Robert's Rules of Order (parliamentary procedure)
Scope of the Rules and Parliamentary Authority
These rules apply to all committees of Princeton Model Congress (PMC), as well as to all floor sessions of its Houses and Senates.
Procedures not covered by these rules may be decided in accordance with Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. However, in case of conflict, PMC rules take precedence.
The PMC Chair is the final arbiter on questions of procedure and may, in the interests of debate and order, amend these rules at his or her discretion.
Staff Members and Delegates of PMC
The presiding officer of each congressional body is selected by PMC staff in advance of the Congress. The presiding officer of the House is the Speaker; in the Senate, it is the President; in committee, it is the Chair.
The presiding officer of each body has the usual power and duties of presiding officers, including:
to declare the opening and closing of each session of the body,
to recognize all speakers,
to decide all points of order and procedural questions,
to conduct votes and announce their results,
to preserve order and decorum.
If for any reason the presiding officer must temporarily relinquish the Chair, he or she will appoint another staff member as a replacement Chair. The temporary Chair will preside until the return of the regular presiding officer, who will resume his or her position with the associated powers and duties.
Any PMC Chair, Speaker of the House, or President of the Senate has the power to appoint other officers of the Congress, with powers and duties within the purview of the assigning officer.
Each delegate will be assigned to one Senate or House committee. A delegate participates in the work of that committee and may, by a suspension of the rules, participate in the work of another committee.
Bills and Resolutions
Delegates may introduce bills and resolutions for the committee on which they serve. A properly formatted bill or resolution is considered when it has been submitted to the Chair of the committee.
A bill is a congressional enactment which amends current legislation, enacts a new law, or otherwise takes action on a matter. A majority vote is required to pass a bill. The Cabinet and PMC President (elected delegate) will review all legislation which has passed out of committee and are empowered to set the docket in each full House and senate. Once a bill has been adopted by the full House or Senate, the Cabinet and the PMC President will review the legislation. The PMC President then has the option of signing or vetoing the bill. Should the bill be vetoed, the delegates will be able to override the veto with a 2/3 majority vote in the full session.
A resolution is a measure which merely affects the internal workings of Congress or articulates a Congressional position on current matters.
Proposed constitutional amendments take the form of a resolution. In order to pass through committee, they must receive a simple majority vote. However, in a full House or Senate they must be approved by a 2/3 majority vote.
The Chair will determine the order of bills. The docket may be changed only after a Motion to Suspend the Rules has been passed by a 2/3 vote of the delegates. However, the Chair has the right to insert new legislation where he or she deems appropriate. No delegate may submit a second bill until each committee member has had the opportunity to have his or her first bill debated.
If debate on a bill or resolution in committee has been unusually productive, educational, or entertaining, but the bill or resolution has been defeated on its merits, the committee may decide to pass the bill "with a recommendation to fail." If this motion is adopted by a majority vote of the committee, the bill or resolution is forwarded to the House or Senate for consideration with a note concerning the negative recommendation.
Debate on any question will be in order when 1/3 of the registered delegates assigned to the committee, House, or Senate are present. No vote on any substantive question will be taken unless a majority of the registered delegates are present.
A quorum will be assumed to be present, unless challenged.
No delegate may make any statement in debate without first being recognized by the Chair. Any delegate recognized for debate is entitled to the floor for the time specified below.
Delegates must confine their remarks in debate to the pending questions. Personal remarks must not enter into debate. All remarks must be addressed to the Chair. Any delegate violating these rules may, at the discretion of the Chair, lose the floor.
Debate on a bill or resolution will begin with structured debate, which is to consist of alternating speeches for and against the motion. While the Chair will ask for points and motions in between speeches, no amendments may be proposed during this time. Structured debate for a main motion consists of four speeches, the first two lasting up to 4 minutes, and the latter two lasting up to 2 minutes. The first speech is given by the sponsor of the motion, or a delegate chosen by the sponsor. The next speech will be given by a delegate opposed to the main motion. The following two speeches will alternate between delegates in favor of and opposed to the bill or resolution. A delegate recognized during structured debate is to represent a particular viewpoint and must confine his or her remarks only to that viewpoint.
General debate will then follow, considering the main motion. Speeches in general debate are limited to 2 minutes each and are not restricted to any particular viewpoint. They may be used for the introduction of amendments.
A primary amendment is a change or addition to the main motion under discussion. A secondary amendment is a change or addition to a primary amendment. Consideration of a primary amendment is limited to 15 minutes, while consideration of a secondary amendment is limited to 10 minutes.
Structured debate on an amendment consists of two speeches, one given by its author and one given by a delegate opposing the amendment. Speeches will be limited to 3 minutes for a primary amendment, and to 2 minutes for a secondary amendment. In both cases, general debate on amendments consists of 2 minute speeches. Secondary amendments are in order only during general debate on a primary amendment.
A delegate may yield his or her time to either questions or the Chair. No yielding of time to other delegates is permitted. If time is yielded to questions, the delegate may, at any time, stop answering questions and yield his or her time to the Chair. Follow-up questions are not permitted.
