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101. The ordinary course of proceeding in Congress, under the rules established by the respective Houses, is as follows: One day's notice of a motion for leave to bring in a bill, in cases of a general nature, is required. Every bill must have three readings previous to its being passed, and these readings must be on different days, and no bill can be committed or amended until it has been twice read. The object of these forms is, to guard against surprise or imposition. In the House of Representatives, bills, after being twice read, are committed to a committee of the whole house, when the Speaker leaves the chair and takes part, if he chooses, in the debate as an ordinary member, and a chairman is appointed in his stead.
102. When a bill has passed one House it is transmitted to the other, and goes through a similar form ; though in the Senate there is less formality, and bills are often committed to a select committee, chosen by ballot. If a bill be altered or amended in the House to which it is transmitted, it is then returned to the House in which it originated, and if the two Houses cannot agree, they appoint committees to confer together on the subject. When a bill is engrossed, and has passed both Houses, it is
transmitted to the President for his sanction. 8
Punishment of Members.
103. It has been contended that the Constitution only confers on each House of Congress the power to punish its members for disorderly behavior during the session of the House, and within its presence. But the prevailing opinion is, that members may be punished for disorderly behavior committed during the session of Congress, no matter whether it be committed within or without the walls of the House; and that a member may be expelled for any misdemeanor inconsistent with his trust and duty, no matter whether he commits the misdemeanor during the session of Congress or otherwise, nor whether such
misdemeanor is punishable by statute or not. 104. Each House of Congress not only possesses
this express power of punishing its own members, but the implied power of protecting itself from injury or insult on the part of others; or, in other words, of punishing for any contempts committed against itself. This power of punishment is deemed essential to the dignity, safety, and self-protection of a deliberative assembly. 105. The extent to which it may be carried has been a subject of grave discussion, and the conclusion arrived at is, that it is limited to imprisonment, which must terminate with the adjournment of Congress. For although the legislative power continues perpetual, the legislative body ceases to exist at the moment of its adjournment or periodical dissolution.
The Journal of Proceedings.
106. Each House must 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, must, at the desire of one-fifth of those present, be entered on the journal. .
107. A journal preserves in permanent form a record of the proceedings of Congress, and its publication, from time to time, insures to the people authentic information of their official acts. As the proceedings of Congress, however, are generally conducted in public, and immediately communicated to the people through the press, and in advance of the official publication of their journal, this provision of the Constitution may, on a first view, seem to be needless. But when we consider that neither House is required to sit with open doors, and might, if they chose, conduct all their proceedings in secret, as was done by the Senate at the outset of the government, the importance of this provision for the publication of their journal will appear.
108. When business of a confidential nature is
brought before either House, all persons are excluded but their officers. The Senate, too, holds what are termed “Executive Sessions,” in which confidential communications from the President are considered, such as nominations to office, treaties, &c. The journal of its proceedings on occasions of this kind, unless the injunction of secrecy has been removed, is not made public, but is kept in a distinct record, which is only accessible to certain privileged persons.
The Yeas and Nays.
109. The importance of that portion of the clause which requires the yeas and nays to be entered on the journal, if one-fifth of the members present desire it, is obvious. By this means the people know how their representatives vote, and thus caution and deliberation are induced on the part of the latter. As too much time, however, would be consumed in calling the yeas and nays on every question, and as they might be called by factious or dissatisfied ‘members for the sole purpose of delaying and embarrassing the passage of measures, it is wisely provided that they shall not be called, or entered upon the journal, unless at the desire of one-fifth of the members present.
, 110. Neither House, during the session of Congress, can, 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.
111. This clause was intended to prevent either House from interrupting the regular course of legislation by undue adjournments. In this particular they are restrained both as to time and place. In case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, the President may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper. With this exception, the executive department has nothing whatever to do with the duration or the adjournment of Congress. In England, on the contrary, the King may prorogue or dissolve Parliament at his pleasure.
Duration of Congress.
112. It will be recollected that the members of the House are chosen for two years, and also that the seats of one-third of the Senators become vacant every second year. Hence the duration of each Congress is two years. And as the Constitution requires them to assemble at least once in every year, it follows that each Congress will necessarily hold not less than two sessions. In addition to these, the President is empowered, on extraordinary occasions, to convene both Houses, or either of them.