Reed's Parliamentary Rules
Chapter XVI -- Order of Business
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255. Orders of the Day.— In the absence of special arrangements made by the assembly, the natural order of business is the one to be followed. Each piece of business upon being presented is in order until disposed of and the next presented is taken up. But it may happen that the nature of the business to be done is such that special notice needs to be given, or its friends may desire to be sure that it will have on a certain day the right of way. In that case, under general parliamentary law, the method is to move that this question be the order of the day on a given day. This, with such other questions as were set down in a similar manner for that day, would be the order of the day. If there were several questions appointed for the day, each would have a priority in the order of assignment, and the first one assigned would be the first one considered. If an hour is fixed for one of the orders of the day, when that hour arrives, the business in which the assembly is engaged is suspended until the business appointed for that hour is disposed of. This is the rule even if the business pending is itself an order of the day.

256. Postponement to a Day Certain.— Whenever a main question has been postponed on motion to a day certain, it becomes on that day one of the orders of the day. In fact, a motion that a particular question be the order of the day for another day is in fact a motion to postpone to a day certain. Hence a motion that a measure be the order of the day can only be made when the measure could itself be properly brought before the assembly. Most frequently, however, orders of the day are arranged by general consent.

257. Taking Up Orders of the Day.— When orders of the day are reached, they can be called up on the suggestion of any member, or the presiding officer may lay them before the assembly in their regular order. A member speaking may be interrupted for this purpose. Of course the action of the assembly in assigning the orders of the day is not irrevocable. It may be, also, that the assembly may prefer to go on with the business already before it. In that event the question of consideration should be raised against the order, and if decided against consideration then the business previously pending can be resumed. In that event, if there were several orders, the question of consideration would have to be raised against each order of the day in succession.

258. In the United States House of Representatives.— In the House of Representatives a bill is made the order of the day either by agreement or postponement, by suspension of the rules (see Sec. 192) or on the report of the Committee on Rules. The manner of doing it by the aid of the Committee on Rules is this: A resolution specifying the time, and also the manner, of considering the special question is sent to the Committee on Rules. The Committee on Rules reports to the House by a resolution. If this resolution be adopted by the House, the question becomes the special order for the day specified. This resolution is in the nature of a change of the rules, and often for that special case modifies very decidedly the ordinary rules of the House.

259. Some Changes in General Parliamentary Law Made by Various Bodies, and Practical Suggestions Thereon.— The order of business already described (Sec. 255; see Sec. 260) is the order which would be followed under general parliamentary law. It naturally places much power in the hands of the presiding officer, and at the same time imposes upon him arduous responsibilities. In small assemblies, or in those which have but little work to perform, it is of course all that is necessary; but where the assembly is large and the number of measures to be presented is great there must be modifications, not only of this general order of business, but of a few of the rules of general parliamentary law. Of the extent of these modifications each assembly must judge for itself, and but few suggestions can be made. It has seemed to me that the best service such a manual as this could render would be to show some practical modifications which have been made and leave the question of modification in each particular case to the needs of the assembly on which it must necessarily depend.

260. Natural Order of Business.— The natural order of business, as already stated, would be:
        Calling to order.
        Reading and approval of the minutes of the previous meeting.
        Unfinished business.
        New business.
        Adjournment.

261. Modification by Orders of the Day.— The first modification which could be made would be under general parliamentary law, and would be the introduction of orders of the day which would supersede the natural order, and for that day the course of procedure would be:
        Calling to order.
        Approval of the journal.
        Orders of the day.
        Unfinished business.
        New business.
        Adjournment.

Rules may, however, be adopted placing the orders of the day after unfinished business or in any other position.

262. Modification as to the Introduction of New Business and Reference to Committees.— Where the business is more extensive, and is to be referred to standing committees, other modifications would be necessary to provide both for reference and report, and a simple order would be as follows:
        Calling to order.
        Approval of the journal.
        Introduction of business for reference to committees.
        Unfinished business.
        Report of committees for action.
        Adjournment.

Under this order of business each report of the committee could be taken up and disposed of, or could have a day assigned to it, and on that day the order would be modified by the insertion of the measure as an order of the day next after the reading of the journal, or after the unfinished business, or at a stated hour, as might be specified. When the proper time arrived the report would be laid before the assembly. If then the assembly desired to go on with the unfinished business, it could raise the question of consideration against the order of the day.

263. Order Where Calendars Are Necessary.— If, again, the business of the assembly was so great that it could not be disposed of at the time it was reported from the committees, and calendars or lists have to be made, then there would have to be another modification of the order of business as follows:
        Calling to order.
        Approval of the journal.
        Introduction of business for reference.
        Reports of committees for reference to calendars.
        Unfinished business.
        Reports of committees for action.
        Action on reports already made.
        Other business.
        Adjournment.

264. Rank of Motions.— There is hardly any legislative body which has not changed the order and rank of motions from that laid down by general parliamentary law. While there are differences in the changes which have been made, there has been remarkable unanimity in one respect, if one can judge from the examination of the rules of the popular branch in a dozen or more States in different parts of the Union. The previous question has been much advanced in scope and position, and the motion to indefinitely postpone has been in a measure relegated to the rear. In one important legislative body, the Massachusetts House, it has no place on the list whatever.

It would serve but little purpose to enumerate in a volume of this size the different orders actually adopted in the different States, especially as a single order can be given which will substantially represent the opinion of all the bodies referred to. The following is the order in Tennessee (both branches), Michigan, and Wisconsin.

When a question is under debate, no motion shall be received but—
        To adjourn.
        To lay on the table.
        For the previous question.
        To postpone to a day certain.
        To commit.
        To amend.
        To postpone indefinitely.

Which several motions shall have precedence in the order in which they stand arranged.

This order is hardly anywhere varied from in the first three items. In the next item, commitment sometimes precedes postponement, and in the New Hampshire House and the Washington House the order is varied by putting indefinite postponement between the previous question and postponement to a day certain, and in Connecticut the order is much the same.

265. United States House of Representatives.— The rule in the last Congress (Fifty-second) was: “When a question is under debate, no motion shall be received but—
        “To fix the day to which the House shall adjourn.
        “To adjourn.
        “To take a recess.
        “To lay on the table.
        “For the previous question (which motions shall be decided without debate).
        “To postpone to a day certain.
        “To refer or amend.
        “To postpone indefinitely (which several motions shall have precedence in the foregoing order). And no motion to postpone to a day certain, to refer, or to postpone indefinitely, being decided, shall be again allowed on the same day at the same stage of the question.”

In the Fifty-first Congress the rule was the same, except that the first and third items were omitted.