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Robert's Rules and the Motion to Lay on the Table

4 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Robert's Rules for Subsidiary Motions

Under Robert's Rules, the subsidiary motion to lay on the table refers to temporarily setting aside a pending motion (or a series of pending motions) to take care of something else deemed urgent. The motion to lay on the table is less about the business being discussed than about the assembly needing to handle something else immediately. One such motion may be: "Madam President, because our speaker has arrived, I move to lay the pending motion on the table."

And although the motion is just a temporary disposition of the pending business, no time is taken to decide in advance when to get back to the motion being laid on the table.

The subsidiary motion to lay on the table

  • Can't interrupt a speaker who has the floor.

  • Must be seconded.

  • Isn't debatable.

  • Isn't amendable.

  • Requires a majority vote.

  • Can't be reconsidered if adopted because the motion to take from the table is easier to use for that purpose.

  • Reconsideration is permitted if lay on the table fails, as long as no material debate has progressed on the motion or motions to which it was applied. If additional debate has occurred, a reconsideration vote is unnecessary. The motion to lay on the table just needs to be renewed.

It's never in order to use the motion to lay on the table to kill a motion or to delay its consideration. If the motion is made with improper intentions, the presiding officer should simply clarify the motion based on the maker's intent.

If the motion laid on the table isn't taken from the table by the next regular meeting, the motion dies.

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