit debate, the rule seems pointless, as it is easily set aside. Additionally, the footnote on pg. 500, which was added in the 11th edition, seems entirely unnecessary. I find it unlikely the Authorship Team would do all that typing for nothing. :)

The rule in question is intended for the benefit of the parent assembly, not the committee, and therefore, it may not be suspended. It is similar to a rule which requires that board meetings (perhaps with certain exceptions) be open to the general membership. Such a rule may not be suspended, because the individuals the rule is designed to protect are not members of the board.

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1 hour ago, paulmcclintock said:

"In order that there may be no interference with the assembly's having the benefit of its committees' matured judgment, motions to close or limit debate are not allowed in committees" (RONR 11th ed., p. 500, ll. 18-21).

Q1:  Can this rule be suspended?

...

Q2b:  If it can be suspended, does the p. 261, l. 15 rule ("no rule protecting a minority of a particular size can be suspended in the face of a negative vote as large as the minority protected by the rule") cause Suspend to require at least one more vote than two-thirds?

I lean toward the notion that it cannot be suspended, because the group "protected" is the assembly, rather than some subset of the committee (whether present or absent).

 

The rule is a parliamentary rule, not a fundamental principle.

So, the rule (to close debate) is suspendable.

Remember, not all committees are the same. -- Some committees do have deadlines, and some committees must leave the building at a fixed hour.

So, the committee must have a tool to plan how to cover all of its material in a tight window of time. -- Fixing the debate time is one tool. Previous Question is another tool.

Since the vote requirement is two-thirds, I see no problem, here.

While most committees are not large, and not constrained by time, a few are. -- It is for these committees that the Robertian rule is not absolute. -- But is suspendable.

***
The assembly is not the party being "protected."

There is no assembly (i.e., no quorum, no meeting) at the moment the committee itself is meeting.

They (the parent assembly) are home, in bed. -- There is no one to protect -- at the moment the committee suspends the "debate" rule.

The assembly is not debating. Therefore, there is no one left to protect by a two-thirds vote on "limiting debate" in a body separate from the parent assembly.

***

Analogy:

Imagine: A board meets. The board suspend a rule on "limiting debate".

Q. Has the general membership lost its "protection", when its own board votes via a 2/3 vote on the Previous Question?

A. No. -- When the board is debating, its own limiting-of-debate among its members protects no outside party at the time of the suspension. The general membership has not "lost protection" by the action of the board.

So it is with a committee. -- The suspension inside a committee meeting has nothing to do with protecting a quorumless parent assembly, at that moment.

Bottom line:
• If you seek a party to "protect", it won't be an absentee member, for any parliamentary rule regarding "debate".

 

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Kim - If you don't think the assembly is the one being protected, please explain why the rules states:  "In order that there may be no interference with the assembly's having the benefit of its committees' matured judgment, motions to close or limit debate are not allowed in committees" (RONR 11th ed., p. 500, ll. 18-21). The book is essentially saying that it's the assembly being protected in the bolded portion.  And forget the Board analogy.  Boards take final action almost all of the time, committees don't as they are a tool used by the assembly to help make a decision.

 

1 hour ago, Weldon Merritt said:

Finally, I think George's "devil's advocate" question is moot, since all three motions require a two-thirds vote (or maybe higher for suspend the rules, depending ion the rule that is to be suspended).

Well, I deleted it because it wasn't worded the way I wanted it to be worded, but Josh covered it:

 

1 hour ago, Josh Martin said:

I disagree, however, that the committee may suspend the rule, let alone by a mere 2/3 vote. If the committee could suspend the rule by the same vote as is required to limit debate, the rule seems pointless, as it is easily set aside.

 

Edited by George Mervosh

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2 hours ago, George Mervosh said:

Kim - If you don't think the assembly is the one being protected, please explain why the rules states:  

"In order that there may be no interference with the assembly's having the benefit of its committees' matured judgment, motions to close or limit debate are not allowed in committees" (RONR 11th ed., p. 500, ll. 18-21).

The book is essentially saying that it's the assembly being protected in the bolded portion.  

And forget the Board analogy.  Boards take final action almost all of the time, committees don't as they are a tool used by the assembly to help make a decision.

