When an assembly wishes to do something that it can  not do without violating one or more of its regular rules, it can adopt a  motion to Suspend the Rules interfering with the proposed action—provided that the proposal is not in conflict with the organization’s bylaws (or constitution), local, state, or national laws. Or the fundamental principles of parliamentary law.


Standard Descriptive Characteristics


The incidental motion to Suspend the Rules:


1. Can be made at any time that no question is pending. When business is pending, Suspend the Rules takes precedence over any motion if it is for a purpose connected with that motion. It yields to the motion to Lay on the Table and to all privileged motions when these motions are in order at the time according to the order of precedence of motions—except that if it relates to the priority of business it does not yield to a Call for the Orders of the Day. It also yields to incidental motions arising out of itself.

2. Can be applied to any rule of the assembly except bylaws (or rules contained in a constitution or corporate charter, No subsidiary motion can be applied to Suspend the Rules .

3. Is out of order when another has the floor.

4. Must be seconded.

5. Is not debatable.

6  Is not amendable.

7 Usually requires a two thirds vote ( see below, however). in any case, no rule protecting a minority of a particular size can be suspended in the face of a negative vote as large as the minority protected by the rule.

8. Cannot be reconsidered (see below regarding its renewal).


Further Rules and Explanation


OBJECT AND EFFECT OF THE MOTION. The object of this motion must usually be to suspend one or more rules contained in the parliamentary authority (rules of order), the special rules of order, or the standing rules of the assembly. * A motion to "take up a question out of its proper order," or to consider one before a time to which it has been postponed, is an application of the motion to Suspend the Rules (see 14, 40).


In making the incidental motion to Suspend the rules, the particular rule or rules to be suspended are not mentioned; but the motion must state its specific purpose, and its adoption permits nothing else to be done under the suspension. Such a motion, for instance, may be "to suspend the rules and take up the report of the Building Committee,” or “to suspend the rules and agree to [that is, to adopt without debate or amendment] the resolution . . ." When the purpose of a motion to Suspend the Rules is to permit the making of another motion, and the adoption of the first motion would obviously be followed by adoption of the second, the two motions can be combined, as in "to suspend the rules and take from the table (33) the question relating to . . .' The foregoing is an exception to the general rule that no member can make two motions at the same time except with the consent of the assembly—unanimous consent being required if the two motions are unrelated (see also pp. 107-108 and 270-271).


If a motion to Suspend the Rules is adopted and its object is to allow consideration of business that could not other wise have been considered at the time, the chair should immediately recognize the member who moved the suspension of the rules, to make the appropriate motion that will bring up the desired business. Or, if no further motion is necessary (for example, if the two motions were combined as indicated above or if the question is one that was postponed, the chair should announce the business as pending.


RENEWAL OF THE MOTION if a motion to suspend the rules is voted down, it cannot be renewed by moving to suspend the rules for the same purpose at the same meeting, unless unanimous consent is given it can, however, he renewed for the same purpose after an adjournment, even if the next meeting is held the same day. Any number of motions to suspend the rules for different purposes can be entertained at the same meeting.


RULES THAT CANNOT BE SUSPENDED Rules contained in the bylaws (or constitution) cannot be suspended—no matter how large the vote in favor of doing so or how inconvenient the rule in question may be—unless the particular rule specifically provides for its own suspension, or unless the rule properly is in the nature of a rule of order as described on Page 17.


Rules protecting absentees or a basic right of the individual member cannot be suspended, even by unanimous consent or an actual unanimous vote. For example, the rule requiring previous notice of a proposed amendment to the by-laws protects the absentees, and its suspension would violate their rights. Further, the rules requiring of officers to be elected by (secret) ballot protects a minority of one from exposing his vote, which he may do if he votes against, or objects to, suspending such a rule (see Voting by Ballot p. 405).


At a regular meeting of an organization that has an established order of business, the assembly cannot, even unanimously, vote to dispense with that order of business (in the sense of voting, in advance of the time when it adjourns, that the order of business shall not be gone through at all at that meeting). If the assembly, by a two thirds vote, adopts a motion "to dispense with the regular order of business and proceed to"* a certain subject, it has in effect voted to pass all classes in the order of business which normally would precede that subject (see 40). In such a case, when the matter taken up out of its proper order has been disposed of, even if it has consumed as much time as the usual meeting, the chair must return to the regular order of business and call for the items in sequence, unless the assembly then votes to adjourn (see 21).