At the conclusion of debate on a bill or amendment, the author or sponsor of the main motion is entitled to an author/sponsor summation speech of 2 minutes.
A speech interrupted for a Point of Order or Point of Privilege will be charged against the speaker only if the interruption was caused by the speaker's misconduct or violation of the rules.
The total time for consideration of a bill or resolution is 45 minutes. After this time has elapsed, the Chair will put the main motion, together with any other motions which may be pending, to a vote.
Debate may be closed, extended, or limited by a 2/3 majority vote. Debate may be extended for no more than 15 minutes at a time.
All voting will be by placard vote. The Chair or any delegate may seek confirmation of the vote by calling for a division (show of placards or a rising vote that will be counted). The Chair will recognize a call for division at his or her discretion. No roll-call votes or ballot votes will be in order.
No debate is in order during a vote, and no motions may be made except for Points of Order or Privilege related directly to the conduct of voting.
A majority vote, or 2/3 vote when necessary, is determined with reference only to those Members voting "Aye" or "No." Abstentions and absentees are not counted.
A motion passes only if a majority of the members voting do so in the affirmative; tied motions, including 2/3 to 1/3, are not passed.
The Chair or Speaker will not vote in any PMC Committee, House, or Senate.
Only those motions listed below will be recognized at PMC. Unless otherwise indicated, all motions:
may not be debated or amended,
cannot be made when another speaker has the floor,
require a second,
require a majority vote to be adopted.
A motion that has failed may not be reconsidered.
The order of precedence of the motions is as shown, in ascending order. When a motion is pending, only motions with a higher number, as shown below, are in order. The Chair must recognize delegates before they may state the point or motion to which they rise. Moreover, the Chair may amend the order of precedence in the interests of debate and order or rule Points and Motions "dilatory" when they are seen to be interfering with debate.
MAIN MOTION: This is a bill or resolution, as specified in Article III. No second is required. It may be debated or amended. A majority of votes is required unless otherwise specified. The order in which the bills are called is determined by the Chair’s docket.
ACCLAMATION: A main motion may be passed without debate if there is no objection. Acclamation may be called for immediately following the end of structured debate on the main motion. No second is required. If there is unanimous consent, the bill or resolution is passed without general debate or a vote on the main motion.Acclamation is a good time-saving measure if a bill is certain to be passed, but it does truncate debate. Therefore, acclamation should only be called in a cases where no productive debate is foreseen and there is apparent unanimous support, seen by the absence of con speeches, for the motion. Don't forget that acclamation can only be moved after structured debate. If there are speakers against the bill during structured debate, it is unlikely that unanimous consent can be obtained.
OBJECTION TO CONSIDERATION: A main motion may be denied consideration by passage of this motion. The motion must be made immediately after the bill or resolution is moved. No second is required. Grounds for the objections must be specified- for example, the bill is unconstitutional, clearly frivolous, or outside the jurisdiction of the committee in which proposed. If the Chair permits, the objector and the sponsor of the bill may briefly (for one-minute) state their positions. A 2/3 vote is required to sustain the objection.Objections to Consideration will rarely be recognized by PMC Chairs. Objections to Consideration will be duly noted, but in accordance with the general spirit of PMC, debate will almost always take place.
AMEND: The text of a bill or resolution may be altered by passage of this motion. An amendment may also be altered by a secondary amendment (amendments beyond the secondary level are not permitted). This motion may be introduced only when one has the floor during General Debate. If an amendment is acceptable to the sponsor of the main motion (or primary amendment), it is deemed a friendly amendment and is incorporated into the motion without debate or vote. If deemed an unfriendly amendment, debate may be held. It requires a second and a simple majority vote in order to be debated. If this motion carries, the amendment is considered and voted upon before resuming consideration of the main motion or primary amendment. The amendment must be germane (i.e. clearly relevant) to the previous motion. It must be presented in writing to the Chair before it is moved.An amendment may not change a bill or resolution so that an affirmative vote on the amendment would have the same effect as a negative vote on the main motion.
POSTPONE DEBATE: If this motion is adopted, debate on the pending main motion is postponed. A time for the resumption of debate must be specified, and the motion must be seconded. A Motion to Postpone Debate should be used only when the committee's attention needs to be temporarily directed to a more urgent matter, or when more time is needed before productive debate can occur (e.g. the sponsor needs to research a crucial fact). Should a crisis situation be presented to the committee, this Motion would be in order. The committee could then motion to postpone debate on a bill or resolution for 10-15 minutes to discuss and pass emergency legislation concerning the crisis.
LAY UPON THE TABLE: If this motion is adopted, debate on the pending motion is suspended. Debate may be resumed if a motion to TAKE FROM THE TABLE is adopted by majority vote at a time when no other bill or resolution is pending.Motioning to Lay a Bill upon the Table will do significantly more harm to a bill's chance of passing out of committee than postponing debate. Accordingly it should be used with far more caution. One of the few examples where laying a bill on the table would be in order is if the bill needs significant rewriting to pass committee. To kill a bill, it is generally more efficient to close debate and fail the Main Motion than to lay the bill upon the table.