OK. I will try to explain.

See the quote: ". . . having the benefit of . . .".

A "benefit" is not a "protection".  -- Do not equate a nicety with a right-of-membership. You can suspend a benefit, an advantage, a nicety.

The rule (to cut off debate) is not absolute. It is a rule in the nature of a rule of order, which even Robert's Rules says the chair may abridge for the singular individual of page 500's footnote.

So it cannot be an absolute rule.

It is just out of order. But out-of-order motions can be made in-order via a suspension of the rules. Like any out-of-order motion.

See the quote: ". . . if there is no opportunity for this to occur . . .".

Even RONR allows for those committees which are tight on time to do something which normally would have been out-of-order.

Nothing surprising about that. -- If there is no reasonable time to finish X, then a workaround is allowed, by RONR.

***

Again, it is just a default rule. Not an absolute rule.

There is no "protecting" going on. It is merely an attribute of committee behavior, but not all committees, in those instances where time is a bigger factor more so than would have been in an average, unconstrained committee.

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57 minutes ago, Kim Goldsworthy said:

OK. I will try to explain.

See the quote: ". . . having the benefit of . . .".

A "benefit" is not a "protection".  -- Do not equate a nicety with a right-of-membership. You can suspend a benefit, an advantage, a nicety.

The rule (to cut off debate) is not absolute. It is a rule in the nature of a rule of order, which even Robert's Rules says the chair may abridge for the singular individual of page 500's footnote.

So it cannot be an absolute rule.

It is just out of order. But out-of-order motions can be made in-order via a suspension of the rules. Like any out-of-order motion.

See the quote: ". . . if there is no opportunity for this to occur . . .".

Even RONR allows for those committees which are tight on time to do something which normally would have been out-of-order.

Nothing surprising about that. -- If there is no reasonable time to finish X, then a workaround is allowed, by RONR.

***

Again, it is just a default rule. Not an absolute rule.

There is no "protecting" going on. It is merely an attribute of committee behavior, but not all committees, in those instances where time is a bigger factor more so than would have been in an average, unconstrained committee.

So are you saying that the rule may be suspended, but only under the conditions described on the footnote on pg. 500? Or are you saying that the rule can be suspended, full stop?

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I don't think the p. 500 footnote at all supports the notion that the rule is suspendaable. It is simply a very specific excepotion to the rule, with limited applicability. If the rule were suspendable, there would be no need for the foothote. 

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So are you saying that the rule may be suspended, but only under the conditions described on the footnote on pg. 500?

Or are you saying that the rule can be suspended, full stop?

Good question.
Here is what I see in RONR, regarding how "firm" this rule is.

***

See the subsection "Committee Procedure" on page 500.
(I have split the paragraph into 3 separate sentences.)

***
S1.) Committees of organized societies operate under the bylaws, the parliamentary authority, and any special rules of order or standing rules of the society which may be applicable to them.

S2.) A committee may not adopt its own rules except as authorized in the rules of the society or in instructions given to the committee by its parent assembly in a particular case.
    
S3.) If a standing or special committee is so large that it can function best in the manner of a full‑scale assembly, it should be instructed that the informalities and modifications of the regular rules of parliamentary procedure listed for small boards on pages 487‑88 are not to apply to its proceedings.

***

• Please note S3.
If "informality" is not suitable to the committee, then "formality" is suitable.
No fundamental principle is involved. No violation of rights-of-membership is involved.
Just toggle, from one to the other.

• Please note S2.
A committee may not adopt its own rules.
But S2 never says that a committee cannot suspend the rules.
No surprise here. -- If S3 allows for the rules to toggle between
(a.) informal vs. (b.) formal;
then there should no surprise that a committee can toggle a single instance where the default rule interferes with a higher priority, e.g.,
(a.) a time deadline (as page 500 footnote gives); or
(b.) a member who abuses the right to debate to the dilatory detriment of the committee (as page 500 gives).

Since page 500 footnotes gives us two instances where there is no problem with toggling the rule in other other direction, then there must be some kind of flexibility built-in to the rule. -- Q. Why else would page 500's footnote offer two exceptions to the "rule"?

