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And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by two-thirds of the Senators duly chosen and sworn, then said measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of.
Thereafter no Senator shall be entitled to speak in all more than one hour on the measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, the amendments thereto, and motions affecting the same, and it shall be
duty of the Presiding Officer to keep the time of each Senator who speaks. Except by unanimous consent, no amendment shall be in order after the voté to bring the debate to a close, unless the same has been presented and read prior to that time. No dilatory motion, or dilatory amendment, or amendment not germane shall be in order. Points of order, including questions of relevancy, and appeals from the decision of the Presiding Officer, shall be decided without debate.
3. The provisions of the last paragraph of rule VIII (prohibiting debate on motions made before 2 o'clock) and of subsection 2 of this rule shall not apply to any motion to proceed to the consideration of any motion, resolution, or proposal to change any of the Standing Rules of the Senate.
RULE XXVII-REPORTS OF CONFERENCE COMMITTEES
1. The presentation of reports of committees of conference shall always be in order, except when the Journal is being read or a question of order or a motion to adjourn is pending, or while the Senate is dividing; and when received the question of proceeding to the consideration of the report, if raised, shall be immediately put, and shall be determined without debate.
(Jefferson's Manual, Sec. XLVIJ
CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY OF EFFORTS TO LIMIT DEBATE IN THE SENATE In 1604 the practice of limiting debate in some form was introduced in the British Parliament by Sir Henry Vane. It became known in parliamentary procedure as the "previous question” and is described in section 34 of Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice, as follows:
“When any question is before the House, any Member may move a previous question, whether that question (called the main question) shall not be put. If it pass in the affirmative, then the main question is to be put immediately, and no man may speak anything further to it, either to add or alter."
In 1778 the Journals of the Continental Congress also show that the “previous question” was used. Section 10 of the Rules of the Continental Congress reading: “When a question is before the House no motion shall be received unless for an amendment, for the previous question, to postpone the consideration of the main question, or to commit it.” In the British Parliament and the Continental Congress the previous question” was used to avoid discussion of a delicate subject or one which might have injurious consequences. 1789
The first Senate adopted 19 rules, of which the following relate to debate in, and taking the time of, the Senate:
2. No Member shall speak to another, or otherwise interrupt the business of the Senate, or read any printed paper while the Journals or public papers are reading, or when any Member is speaking in any debate.
3. Every Member, when he speaks, shall address the Chair, standing in his place, and when he has finished shall sit down.
4. No Member shall speak more than twice in any one debate on the same day, without leave of the Senate.
6. No motion shall be debated until the same shall be seconded.
8. When a question is before the Senate, no motion shall be received unless for an amendment, for the previous question, or for postponing the main question, or to commit, or to adjourn.
9. The previous question being moved and seconded, the question from the Chair shall be: "Shall the main question be now put?” And if the nays prevail, the main question shall not then be put.
11. When the yeas and nays shall be called for by one-fifth of the Members present, each Member called upon shall, unless for special reasons he be excused by the Senate, declare, openly and without debate, his assent or dissent to the question.
When the rules were modified in 1806, reference to the previous question was omitted. It had been moved only 4 times and used only 3 times during the 17 years from 1789 to 1806. Its omission from the written rules left its status in general parliamentary law unchanged. 1807
In the following year, 1807, debate on an amendment at the third reading of a bill was also forbidden and from this time until 1846 there were no further limitations on debate in the Senate. 1841
On July 12, 1841, Henry Clay brought forth a proposal for the introduction of the "previous question,” which he stated was necessary by the abuse which the minority had made of the privilege of unlimited debate. In opposing Clay's motion, Senator Calhoun said, “There never had been a body in this or any other country in which, for such a length of time, so much dignity and decorum of debate had been maintained.” Clay's proposition met with very considerable opposition and was abandoned. Clay also proposed adoption of the “hour rule" for the same purpose, but his proposal was not accepted. 1846
A species of cloture is the unanimous consent agreement. This is a device for limiting debate and expediting the passage of legislation which dates back to 1846 when it was used to fix a day for a vote on the Oregon bill. Such agreements are frequently used to fix an hour at which the Senate will vote, without further debate, on a pending proposal. 1850
On July 27, 1850, Senator Douglas submitted a resolution permitting the use of the “previous question.” The resolution was debated and laid on the table after considerable opposition had been expressed. 1862
As the business to be transacted by the Senate increased, proposals to limit debate were introduced frequently in the following Congresses, but none were adopted until the Civil War. On January 21, 1862, Senator Wade introduced a resolution stating that "in consideration in secret session of subjects relating to the rebellion, debate should be confined to the subject matter and limited to 5 minutes, except that 5 minutes be allowed any member to explain or oppose a pertinent amendment.” On January 29, 1862, the resolution was debated and adopted. 1868
In 1868 a rule was adopted providing that: "Motions to take up or to proceed to the consideration of any question shall be determined without debate, upon the merits of the question proposed to be considered.” The object of this rule, according to Senator Edmunds, was to prevent a practice which had grown up in the Senate, “when a question was pending, and a Senator wished to deliver a speech on some other question, to move to postpone the pending order to deliver their speech on the other question.” According to Mr. Turnbull the object of the rules was to prevent the consumption of time in debate over business to be
The rule was interpreted as preventing debate on the merits of a question when a proposal to postpone it was made. 1869
A resolution pertaining to the adoption of the “previous question” was introduced in 1869, and 3 other resolutions limiting debate in some form were introduced in the first half of 1870. 1870
Senate, on appeal, sustained decision of Chair that a Senator may read in debate a paper that is irrelevant to the subject matter under consideration (July 14, 1870).
