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Subsidiary motion

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Title: Subsidiary motion  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Limit or extend limits of debate, Postpone indefinitely, Main motion, Postpone to a certain time, Table (parliamentary procedure)
Collection: Motions (Parliamentary Procedure)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Subsidiary motion

A subsidiary motion, in parliamentary procedure, is a type of motion by which a deliberative assembly deals directly with a main motion prior to (or instead of) voting on the main motion itself.[1]


Some of the subsidiary motions may also be applied to certain other subsidiary motions, incidental motions and privileged motions.

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR)

Robert's Rules of Order recognizes seven subsidiary motions. Ranked lowest to highest in order of precedence, they are the motions to:[2]

  1. Postpone indefinitely—to end consideration of the main motion for the balance of that session, without a direct vote on the main motion.
  2. Amend—to change the main motion. (May also be applied to certain other motions).
  3. Commit or Refer—to send the main motion and any pending subsidiary motions to a committee for consideration.
  4. Postpone to a certain time (or Postpone Definitely, or Postpone) -- to delay consideration of the main motion and any pending subsidiary motions.
  5. Limit or extend limits of debate—to change limitations on number or length of speeches from those previously adopted.
  6. Previous Question—to close debate, preclude any further amendments and vote immediately. (May apply to any motion or pending series of motions.)
  7. Lay on the Table (or Table) -- to suspend consideration of the main motion and any pending subsidiary motions to allow for immediate consideration of more urgent business.

Motions 1, 2, 3 and 4 are debatable and require a majority vote for adoption. Motions 5 and 6 are undebatable and require a two-thirds vote for adoption. Motion 7 is undebatable and requires a majority vote for adoption. Each subsidiary motion ranks higher than the main motion and lower than the privileged motions, and also yields to applicable incidental motions.

The Standard Code (TSC)

The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure differs as follows:

  • The motion to Postpone Indefinitely is omitted. The motion to Table (or Postpone Temporarily) is used instead, a usage prohibited by Robert's but in fact used in many organizations.[3]
  • The motion for the Previous Question is regarded as outdated, confusing terminology, and is instead called the motion to Close Debate.[4]
  • The motion to Table is also called the motion to Postpone Temporarily, and unlike in Robert's, may be used to kill a motion without a direct vote and without debate, but in this case a two-thirds vote is required.


  1. ^ Robert, Henry M. (2000). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th ed., p. 60 (RONR)
  2. ^ RONR, p. 60-61
  3. ^ Sturgis, Alice (2001). The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 4th ed., p. 234–235 (TSC)
  4. ^ TSC, p. 235

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