How to Lay a Motion on the Table

This is a quick guide on how to lay a motion on the table.

The Skinny

  • What motion should you use to set current business aside and do something else of urgency immediately?
    Use the motion called Lay on the Table.
  • What should you say when making this motion?
    Say this: “I move to lay the motion on the table.”
  • When can you make this motion?
    You can make this motion anytime that the following other motions are not on the floor: Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn, Adjourn, Recess, Call for the Orders of the Day, and Raise a Question of Privilege.
  • Can you interrupt another speaker to make this motion?
  • Does someone have to say, “Second” after this motion is proposed?
  • Can people debate the pros and cons of this motion?
    No. But the Chair can ask the maker of the motion to state the urgent matter that necessitates laying a motion on the table.
  • How many votes does this motion need to pass?
    Majority. More than half of the votes cast must be in favor of laying the motion on the table.

An Example

  • While a group is considering a main motion on a large expenditure, a member of the Finance Committee informs the group that he thinks the group’s finances are actually not as stable in the long term as the group believes.
  • Member A hears the Finance Committee member’s remarks and thinks that the group should have an opportunity to hear from the Treasurer and ask questions before continuing its discussion of the expenditure. Member A isn’t sure if the group will even be able to continue considering the expenditure after it hears from the Treasurer.
  • Member A rises, seeks recognition, and says, “I move to lay the main motion related to the expenditure on the table.”
  • Member B seconds the motion.
  • The Chair says, “What is the urgent reason that requires laying the main motion on the table?”
  • Member A says, “I think the group needs an honest picture of its finances for the long term before it considers spending such a large sum of money.”
  • The Chair says, “It has been moved and seconded to lay the main motion on the table. All those in favor of laying the main motion on the table, say ‘Aye.’ All those opposed, say ‘No.’”
  • If a majority of the members vote in favor of laying the main motion on the table, the main motion will be placed on the table, and Member A can then make a separate motion that the group hear a report from the Treasurer regarding the finances.

What the Pros Know

  • It is not appropriate to make the motion to Lay on the Table if there is not another matter that requires urgent attention. In other words, this motion may not be used to kill a main motion.
  • If, when this motion is made, it includes any sort of specific timing for future consideration of the pending motion, then the member should be using the motion to Postpone to a Specific Time, not the motion to Lay on the Table.
  • Even though the motion to Lay on the Table cannot be made after someone else has addressed the Chair to raise a question of privilege or to call for the orders of the day, it can be made once a question of privilege or an order of the day is actually pending. It doesn’t have priority over the bringing up of those matters, but it has priority over the matters themselves.
  • The motion to Lay on the Table can be made while a limit on debate is in force, or after a motion to close debate has been adopted.
  • A motion is laid on the table together with all the other motions connected to it. In other words, if a motion to refer a main motion to a committee or a motion to amend is laid on the table, the main motion to which those motions are connected would also be laid on the table.
  • When a motion is laid on the table, it stays there through the current meeting and the next meeting, as long as the next meeting is within 3 months. While it is on the table, any member can move to take it from the table using the motion to Take from the Table.
  • Since a motion that is laid on the table stays there during the current and next meeting, it is still technically a “live” motion and no other motion can be made on that same topic.
  • Adopting the motion to Lay on the Table does not automatically bring another motion before the group. If the group desires to consider another motion, a member needs to follow the proper steps to introduce it.

Where to Learn More