In the US, meetings are often held according to Robert's Rules of Order, a popular guide to 'parliamentary procedure'. (We may not have a parliament, but we have the procedures! The Congress has its own set of rules.) In the parlance of Robert's and AmE generally, if a motion has been made and is up for discussion, it is on the floor, as in the following quotation from the Princeton Union Eagle:
After a few minutes, Weisenburger said to Girard, "There's a motion on the floor, it's been seconded. Do something."If you want to remove the motion from the floor--that is, to postpone discussion of it until a later time, you can put it on the table, or table the motion. (You'd then say that the motion is or has been tabled.) So, a tabled motion is not on the floor--it cannot be debated. Here are some examples from the minutes of the 2002 Annual General Meeting of the International Thunderbird Class Association (which may be international, but they seem to be based in Washington state, and they use table in an AmE way):
There was considerable discussion on the issue of the mast weight. Most had to do with the question of whether the matter could be taken off the table and voted upon at the current AGM. It was concluded that it could not, due to the failure of proper notification of the membership about such an action.
If a member wishes to have this motion taken from the table it would require a majority vote of those at the AGM, assuming proper advance notification - distribution to the fleet captains as part of the agenda two months prior to the meeting date. [...]
Currently, the motion is on the table, sine dei. There is no specific date upon which it is to be brought back before the AGM.
In BrE (where parliamentary procedure--or Standing Orders--seems to differ depending on the type of bill being debated and in which House), a motion that is being discussed is on the table. So, you table a motion when you want to bring it up for debate. You can also table questions (bring them up for discussion), according to the House of Commons Standing Orders for Public Business:
Notices of questions shall be given by Members in writing to the Table Office in a form determined by the Speaker. [...] a Member may not table more than five such questions on any one dayBoth systems speak of the floor, but it seems to me that there are some differences in its use. This guide to the business of the House of Lords makes the distinction between work done on the floor--i.e. in a House of Lords session, with all members able to examine and discuss the matter at hand, and off the floor--i.e. in committee. In my experience of American government, on the floor would be used in a similar way, but I wouldn't say that work in committee is off the floor, really...I'd limit my use of that phrase to describing more informal behind-the-scenes deal-making (or whatever). Perhaps insiders into either government can give us more insight.
Click on the tag below for more Janus words...including the somewhat related moot.