Robert's Rules

A Not Too Prim Primer on Robert’s Rule of Order Newly Revised
 (11th ed.)

Reports of Boards and Committees:

RONR (11th ed.), p. 507, 5-30

Section 51. Reports of Boards and Committees: Motions to Implement Recommendations. If the report is introduced by a member of the legislative body, it is usual for reports to be presented along with a motion or motions to implement it. No second is needed for such a motion.  The motion is considered as made by the board or committee involved.

RONR (11th ed.), p. 507, p. 508, 1-10.

Section 51.  Reports of Boards and Committees: Motion to Adopt an Entire Report.  Rarely there may be an occasion for a body to adopt an entire report.  Robert’s suggest this is not the wisest option unless the report is to be “issued or published in the name of the whole organization.”

Handling Motions:

The main motion is the one presented to the body for its approval.  However, there also are a variety of other motions, the most important of which for our purposes is the subsidiary motion.

Subsidiary motions are ones whose purpose is to appropriately dispose of a main motion.  In other words, subsidiary motions are motions that modify (amend) a main motion, postpone action on that main motion, or refer the main motion to a committee for study and report.  Some subsidiary motions (motion to amend, motion to close or limit or extend debate) take precedence over the main motion.  Subsidiary motions may be amended.

Subsidiary motions include

Lay on the Table


The Previous Question


Limit or Extend Limits of Debate


Postpone Definitely, or to a Certain Time


Commit or Refer, or Recommit




Postpone Indefinitely

I.            Motion to Amend (Article V.33)

Every main motion may be amended.

33. “To Amend takes precedence of the motion to postpone indefinitely, and yields to all other subsidiary [12] motions and to all privileged [14] and incidental [13] motions, except the motion to divide the question.”  A motion to amend may be amended itself. However, an amendment to an amendment cannot itself be amended.  It’s a case of one thing at a time.  First amend the amendment.  If you don’t like that reject the amendment and suggest a different amendment, if you catch my drift.  Moving the previous question and motions to limit or extend debate may be applied to amendments.  A motion to amend requires a majority vote for adoption—even if the main motion itself requires a 2/3 majority to pass.

Form. “An amendment may be in any of the following forms: (a) to insert or add (that is, place at the end); (b) to strike out; (c) to strike out and insert, or to substitute, as it is called, when an entire paragraph or resolution is struck out and another is inserted.” The third form is a combination of the other two and cannot be divided, though, as shown hereafter, for the purposes of amendment the two motions are treated separately, the words to be struck out being first amended and then the words to be inserted.”   In our language, one can move to insert language, delete language, to delete and substitute language, or to substitute new language for that currently included in the motion.

When it is time for a vote, the chair should repeat the “motion in detail” so that everyone understands what changes are suggested.  The chair also should show the effect of the amendment on the original motion.  The chair then calls for the vote and as soon as the amendment is voted on, the “the chair should announce the result of the vote and state the question that is then before the assembly”—that is, the chair should tell what we are considering now (the original motion, the original motion as amended, a substitute motion, etc.)

A motion to strike words can be applied only to consecutive words. If a motion to strike out fails, there can still be another motion to strike the same words, but insert other words, etc.  

Amendments Affecting an Entire Paragraph.  “A motion to insert (or add) or to strike out a paragraph, or to substitute one paragraph for another, is an amendment of the first degree, and therefore cannot be made when an amendment is pending.”  Once a paragraph has been inserted or eliminated, it cannot be amended except by adding words to it.  Further, it cannot be eliminated except in connection with other paragraphs (which would make the question/motion an entirely new one).  If you are looking at the hard copy of the 11th edition, it is RONR(11th ed.), p.131, 1-35

Substitute Motions:  A substitute motion really is a form of amendment. If a motion is on the floor, the first effort should be to try to amend it through normal protocol. If, however, it appears necessary to substitute a new motion for the original motion or significant parts of a motion (paragraph or more), then  Robert's outlines the following procedure. If "Motion A" is the main motion, and if no current amendments to the motion are on the floor, a member may move to offer a substitute. The move must be seconded. Once the second is obtained, the procedure is as follows:

Motion A (the original motion) is debated and amended.

Motion B (the proposed substitute motion) is debated and amended.

The Chair then puts to the body the question of whether or not to substitute Motion B for Motion A. Note, at this point the body is merely voting to substitute Motion B for Motion A; it is not voting to adopt Motion B.

The vote is a simple majority. After the vote to substitute is taken, debate on the motion to adopt begins. See, Roberts, Article 2.12.33.

II.           Request for Permission to Withdraw or Modify a Motion—RONR (11th ed.), p. 295-297.  See also

It is possible to withdraw or for the person who introduces an amendment to ask permission to modify a motion any time before voting on the question begins, even if the motion has been amended.  Such a motion is not debatable.  If there is no objection to withdrawal, then the motion is withdrawn.  If there is an objection, then the chair puts the question on granting the request.

III.         Motion to Limit or Extend the Limits of Debate

RONR (11th ed.), p. 263-267.  See also

30. Limit or Extend Limits of Debate. “ Motions, or orders, to limit or extend the limits of debate, like the previous question, take precedence of all debatable motions, may be applied to any debatable motion or series of motions, and, if not specified to the contrary, apply only to the immediately pending question. If it is voted to limit the debate, the order applies to all incidental and subsidiary motions and the motion to reconsider, subsequently made, as long as the order is in force. But an order extending the limits of debate does not apply to any motions except the immediately pending one and such others as are specified. They are undebatable, and require a two-thirds vote for their adoption.”

Thus, motions to limit and extend the limits of debates apply only to the main motion.  However, if the limit or extension is accepted, it will apply to any “incidental and subsidiary” motions (such as a motion to amend) and to a motion to reconsider a vote “as long as the order is in force.”  A choice to extend debate does not apply to any motion except the one that is immediately pending.  Motions to extend or limit debate cannot be debated.  The order to extend or limit debate only governs the session in which it is adopted.  If the question goes over to the next Senate session a new order to extend or limit debate would have to be approved.

IV.          Motion to Suspend the Rules—RONR (11th ed.), pp. 260-67.  See also

22. Suspension of the Rules.  “The motion to suspend the rules may be made at any time when no question is pending; or while a question is pending, provided it is for a purpose connected with that question.”  A motion to suspend the rules may not be debated and cannot be amended.  We would use such a motion when we want to do something that ordinarily would be against our own rules, for example, go past the deadline of 4:50 p.m.  The reason for suspending the rules has to be specified and whatever is specified is the only business that can be conducted under the suspension.  So, if we wanted to finish Motion A before leaving, someone would move suspension of the rules in order to complete consideration of Motion A.  We cannot suspend the rules for anything that requires previous notice AND a 2/3 vote for its amendment, except by a vote of 2/3 thirds of those present and voting.

“Instead of a formal motion to suspend the rules, it is more usual to ask for general consent to do the particular business that is out of order. As soon as the request is made the chair inquires if there is any objection, and if no one objects, he directs the member to proceed just as if the rules had been suspended by a formal vote.” That is, someone would move unanimous consent to conduct business that normally would not be conducted in this way.