On December 6, 1870, in the 3d session of the 41st Congress, Senator Anthony, of Rhode Island, introduced the following resolution: "On Monday next, at one o'clock, the Senate will proceed to the consideration of the Calendar and bills that are not objected to shall be taken up in their order; and each Senator shall be entitled to speak once and for five minutes, only, on each question; and this
order shall be enforced daily at one o'clock till the end of the calendar is reached, unless upon motion, the Senate should at any time otherwise order." On the following day, December 7, 1870, the resolution was adopted. This so-called Anthony rule for the expedition of business was the most important limitation of debate yet adopted by the Senate. The rule was interpreted as placing no restraints upon the minority, however, inasmuch as a single objection could prevent its application to the subject under consideration. 1871
On February 22, 1871, another important motion was adopted which had been introduced by Senator Pomeroy and which allowed amendments to appropriation bills to be laid on the table without prejudice to the bill. 1872
Since a precedent established in 1872 the practice has been that a Senator cannot be taken from the floor for irrelevancy in debate. 1872
On April 19, 1872, a resolution was introduced, “that during the remainder of the session it should be in order, in the consideration of appropriation bills, to move to confine debate by any Senator, on the pending motion to 5 minutes." On April 29, 1872, this resolution was finally adopted, 33 yeas to 13 nays. The necessity for some limitation of debate to expedite action on these annual supply measures caused the adoption of similar resolutions at most of the succeeding sessions of Congress. 1873
In March 1873, Senator Wright submitted a resolution reading in part, that debate shall be confined to and be relevant to the subject matter before the Senate, etc., and that the previous question may be demanded by a majority vote or in some modified form. On a vote in the Senate to consider this resolution the nays were 30 and the yeas 25. 1879
Chair counted a quorum to determine whether enough Senators were present to do business. 1880
From 1873 to 1880, 9 other resolutions were introduced confining and limiting debate in some form. On February 3, 1880, in the second 2d of the 46th Congress, the famous Anthony rule which was first adopted on December 7, 1870, was made a standing rule of the Senate as rule VIII. In explaining the rule, Senator Anthony said "That rule applies only to the unobjected cases on the calendar, so as to relieve the calendar from the unobjected cases. There are a great many bills that no Senator objects to, but they are kept back in their order by disputed cases. If we once relieve the calendar of unobjected cases, we can go through with it in order without any limitation of debate. That is the purpose of the proposed rule. It has been applied in several sessions and has been found to work well with the general approbation of the Senate.” 1881
On February 16, 1881, a resolution to amend the Anthony rule was introduced This proposed to require the objection of at least five Senators to pass over a bill on the calendar. The resolution was objected to as a form of "previous question, and defeated. Senator Edmunds in opposing the resolution said, "I would rather not a single bill shall pass between now and the 4th day of March than to introduce into this body, which is the only one where there is free debate and the only one which can under its rules discuss fully. I think it is of greater importance to the public interest in the long run and in the short run that every bill on your calendar should fail than that any Senator should be cut off from the right of expressing his opinion * * * upon every measure that is to be voted upon here." 1881
Senate agreed for remainder of session to limit debate to 15 minutes on a motion to consider
a bill or resolution, no Senator to speak more than once or for longer than 5 minutes (February 12, 1881). 1882
On February 27, 1882, the Anthony rule was amended by the Senate, so that if the majority decided to take up a bill on the calendar after objection was made,
that then the ordinary rules of debate without limitation would apply. The Anthony rule could only work when there was no objection whatever to any bill under consideration. When the regular morning hour was not found sufficient for the consideration of all unobjected cases on the calendar, special times were often set aside for the consideration of the calendar under the Anthony rule.
On March 15, 1882, a rule was considered whereby “a vote to lay on the table a proposed amendment shall not carry with it the pending measure. In reference to this rule Senator Hoar (Massachusetts, Republican), said: “Under the present rule it is in the power of a single member of the Senate to compel practically the Senate to discuss any question whether it wants to or not and whether it be germane to the pending measure or not * * * This proposed amendment to rules simply permits, after the mover of the amendment, who of course has the privilege, in the first place, has made his speech, a majority of the Senate if it sees fit to dissever that amendment from the pending measure and to require it to be brought up separately at some other time or not at all.” This proposed rule is now rule XVII, of the present standing rules of the Senate. 1883
On December 10, 1883, Senator Frye, of Maine, chairman of the Committee on Rules, reported a general revision of the Senate rules. This revision included a provision for the "previous question." Amendments in the Senate struck this provision out. 1884
On January 11, 1884, the present Senate rules were revised and adopted.
