Debate (parliamentary procedure)

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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]

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