***

If the rule (viz., to limit debate inside a committee) were NOT suspendable, then there must be a REASON for its un-suspend-ability.

But is the reason because ______________:
(a.) a fundamental principle is involved? -- No. That is clear, from the toggling ability.
(b.) a right-of-membership is involved? -- No. That is clear from the toggling ability.

Q. If the reason is "protection", then what the protection "from"?

For X to be a non-suspendable rule, then X must be something very high up in the ranks of parliamentary rules.

Q. What is that attribute of the high rank? -- A class? A right? A previous notice?

Q. When can a parliamentary rule, already subject to the normal two-thirds vote, not be suspendable?

 

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8 hours ago, George Mervosh said:

Kim - If you don't think the assembly is the one being protected, please explain why the rules states:  "In order that there may be no interference with the assembly's having the benefit of its committees' matured judgment, motions to close or limit debate are not allowed in committees" (RONR 11th ed., p. 500, ll. 18-21).

 

6 hours ago, Kim Goldsworthy said:

OK. I will try to explain.

George was just being polite in phrasing his response as a question. What he should have stated was that inasmuch as RONR clearly states that the rule against motions to close or limit debate in committees is for the benefit of the assembly (and thus not for the benefit of the committee), you are absolutely wrong when making such statements as 'They (the parent assembly) are home, in bed. -- There is no one to protect -- at the moment the committee suspends the "debate" rule.' and 'The assembly is not debating. Therefore, there is no one left to protect by a two-thirds vote on "limiting debate" in a body separate from the parent assembly.'

6 hours ago, Kim Goldsworthy said:

You can suspend a benefit, an advantage, a nicety.

No, a committee cannot suspend a benefit, an advantage, or a nicety imposed on it by the assembly for the benefit of the assembly.

But putting aside all this theoretical discussion, RONR states (p. 500), "In order that there may be no interference with the assembly's having the benefit of its committees' matured judgment, motions to close or limit debate (15, 16) are not allowed in committees." And it also states (pp. 397-98), "Motions to Limit or Extend Limits of Debate (15) and for the Previous Question (16) are . . . in the nature of specialized motions to suspend the rules . . ."

So it is illogical to think that a motion in a committee "to suspend the rules and close debate on the pending motion" violates the "non-interference" rule on page 500 any less than a motion "to order the previous question on the pending motion" does.

Edited by Shmuel Gerber

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11 hours ago, Shmuel Gerber said:

No, a committee cannot suspend a benefit, an advantage, or a nicety imposed on it by the assembly for the benefit of the assembly.

 

Note that "interference" and "benefit" is not:

   (a.) a fundamental principle;

   (b.) a right of membership;

   (c.) previous notice.

If a parliamentary rule is not #a, not #b, and not #c, then the rule is suspendable.

***

Similarly:

Within RONR, there are many rules which are out-of-order for the sake of "benefit".

See "amendments". -- Namely, third degree (tertiary) amendments are out-of-order.

Why are third degree amendments out of order? -- The reason isn't #a, #b, or #c above. -- The reason is one of arbitrary "convenience" or "simplicity".

Q. Can you suspend the rules and entertain a 3rd degree amendment?

A. Yes. This, despite the text of SDC #6 on page 133. ("A secondary amendment cannot be amended.")

Just because page 133 says "X cannot be amended", that does not imply that the rule is therefore "not suspendable."

It is just a parliamentary rule. -- It isn't a fundamental principle, nor a right-of-membership; nor a previous notice.

Just like "Limit Debate".

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51 minutes ago, Kim Goldsworthy said:

 

Note that "interference" and "benefit" is not:

   (a.) a fundamental principle;

   (b.) a right of membership;

   (c.) previous notice.

If a parliamentary rule is not #a, not #b, and not #c, then the rule is suspendable.

***

Similarly:

Within RONR, there are many rules which are out-of-order for the sake of "benefit".

See "amendments". -- Namely, third degree (tertiary) amendments are out-of-order.

Why are third degree amendments out of order? -- The reason isn't #a, #b, or #c above. -- The reason is one of arbitrary "convenience" or "simplicity".

