~
Article 1, Section 5

Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members,
Both houses of Congress shall each determine if new members are actually rightfully “elected” and are legally qualified to serve in their seats.

and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business;
and at least half of each house shall be the required number to do business (to vote on topics)

but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day,
but a number of fewer than half may meet from day to day

and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.
and the houses of Congress may be allowed to force or require the attendance of absent members in whatever manner that each house approves, and to deal whatever penalties each house approves, upon those absent members. ^1

Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings,
Each house of Congress makes up its own rules for how they conduct business ^2

punish its members for disorderly behavior,
each house can punish its own members for disorderly conduct

and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.
and with a vote of two thirds of its members, each house may expel members from within their house^3

Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings,
Each house shall keep a record of business conducted during their sessions

and from time to time publish the same,
both houses are required to make its journal public 

excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy;
except for those parts that may need to be kept secret, as that house determines

and the yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall at the desire of one fifth of these present, be entered on the journal.
the yeas and nays on any item up for vote shall be entered in the journal if one fifth of the members present desire it to be entered

Neither House, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
Neither house of Congress can break from meeting for more than three days without the other house’s knowledge and consent.  They also cannot meet anywhere other than where both houses meet (the Capitol building or another temporary place of meeting) without the consent of the other house’s consent.^4


My notes:

^1 The last time this power was used was in 1988, when Republicans were trying to kill a Democrat-led bill to reform campaign finance by not attending the session.  Senator Robert (Bob) Dole (R-KS) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attempted to filibuster the bill. With the absence of other Republicans, the Sergeant-at-Arms was ordered to gather Capitol Police officers and arrest the absent Senators and have them brought to the floor of the Senate. (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/campaign/issues/1988_retro.html, 21 March 2011)

In a related topic, the Wisconsin Senate ordered the arrest of absent Democrat Senators on March 3, 2011. Democrats fussed saying that by state constitution, Senators were to be exempt from arrest, except for a few exceptions, while in session. However, their constitution also has this same clause (Wisconsin Constitution, Article IV, Section 7) to compel the attendance of their congressional representatives, and authorizes the arrest of these members in order to bring them to the floor. (http://legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/wisconst.pdf, 21 March 2011)

^2 The Senate (with fewer members) has used this rule to encourage unlimited debate through the use of filibuster.  The House (with many more members) felt the need to limit debate, thus a filibuster is not allowed.

^3 The House has expelled only 5 members in its history.  The most recent was U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. (D-OH) in July of 2002, for receiving favors, gifts and money in return for performing official acts on behalf of the donors. The Senate has expelled 15 members, 14 of which were due to being charged with supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War. (http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/congress-reluctant-to-punish-its-own.htm, 21 March 2011)

Isn’t it amazing that more have not been expelled?  I guess with the rampant lack of ethics among most of today’s politicians, calling something unethical is a matter of perspective.

^4 I searched and searched. But I could not find when or how this ever changed. Three days is what was allotted by the Constitution for each house to break from conducting business. Anything beyond this was only permitted (as shown by this clause) with consent from the other house. This was to ensure that the short period they had to hold session each year was kept productive. I talked about the amount of time for which Congress was to meet in my discussion of Article 1, Section 4. As a brief re-statement, our founders never meant for Congress to meet year-round.  They never meant for ‘politics’ to be a career; rather, it was meant to be a public service to be done in addition to one’s main livelihood. You can read more of my thoughts on this in my Note on Article 1, Section 4.


© 2011 Ike Chisholm

All additional materials contained in this work are the ideas and works of the author. Use of these works is forbidden without expressed permission from the author.  The text of the Constitution is not copyrighted. It is not the author’s intent to claim the text of the Constitution as his own.

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