Blog Lecture No. 41: Plenary Session

Fasten your seatbelts, class! This is going to be a bumpy ride!

How does Congress proceed during plenary sessions?

According to Rule 11 of the House Rules, if they still follow it, this is the order of business (or agenda) during plenary sessions:

Section 70. Order of Business. – The daily Order of Business shall be as follows:

  1. Roll call;
  2. Approval of the Journal of the previous session;
  3. First Reading and Referral to Committees of Bills, Proposed Resolutions, Messages, Communications, Petitions and Memorials;
  4. Unfinished Business;
  5. Business for the Day;
  6. Business for a Certain Date;
  7. Committee Reports;
  8. Business for Thursday and Friday;
  9. Bills and Joint Resolutions for Third Reading; and
  10. Unassigned Business
What constitutes a quorum of the House in plenary?

It is majority of all the members (Section 73, Rule 11 of House Rules)

What happens if the quorum is not achieved?

The House shall not transact business without a quorum (Section 73, as above). If there is no quorum, the House may resort to measures to achieve a quorum, even effect the arrest of absent Congressmen. (Section 74, Rule 11 of House Rules)

What is unfinished business?

This is business being considered by the House at the time of its last adjournment. Its consideration shall be resumed until it is disposed of. The Unfinished Business at the end of a session shall be resumed at the commencement of the next session as if no adjournment has taken place. At the end of the term of a Congress, all Unfinished Business are deemed terminated.

For example, if the House, during the last session, was debating on how many angels can sit on the head of a pin, and did not finish it, the will resume the on the next session day.

What is business of the day?

These are bills, resolutions and other measures set in the Calendar for the Day by the Committee on Rules. They shall be considered, as far as practicable, in the order in which they are listed in the Calendar and after the business mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

What is business for a certain date?

No, this does not refer to the business of certainly getting dates for our dapper congressmen.

This is business set for consideration on a certain date. It shall be considered in chronological order until disposed of on the date set and on subsequent days unless the continuation of the consideration of any business therein included is set for another day. No business in this Calendar shall be set for consideration unless it has been placed therein two (2) session days prior to such consideration.

What is business on a Thursday or a Friday?

Bills of local application shall be included in the Calendar for Thursday and Friday.

Such bills shall be arranged and considered in the order set by the Committee on Rules. No local bill shall be set for consideration unless it has been placed in this Calendar two (2) session days prior to such consideration.

Classic examples of bills of local application are bills turning a certain place into a city (city charters) and bills to rename local roads and highways.

What is unassigned business?

Bills, resolutions, and other measures reported out by the committees but not calendared for Second Reading by the Committee on Rules may be included in the Calendar of Unassigned Business.

Any business included in this Calendar may be set for consideration on motion of a Member with the unanimous approval of the House; Provided, That it shall be included in the Calendar of Business at least two (2) days prior to such consideration.

The more common term for this is “other matters.” But, according to the rules, there must be a unanimous vote and inclusion in the calendar before they are considered.

(These were taken mostly from Section 78, Rule 11 of the House Rules, with some annotations.)

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