Today, we will cover two sections, since they are both fairly short. Both have to do with regulating how Congress works.
This post is part of a series that will make more sense if it is read in order. If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, please click here to start with the first one. One reason I’ve broken this series into fairly small parts is that we have a tendency to rush through reading the Constitution and miss a lot of it. I hope the readers of this series will ponder the points in each session. I also hope you will comment on each post as we go along.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document will be in this color and italicized.
SECTION 4. The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.
Once again, the founders are leaving as much as possible up to the states to decide for themselves. Paragraph one provides for each state to determine for itself when and how elections shall take place. Having established that, it does give Congress the power to make changes, except that it can’t change how Senators are elected.
Paragraph two mandates that Congress meet at least once each year. Our founders undoubtedly did not anticipate the situation today in which Congress is almost continuously in session, constantly churning out more and more legislation to bog our nation down in.
SECTION 5. Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn 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.
This is a straight-forward provision allowing Congress to judge the qualifications of its own members. It also provides that no legislation can be passed in the absence of a quorum in attendance.
2 Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.
More housekeeping provisions putting each house in charge of its own rules.
3 Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.
This assures that the public will have access to the goings-on of Congress. They cannot act in secrecy except when national security requires it. It also provides that as few as 20% of the members of each house can demand that votes be made public.
4 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.
This provides for orderly proceedings by requiring that sessions be held in the Capitol and that neither house can shut down or meet elsewhere without the consent of the other house.
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.
For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.
Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.