Parliamentary Outreach Program

THE PREVIOUS QUESTION

Today the previous question is a motion made in order under House Rule XIX, and accorded precedence under clause 4 of Rule XVI, and is the only parliamentary device in the House used for both closing debate and preventing amendment. The effect of adopting the previous question is to bring the pending proposition or question to an immediate, final vote. The motion is most often made (as opposed to ordered by a rule) at the conclusion of debate on a rule or a motion or piece of legislation prior to final passage. A Member might think about ordering the previous question in terms of answering the question: Is the House ready to vote on the bill or amendment before it?

Furthermore, in order to amend a rule (other than by the managerís offering an amendment to it or by the manager yielding for the purpose of amendment), the House must vote against ordering the previous question. If the motion for the previous question is defeated, the House is in effect, turning control of the Floor over to the Member who led the opposition.

If the motion for the previous question is defeated, the Speaker then recognizes the Member who led the opposition to the previous question (usually a Member of the Minority party) to control an additional hour of debate during which a germane amendment may be offered to the rule. The Member controlling the Floor then moves the previous question on the amendment and the rule. If the previous question is ordered, the next vote occurs on the amendment followed by a vote on the rule as amended or not.