Debate (parliamentary procedure)

Debate (parliamentary procedure)

Debate or discussion in parliamentary procedure refers to discussion on the merits of a pending question; that is, whether it should or not be agreed to. Robert's Rules of Order notes that "Debate, rightly understood, is an essential element in the making of rational decisions of consequence by intelligent people."[1] Indeed, one of the distinguishing characteristics of a deliberative assembly is that "It is a group of people, having or assuming freedom to act in concert, meeting to determine, in full and free discussion, courses of action to be taken in the name of the entire group."

Under RONR, the right of members to participate in debate is limited to two ten-minute speeches per day on a question;[2] Riddick's Rules of Procedure also specifies a default limit of ten minutes.[3] However, these limitations can be loosened or tightened through motion (parliamentary procedure)s to limit or extend limits of debate; or to go into a committee of the whole or quasi committee of the whole, or to consider informally a measure; or to adopt a special rule of order or standing rule changing the limitations on debate.[4]

Mason's Manual provides that in state legislative bodies:[5]

No member has the right to speak more than once on the same question at the same stage of procedure on the same day, or even on another day, if the debate be adjourned. However, if a bill be read more than once on the same day,a member may speak once on each reading. Members may be permitted to speak again to clear up a matter of fact, or merely to explain some material part of their speech, and while they do not have the right to discuss the question itself, they may be permitted to do so...The rule providing that members shall not speak more than once on the same measure, at the same stage of procedure, applied to continued debate after adjournment or postponement. In practice, a member is often given the privilege of speaking a second time on a question after others who desired to speak have spoken when that member can explain any point misunderstood and present facts to refute arguments by those opposed. The rule that no one shall be permitted to speak a second time until all others who desire have spoken should not be so strictly enforced that someone who has spoken cannot clear up some question that has arisen in debate.

Some motions are not debatable. This includes most secondary motions that are applied to undebatable motions.


  1. ^ RONR (10th ed.), p. 373
  2. ^ RONR (10th ed.), p. 375-376
  3. ^ Riddick & Butcher (1985). Riddick's Rules of Procedure, 1985 ed., p. 178
  4. ^ RONR (10th ed.), p. 378
  5. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures (2000). Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, 2000 ed., p. 85–86

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