Robert’s Rules for Interrupting a Debate

By C. Alan Jennings, PRP

Robert’s Rules allow members to interrupt a debate when necessary. Most people were taught (or, at least, were told) that it’s never polite to interrupt someone who’s speaking. That etiquette rule works when it comes to interviews, dinner parties, and the like, but not when you’re dealing with Robert’s Rules. During debate in a business meeting, interrupting a speaker is often necessary to protect your rights or the rights of the other members.

Your presiding officer’s duty is to know when interruptions are permissible and to recognize you for such things as points of order or giving notice. Recognized members who have begun to speak are entitled to their time, but they can be interrupted (using the motions in the following list) for specific purposes, if urgency requires it.

Motions that can interrupt a speaker who is speaking and that don’t require a second:

  • Call for the Orders of the Day
  • Point of Order/Call a member to order
  • Call for a separate vote on a series of independent resolutions or main motions dealing with different subjects that have been offered under one main motion
  • Requests (or motions to grant another member’s request)
  • Parliamentary Inquiry
  • Request for Information (sometimes called Point of Information)
  • Call for Division of the Assembly
  • Raise a Question of Privilege

Motions that can interrupt a speaker who is speaking but that must be seconded:

  • Appeal
  • A motion to grant the maker’s own request

Motions that are in order when another speaker has been recognized but has not yet begun to speak:

  • Notice of intent to make a motion requiring such notice (no second required)
  • Objection to Consideration of the Question (no second required)
  • A motion to Reconsider (but not reconsideration itself; must be seconded)
  • A motion to Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes (must be seconded