By Robert McConnell Productions
The news is telling how difficult it is for President Trump to get his cabinet nominees appointed. Democrats are not attending committee meetings. Evidently, the rules of committees are that a member of each party has to be present to vote on the nominees. So how did the committee solve the problem with the Democrat Senators boycotting the meetings? The Senate Finance Committee used a parliamentary maneuver to push two nominees through the committee. It “suspended the rules” and voted on the nominees. The Committee chairman asked the Senate Parliamentarian if this was in order and she said “yes.” The opposition could raise a point of order. So the Senate Committee by a voice vote suspended the rules and voted that the nomination should go to the Senate floor for debate and vote.
So what is the motion to “Suspend the Rules?” It is a motion that allows an assembly to do something during a meeting that it cannot do without violating its rules of order or standing rules. If the motion is adopted by a two-thirds vote, then a particular rule is set aside for a particular action being considered at the time of its adoption. The most common use of this motion in a meeting is to suspend the rules of order. In other words to take up an agenda item out of its order. For example, new business is always at the end of the agenda. Let’s say a member believes that an item of new business is so important that it needs to be taken up early in the meeting. So he rises and makes the motion to suspend the rules and take up the item now that is under new business. This motion needs a second. It is not debatable and it takes a two-thirds rising vote to be adopted. If the chairman of the meeting believes the members are all in favor of taken this item up, he can also take the vote by general consent. General consent means taking the vote by asking the members, “Is there any objection to suspending the rules and taking up item __ at this time?” If no one objects, then the motion to suspend the rules is adopted and the members take up item___ that was listed under new business. When the members have decided that item, then the members return to where they left off and proceed in taking up the business as listed on the agenda.
LITTLE BEN SAYS: “Be careful because you can only suspend certain rules. You cannot suspend any provisions in your bylaws.”
See our book Robert’s Rules of Order Simplified and Applied, which explains this motion in more detail.