DIVISION OF THE QUESTION: This motion may be made if a delegate wishes to vote upon separately, various provisions in a bill. A delegate making such a motion must specify how the bill will be divided and must specify his or her reasoning. If Division of the Question is passed, the individual portions specified are voted upon separately. Those sections which are adopted become the new bill, which is then voted upon as a whole.Division of the Question is used when members of the committee cannot reach a consensus on which portions of a bill or resolution they support, and want the opportunity to consider individual sections separately.
APPEAL THE DECISION OF THE CHAIR: A delegate may appeal a ruling or decision made by the Chair which is perceived as unwarranted. If the motion receives the required second, the person making the appeal and the Chair may briefly state his or her position, after which the appeal is put to a 2/3 vote.Appealing the decision of the Chair should be used rarely, and only if a delegate feels a grave error has been committed.
SUSPEND THE RULES: This motion, if passed by 2/3 vote, suspends the rules of procedure. Any delegate rising to this motion must specify the purpose of suspending the rules. The suspension expires automatically when its purpose is completed. If necessary, the Chair may suspend the rules for the purpose of allowing the testimony of a Cabinet Secretary or the President.Common uses of a motion to suspend the rules include to give the bill’s sponsors several minutes to answer questions, to change the order of the docket, or to extend the speaking time of a delegate to allow him or her to continue to answer questions. In addition, this motion must be used to permit a speaker from outside a body to participate in the body's proceedings.
EXTEND THE LIMITS OF DEBATE: If adopted by a 2/3 vote, this motion changes the time limits of debate on a bill, resolution, or amendment. Debate may only be extended in 15-minute increments.Limiting or extending the time limits of debate is done on a bill by bill basis. If debate is particularly involved and productive, a delegate may move to extend the limits of debate. It is not generally speaking a good idea to extend the limits of debate on bills too often, since the committee will not be able to cover all delegates' bills.
CLOSE DEBATE (MOVE THE PREVIOUS QUESTION): If adopted by a 2/3 vote, this motion immediately closes debate on the pending bill, resolution, or amendment. If more than one motion is pending, it may be specified whether debate is to be closed on all motions or on only the one immediately pending.A motion to close debate may be informally requested by a verbal call of "Question" when no other delegate has the floor. It requires a second, and if there is a single call of "Objection," the motion fails and must be formally moved by a delegate who has been recognized by the Chair.
RECESS: If adopted, a motion to Recess suspends the meeting of the committee, House, or Senate. A time for resumption of the meeting must be specified.Motions to recess are in order when there is no bill or resolution being debated. They are in order only during the last ten minutes of a committee's allotted meeting time.
ADJOURN: This motion concludes the session of a committee or body. It is in order only at the end of the Conference.
Only those points listed below will be recognized at PMC.
Points are not debatable, they do not require a second, and the Chair's decision is final (barring any motion to appeal).
The order of precedence of the points is shown, in ascending order. When a point is pending, only points with a higher number, as shown below, are in order.
Points do not automatically take precedence over motions. The Chair will recognize delegates rising to points, at his or her discretion.
POINT OF INFORMATION: A delegate rising to this Point may ask a factual question related to the substance of the matter under discussion. This Point may be raised only when no one else has the floor. The Chair may refer this question to a delegate if necessary.Points of information do not encompass questions on parliamentary procedure (points of parliamentary inquiry) or questions of opinion (which can be asked only if the speaker yields to questions). They are strictly factual questions concerning the main motion or amendment. Examples are questions like: "How many jet engines are on a B-52?" or "How much money was spent on alternative energy research last year?"
PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRY: This is a question concerning the Rules of Procedure. A question may be posed at any time, but should only interrupt a delegate who has the floor if the question is directly relevant to a proposal being made at that time.A Point of Parliamentary Inquiry is generally speaking a call for a clarification of the rules. Examples include: "How long can the 'pro' speaker speak in structured debate?" and "Can I amend the main motion now that we are in general debate?"
POINT OF ORDER: A delegate may rise to this Point if it is felt that a violation of the Rules of Procedure has occurred. If the Chair finds this Point is well-taken, the situation will be quickly resolved. A Point of Order may be raised at any time.This Point should be called if, for example, the Chair does not allow a speaker the appropriate amount of time or if the Chair uses a simple majority instead of a 2/3 majority in a vote to suspend the rules. There is rarely any need to interrupt a speaker for a point of order.
POINT OF PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE: A Point of Privilege may be made when the rights and privileges of a member of PMC have been violated. If the Point is appropriate, the Chair will undertake corrective measures.Points of Parliamentary Privilege are commonly called for in only two situations. First, when a delegate slanders another or grossly misrepresents his or her position while speaking or if a delegate cannot hear the speaker, has to get a drink, or must otherwise attend to personal business.