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even while that member has the floor. But this liberty is limited in many ways, and the house will not fail to hold a member responsible for any abuse of high privilege" (Barton: Rules of Order, pp. 66, 67).
Some decisions in the House of Representatives throw light upon this subject. Thus:
"Whenever it is asserted on the floor that the privileges of the House are invaded, the Speaker entertains the question, and common fame has been held sufficient basis for raising a question; a telegraphic dispatch may also furnish a basis. But a member may not, as a matter of right, require the reading of a book or paper on suggesting that it contains matter infringing on the privileges of the House. In presenting a question of personal privilege the member is not required in the first instance to offer a motion, but he must take this preliminary step in raising a question of general privileges" (Digest, p. 285).
"Only one question of privilege may be pending at a time."
"When a member proposes merely to address the House on a question of personal privilege, and does not bring up a matter affecting the efficiency or integrity of the House as an organ for action, the practice as to precedence is somewhat different. Thus, a member rising to a question of personal privilege may not interrupt a call of the yeas and nays, or take from the floor another member who has been recognized for debate, but he may interrupt the ordinary legislative business" (Digest, p. 285).
"The Chair is of the opinion that if there is a question of personal privilege involved the gentleman ought to be heard on it, notwithstanding the fact that the previous question has been ordered on the pending resolutions" (Digest, p. 285).
"It has become the well settled practice, when a member rises to a 'question of privilege' based upon a newspaper publication, for the Chair to hold that such publication must assail or reflect upon the member in his representative or official capacity; that is connecting him
with alleged corrupt or improper influences as to pending or proposed legislation."
"When a proposition is submitted which relates to the privileges of the House, it is his (the Speaker's) duty to entertain it, at least to the extent of submitting to the House as to whether or not it presents a question of privilege."
Final action on a question of privilege need not be taken when the question is raised. It may be referred to a committee, be laid on the table, or have any other subsidiary motion applied to it. Then the subsidiary motion does not touch anything except the question of privilege. When the question of privilege is disposed of the business which has been interrupted is resumed.
1. The Call of the House. A Call of the House is resorted to, it may be, in the midst of business for the purpose of determining the presence or lack of a quorum, ascertaining who are present or absent, and for compelling the attendance of absentees.
Business cannot be transacted without the presence of an actual or assumed quorum. An assumed quorum exists after an actual quorum has been ascertained as present, but, when by a vote or otherwise a doubt is created as to the presence of a real quorum, any member can insist on an actual quorum, and can demand that the presence of an actual quorum be ascertained. This the member may do by securing recognition by the presiding officer and making the point of no quorum, and demanding a call of the house. He may say, "Mr. President, I raise the point of no quorum!" or, "Mr. President, I demand a call of the house!"
Then the Chair states that the member has made the point of no quorum, or demands the call of the house, and directs the clerk to call the roll and note the members present who answer to their names, and, in addition the clerk may note members present who do not answer, and count them in the aggregate to make a quorum, or to ascertain the exact number present.
As ruled by Speaker Reed, and afterward sustained by the Supreme Court, the presence of a quorum makes valid any action by the body, though an actual quorum might not vote, those sitting silently being regarded as consenting to the result.
If the call of the house reveals no quorum there must be
a suspension of business, and the body may wait for the appearance of a quorum, or it may adjourn.
2. Parliamentary Inquiries are questions addressed to the presiding officer in order to ascertain the status of the business, the effect of a proposition or action, or the proper procedure at a particular time. Usually, they are more or less informal. The member may say, "Mr. President, I rise to a parliamentary inquiry," to which the Chair will respond, "The gentleman will state his inquiry."
Speaker Reed says: "Parliamentary inquiries occupy a peculiar position. They are of the nature of privileged motions, and are indulged in at the pleasure of the presiding officer to enable the assembly to understand the effect of the proposed action. The presiding officer always answers them, unless the answer would anticipate the decision of a point of order which he may prefer to have discussed before deciding" (Reed's Rules, p. 37).
The responses of the Chair are rather informal and do not have the rank of formal decisions on points of order, and as they do not necessarily determine the business, no appeal can be taken from the Chair's response to a parliamentary inquiry.
3. Renewing a Motion. Motions that have been presented and rejected may under certain circumstances be repeated, but a defeated motion cannot immediately be proposed again, for it would be renewing what the house has just decided. Sometimes, however, the same motion can be offered again after an interval of debate or a change in the status of the business.
With the exception of the motion to adjourn, no principal motion or amendment, that has been finally acted upon, can be taken up again at the same session, unless it is reached by a reconsideration. The motion to adjourn can be renewed after business or debate has intervened. The motion to suspend the rules cannot be renewed at the same meeting for the same purpose. Generally speaking, when the introduction of a motion alters the state of affairs, it is admissible to renew any privileged, incidental,
or subsidiary motion, excepting for the orders of the day, the suspension of the rules, or an amendment, for, in this case, the real question is a different one.
The rule of the House of Representatives of the United States is that "No motion to postpone to a day certain, to refer, or to postpone indefinitely, being decided, shall be again allowed on the same day at the same stage of the question." Or, as Matthias puts it: "In Congress no motion to postpone to a day certain, to commit, or to postpone indefinitely, being decided in the negative, is again allowable on the same day, in the same state of the proposition or bill. A motion to take up a particular item of business, if negatived, cannot be renewed before the intervention of other business."
For such a purpose debate is classed as intervening business, as it may change the mental attitude and create new reasons for the desired action.
A motion which has been withdrawn has not been acted upon, and can be renewed, and a motion which has been withdrawn by one member may be renewed by another.
When a committee reports a subject which was referred at the same meeting the matter stands as though it had been introduced for the first time, and not as a renewed motion.
4. Filling Blanks. Propositions are often introduced with blanks purposely left to be filled by the meeting itself, either with times and numbers, or with provisions analogous to those of the proposition itself.
Some have regarded the filling of a blank as a form of amendment, and in a restricted sense it does amend, but as it does not change anything actually proposed, in that sense it is not an amendment, but a supplementary action.
Resolutions and reports, or other papers with blanks, can be filled by suggestions without the formality of a motion, and the vote shall be taken first on the largest sum, greatest number, and remotest day, and so on until