RULES WHOSE SUSPENSION REQUIRES A TWO THIRDS VOTE The rules of order of a society, as contained in the manual established by the by-laws as the parliamentary authority, or as included in any special rules of order adopted by the organization (see 2), are rules of parliamentary procedure, the suspension of which requires a two thirds vote. Some Societies call all their rules "standing rules But by what ever name a rule is called, if it relates to parliamentary procedure, it requires previous notice and a two thirds vote for its amendment; it requires a two thirds vote for its suspension.


RULES THAT CAN BE SUSPENED BY A MAJORITY VOTE  An Ordinary standing rule, as the term is used in this book, is a rule that does not relate to parliamentary procedure as such and refers, for example, to such matters as the hour for beginning meetings (in cases where the dates of regular meetings are established by the bylaws). Standing rules are adopted, as any ordinary motions by a majority vote and are amended by a two thirds vote without previous notice or by a majority vote with such notice; they therefore can be Suspended by a majority vote as they do not involve the protection of a minority of a particular size. Through an incidental main motion adopted by a majority vote, a standing rule can be suspended for the duration of the current session.


SUSPENSION OE RULES BY UNANIMOUS CONSENT Frequently, when the matter is clearly not controversial time may be saved by asking unanimous consent rather than by making a formal motion to suspend the rules. A member who has obtained the floor can say, for example, "Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to offer the courtesy resolutions before we receive the report of the special committee." The chair then asks if no one objects and, if so, she proceeds to take a vote on suspending the rules, just as if a formal motion had been made.


Form and Example


The usual form of this motion is:


Member A  (obtaining the floor): I move that the rules be suspended for [or “to suspend the rules"] which interfere with . . . [stating the object of the suspension]. (Second.)




Member A (obtaining the floor): I move to suspend the rules and take up . . . (Second.)


When the object is to adopt a motion without debate or amendment the form is:


MEMBER A (obtaining the floor): I move to suspend the rules and adopt [or “agree to"] the following resolution: “Resolved  that . . .” ( Second . )


If such a motion does not receive the required two thirds vote, the main motion can be taken up only in the normal way. A member moving to suspend the rules can briefly give sufficient information to enable the members to vote intelligently on his undebatable motion. (For the manner of taking a two-thirds vote, see pp. 45 and 48-49.) In announcing an affirmative result, the chair says, for example,


Chair: There are two thirds in affirmative and the rules are suspended for the purpose of . . . The chair recognizes — Mrs. Watkins.




Purpose: Used when an assembly wishes to do something that it can not do without violating one or more of its rules.


Rules Include:


·      Parliamentary authority - requires 2/3 vote

·      Special rules - (referenced by bylaws or in assembly manual), requires 2/3 vote

·      Standing rules - (related to the  Administration) requires majority vote


Cannot include that which the assembly has no direct control of or violates the rights of individual members such as:


·      By laws, constitution (unless there is a provision for suspension or the bylaws contain “administrative or standing rules”) or

·      municipal, provincial or federal law or

·      the rights of the individual is effected e.g. requirement for notice of motion or disclosure of a secret ballot




·      Motion can only be made when no other motion is pending or it can be applied to a motion when business is pending.

·      Takes precedence over all subsidiary motions except lay of the table and all privileged motions except call for the orders of the day.

·      Cannot interrupt a speaker who has the floor and the mover must be recognized

·      Requires a seconder

·      Is not debatable but the mover can offer a short explanation of its purpose

·      Is not amendable

·      Usually requires a two thirds vote

·      Cannot be reconsidered or renewed (for the same purpose at the same meeting)

·      It is exhausted once its’ purpose is completed

·      A member can ask for unanimous consent (which can be used rather than making the motion)


Form of the Motion


·      Generally the rule(s) to be suspended is not specified except in the case of a specific standing rule but the purpose should be specified in as much detail as possible:


“I move that we suspend the rules and consider the following motions together”

“I move that we suspend the rules and that we take up item 5 on the agenda”

“I move that we suspend the rules and adopt the following resolution.”

“I move that we suspend rule number 9 in our standing rules that prevents smoking”


Comparisons with other parliamentary authorities:


Bourinot’s Rules of order:


Used occasionally but only in extreme cases of emergency e.g. when time is a factor or when an extraordinary item must be considered. Purpose must be stated and is exhausted when purpose achieved. Requires unanimous consent (usually), and may suspend items in the by-laws e.g. requirement to give specific number of days  notice of a meeting.




Kerr and King: Procedures for Meetings and Organizations


No provision to suspend the rules. Can consider a motion in “Informal Session” where no motions can be made except to arise from the informal session or set the time to end the session. The motion to change the order of the approved agenda item can be used for taking up orders out of their original sequence.



Present by Richard Slee, April 8, 1997 before the Parliamentary Society of Toronto



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