On March 19, 1884, two resolutions introduced by Senator Harris were considered and agreed to by the Senate as follows:
(1) "That the eighth rule of the Senate be amended by adding thereto: All motions made before 2 o'clock to proceed to the consideration of any matter shall be determined without debate.”
(2) "That the 10th rule of the Senate be amended by adding thereto: And all motions to change such order or to proceed to the consideration of other business shall be decided without debate."
From this time until 1890 there were 15 different resolutions introduced to amend the Senate rules as to limitations of debate, all of which failed of adoption.
Senate agreed (March 17) to amend rule 7 by adding thereto the following words:
“The Presiding Officer may at any time lay, and it shall be in order at any time for a Senator to move to lay, before the Senate any bill or other matter sent to the Senate by the President or the House of Representatives, and any question pending at that time shall be suspended for this purpose. Any motion so made shall be determined without debate." 1886
Senate agreed to strike out the words, "without debate,” from that part of rule 13 which provided that “every motion to reconsider shall be decided by a majority vote” (June 21, 1886). 1890
Hoar, Blair, Edmunds, and Quay submitted various resolutions for limiting debate in various ways (August 1890).
On December_29, 1890, Senator Aldrich introduced a cloture resolution in connection with Lodge's "force bill,” which was being filibustered against. The resolution read, in part, as follows: "When any bill, resolution, or other question shall have been under consideration for a considerable time, it shall be in order for any Senator to demand that debate thereon be closed. On such demand no debate shall be in order, and pending such demand no other motion, except one motion to adjourn, shall be made * * *." There were five test votes on the cloture proposal which "commanded various majorities, but in the end it could not be carried in the Senate because of a filibuster against it which merged into a filibuster on the 'force bill.'" 1893
Platt, Hoar, Hill, and Gallinger introduced resolutions for cloture by majority action during a filibuster against repeal of the silver purchase law, which evoked extended discussion.
Sherman (Ohio) urged a study of Senate rules with a view to their revision and the careful limitation of debate.
Chair ruled on March 3, 1897, that quorum calls could not be ordered unless business had intervened. 1902
Senate agreed (April 8) to amend rule 19 by inserting at the beginning of clause 2 thereof the following:
“No Senator in debate shall directly or indirectly by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.
“No Senator in debate shall refer offensively to any State of the Union.” 1908
Three important interpretations of the rules were adopted in the course of the filibuster against the Aldrich-Vreeland currency bill: (1) the Chair might count a quorum, if one were physically present, even on a vote, whether or not Senators answered to their names; (2) mere debate would not be considered business, and therefore more than debate must take place between quorum calls; (3) Senators could by enforcement of the rules be restrained from speaking on the same subject more than twice in the same day. 1911
April 6, 1911, Senator Root, of New York, submitted a resolution requesting the Committee on Rules to suggest an amendment to the Senate rules whereby the Senate could obtain more effective control over its procedure. No action was taken on the resolution. 1914
Smith (Georgia) proposed a rule of relevancy.
Senate decreed, September 17, that Senators could not yield for any purpose, even for a question, without unanimous consent; but reversed itself on this ruling the next day, September 18. 1915
February 8, 1915, Senator Reed, of Missouri, introduced a resolution to amend rule XXII whereby debate on the ship purchase bill, “S. 6845 shall cease, and the Senate shall proceed to vote thereon ***.” The resolution did not pass in this session, 1916
From December 1915, to September 8, 1916, the first or "long” session of the 64th Congress, there were five resolutions introduced to amend rule XXII. The resolutions acted upon were Senate Resolution 131 and Senate Resolution 149. On May 16, 1916, the Committee on Rules reported out favorably (S. Res. 195) as a substitute for Senate Resolution 131 and Senate Resolution 149, which had been referred to it, and submitted a report (No. 447). The resolution was debated but did not come to a vote. 1916 and 1920
Democratic national platforms for both years included a statement that: “We favor such alteration of the rules of procedure of the Senate of the United States as will permit the prompt transaction of the Nation's legislative business.” 1917
March 4, 1917, President Wilson made a speech in which he referred to the armed ship bill, defeated by filibustering. The President said in part, “The Senate has no rules by which debate can be limited or brought to an end, no rules by which debating motions of any kind can be prevented *** The Senate of the United States is the only legislative body in the world which cannot act when its majority is ready for action. * * * The only remedy is that the rules of the Senate shall be altered that it can act. * * *"
On March 5, 1917, the Senate was called in extraordinary session by the President because of the failure of the armed ship bill in the 64th Congress.
On March 7, 1917, Senator Walsh, of Montana, introduced a cloture resolution (S. Res. 5) authorizing a committee to draft a substitute for rule XXII, limiting debate. Senator Martin also introduced a resolution amending rule XXII similar to S. 195, favorably reported by the Committee on Rules in the 64th Congress, The Martin resolution was debated at length and adopted March 8, 1917, 76 yeas, 3 pays, as the current amendment to rule XXII.