From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms
Privilege / Privileged Questions / Question of Privilege
Privilege relates to the rights of members of Congress and to relative priority of the motions and actions they may make in their respective chambers. The two are distinct. “Privileged questions” deal with legislative business. “Questions of privilege” concern legislators themselves.
Privileged Questions: Attribute of a motion, measure, report, question, or proposition that gives it priority status for consideration. The order in which Congress considers bills, motions and other legislative measures is governed by strict priorities. A motion to table, for instance, is more privileged than a motion to recommit. Thus, a motion to recommit can be superseded by a motion to table, and a vote would be forced on the latter motion only. A motion to adjourn, however, takes precedence over a tabling motion and thus is considered the “highest privilege.”
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Question of Privilege: These are matters affecting members of Congress individually or collectively. Matters affecting the rights, safety, dignity and integrity of proceedings of the House or Senate as a whole are questions of privilege in both chambers. Under House rules adopted in 1993, the Speaker may postpone consideration of certain questions of privilege for two days.
Questions involving individual members are called questions of “personal privilege.” A member rising to ask a question of personal privilege (make a “point of personal privilege“) is given precedence over almost all other proceedings. An annotation in the House rules points out that the privilege rests primarily on the Constitution (Article. I. Section. 6.), which gives him a conditional immunity from arrest and an unconditional freedom to speak in the House
- Appeal the Ruling of the Chair (CongressionalGlossary.com)
- Immunity (CongressionalGlossary.com)
- Point of Order (CongressionalGlossary.com)
- § 6.70 House Floor: Scheduling and Privilege, in Congressional Deskbook
- Chapter 4.E. Privileged Business; Chapter 6.E. Conference Reports; Chapter 7.H. Appropriations; in Congressional Procedure
- House Rule IX – Questions of Privilege
- Senate Rule II. Presentation of Credentials and Questions of Privilege
- “Privileged Business on the House Floor,” CRS Report 98-315 (5-page PDF)
- “Questions of Privilege in the House,” CRS Report 98-411 (6-page PDF)
- “Selected Privileges and Courtesies Extended to Former Senators,” CRS Report 98-963 (7-page PDF)
- “Commonly Used Motions and Requests in the House of Representatives,” CRS Report RL32207 (20-page PDF)
- “Altering House Ethics Committee Sanction Recommendations on the Floor: Past Precedent and Options for Action,” CRS Report R44213 (23-page PDF)
- “Germaneness of Debate in the Senate: The Pastore Rule,” CRS Report R45134 (14-page PDF)
- “Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure,” CRS Report RL34097 (100-page PDF)
- “A Survey of House and Senate Committee Rules on Subpoenas,” CRS Report R44247 (31-page PDF)
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Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates
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