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Previous question

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Title: Previous question  
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Subject: Table (parliamentary procedure), Parliamentary procedure, Subsidiary motion, The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, Hoist (motion)
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Previous question

Previous question (RONR)
Class Subsidiary motion
In order when another has the floor? No
Requires second? Yes
Debatable? No
May be reconsidered? Yes, but if vote was affirmative, only before any vote has been taken under it. A negative vote on this motion can be reconsidered only until such time as progress in business or debate has made it essentially a new question.
Amendable? No
Vote required Two-thirds

Previous question, in parliamentary procedure (also known as calling for the question, calling the question, close debate and other terms) is a motion to end debate, and the moving of amendments, on any debatable or amendable motion and bring that motion to an immediate vote.

Explanation and use

It is often invoked by a member saying, "I call [for] the question." In the House of Commons of the United Kingdom the Chair should respond with "The Question is, That the Question be not now put." The Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons criticized this procedure as "totally incomprehensible", and proposed in its place a simplified motion to "proceed to the next business".[1]

Under Robert's Rules of Order, when a call for the question is made, a two-thirds vote is required to end debate. The motion for the previous question itself is not debatable.

The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure criticizes the "previous question" terminology as being confusing, and instead calls this motion the motion to close debate, the motion to vote immediately, or the motion to close debate and vote immediately.[2] Regardless of the terminology, a two-thirds vote is required to end debate.

In ordinary societies using one of these two codes of procedure, the rationale for the two-thirds vote to end debate and move to a vote on the pending (previous) question is to protect the rights of the minority (on that issue) to be heard and have the opportunity to debate against "the tyranny of majority" who may attempt to force its will by quickly ending debate and further amendments. On a contentious issue, enough voting members may be swayed by debate, or placated by amendments, to change the outcome of the vote should debate be allowed to continue.

It should be noted, however, that both houses of the United States Congress, and most legislative bodies throughout the world, have their own unique codes of procedure that vary significantly from the two parliamentary authorities mentioned above and were written for use by "ordinary societies" (social groups, small boards, professional associations, etc.).

Instead of a motion for the previous question, the United States Senate uses a motion to limit debate, called cloture. This requires three-fifths of the total number of Senators. It does not immediately end debate on the pending question, but rather imposes strict limitations on debate. In the United States House every resolution comes to the floor under a special rule approved by the Rules Committee which defines the terms and limits of debate for that resolution.


  1. ^ Conduct in the Chamber
  2. ^ AIP; Sturgis, Alice F. (2001). The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure (4th ed.). p. 235. 
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