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A quorum call or call to quorum is a parliamentary procedure used to summon absent members of a deliberative body if a quorum is not present. Since attendance at debates is not mandatory in most legislatures, it is often the case that a quorum of members is not present while debate is ongoing. In many bodies, motions such as amendments, tabling,[clarification needed] and recommitment may be approved in the absence of a quorum, provided no member then present objects. A member wishing to delay proceedings (for example, to allow other members time to get to the chamber in order to join debate) may request that the presiding officer determine whether a quorum is present. If a quorum does not appear to be present, debate is suspended, as the only business allowed without a quorum is to adjourn, recess, summon absent members, or compel their attendance if the body has the power to do so.
What happens after debate stops depends on the legislature in question. In the United States Congress, bells are rung in the various congressional office buildings to indicate to members that their presence is required in their respective chambers. Members of the House use the same electronic system as is used for voting to register their presence; in the Senate, one of the clerks will read out a roll call of senators, who indicate their presence when called. In fact, if any Senator "suggests the absence of a quorum," the Presiding Officer must direct the roll to be called. For practical purposes, a quorum call permits the Senate to delay to work out some difficulty or await a Senator's arrival.
Because of differences in procedure between the two bodies, quorum calls in the House are fairly rare, but they are quite common in the Senate. In both houses, while quorum calls officially last fifteen minutes, the actual amount of time given is at the discretion of the presiding officer. A motion to adjourn for lack of a quorum may be raised after the quorum call if an insufficient number of members present themselves. However, if the business is especially important, the members present may instead move a call of the house which will force all members to attend.
In the Parliament of Australia, the quorum call is requested by a member drawing the Speaker's attention to the state of the House, or a Senator drawing the President's attention to the state of the Senate, as appropriate. Quorum calls last for the same length as a call for a division, four minutes. The presence of a quorum is judged by the presiding officer. Members of Parliament however are not obliged to be seated and can stand in the chamber (but not at the seats, as this may be mistaken for the member seeking the call).