Q. Can you suspend the rules and entertain a 3rd degree amendment?

A. Yes. This, despite the text of SDC #6 on page 133. ("A secondary amendment cannot be amended.")

Just because page 133 says "X cannot be amended", that does not imply that the rule is therefore "not suspendable."

It is just a parliamentary rule. -- It isn't a fundamental principle, nor a right-of-membership; nor a previous notice.

Just like "Limit Debate".

No, the rule that a secondary amendment cannot be amended is not just like the rule that motions to Limit or Extend Limits of Debate (or for the Previous Question) are not allowed in committees, since the rule that a secondary amendment cannot be amended is not a rule which is especially created for committees, and imposed only upon committees, which are subordinate bodies.

Nothing in RONR says or implies that subordinate bodies have the power to suspend unique rules especially created and adopted for their governance by their parent assemblies. That would make no sense at all.

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44 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

Nothing in RONR says or implies that

subordinate bodies have the power to suspend unique rules especially created and adopted for their governance by their parent assemblies.

Red herring.

When a parent assembly refers an item of business to a committee, it uses the subsidiary motion "Refer or Commit".

The parent assembly has not adopted a unique rule.

The parent assembly has just referred X to a committee. That's all.

***

Please read carefully the subsection "Rules which cannot be suspended" (p. 263-265).

Nothing in pages 263-265 suggest that the committee gets any crippled motions out of the parliamentary authority.

Nothing in pages 263-265 suggest that a committee cannot suspend any rule, like

    (a.) adjusting its agenda items, up/down, or

    (b.) to allow a non-member of the committee to speak.

If a committee can "suspend the rules", for examples #a and #b, then committees can suspend rules of order, in general.

If a given committee did suspend a rule of order, then the committee is still in compliance with pages 263-265.

***

When and if the parent assembly adopts a special rule of order, then that special rule of order will be suspendable, except as pages 263-265 describe.

 

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Give it up, Kim! You're just plain wrong! Of course the assembly didn't adopt a unique rule when it referred the item to the committee; but it did adopt the rule when it adopted RONR as its parliamentary autority. 

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16 hours ago, Kim Goldsworthy said:

S3.) If a standing or special committee is so large that it can function best in the manner of a full‑scale assembly, it should be instructed that the informalities and modifications of the regular rules of parliamentary procedure listed for small boards on pages 487‑88 are not to apply to its proceedings.
***

• Please note S3.
If "informality" is not suitable to the committee, then "formality" is suitable.
No fundamental principle is involved. No violation of rights-of-membership is involved.
Just toggle, from one to the other.

I'd say this quotation undermines your point rather than supporting it. The quotation says that in such cases, the committee "should be instructed" that the informalities and modifications do not apply. This suggests that it is the power of the parent assembly, not the committee, to determine whether to activate this "toggle."

16 hours ago, Kim Goldsworthy said:

Please note S2.
A committee may not adopt its own rules.
But S2 never says that a committee cannot suspend the rules.
No surprise here. -- If S3 allows for the rules to toggle between
(a.) informal vs. (b.) formal;
then there should no surprise that a committee can toggle a single instance where the default rule interferes with a higher priority, e.g.,
(a.) a time deadline (as page 500 footnote gives); or
(b.) a member who abuses the right to debate to the dilatory detriment of the committee (as page 500 gives).

Since page 500 footnotes gives us two instances where there is no problem with toggling the rule in other other direction, then there must be some kind of flexibility built-in to the rule. -- Q. Why else would page 500's footnote offer two exceptions to the "rule"?

Again, I think this undermines your argument rather than supporting it. The footnote on pg. 500 refers to a situation in which a single member abuses his right to speak an unlimited number of times. The footnote continues to suggest that the committee report this action to the parent assembly. The footnote then suggests that, if and only if there is no time for the parent assembly to address the matter, the chair should not let the member continue speaking.

If it was indeed possible for a committee to suspend the rules and limit or end debate by a 2/3 vote, nothing which is said in this footnote would be at all necessary, because the committee would simply suspend the rules in the situation the footnote describes. The exceptions on pg. 500 exist precisely because the rule cannot be suspended.

Committees are not categorically prohibited from suspending the rules, but they are prohibited from suspending rules which are specifically intended as a limitation on the powers of the committee.

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