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I recently came across the concept of a pro forma congressional session, where a single lawmaker will open the session, wait a minute, then close the session. Apparently, this tactic has been used by both sides in the past to avoid officially recessing.

However, while I can see how the majority party could choose to do this, I fail to see how a minority party can do this without the tacit approval of the chamber's leader.

For example, during the pro forma session which led to these recess appointments, the Democrats were in control of the Senate. Couldn't Senator Reid have recessed to prevent the Republicans from having the pro forma sessions to keep the Senate in session? And assuming he didn't, could another Senator have forced a recess by suggesting the lack of a quorum and triggering a quorum call? Or would that simply have forced an adjournment, which would still accomplish the purpose of being "in session" for the next few days?

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    Article I Section 5 of the Constitution states "Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days". So to prevent recess appointments, House Republicans decided to refuse any request of the Senate to adjourn for more than three days. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 14 '14 at 1:30
  • @KeshavSrinivasan - Ah! That makes sense. I hadn't considered the cross-chamber aspect of it. Want to make that an answer, so I can accept it? – Bobson Jan 14 '14 at 14:18
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Article I Section 5 of the Constitution states "Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days". So to prevent recess appointments, House Republicans decided to refuse any request of the Senate to adjourn for more than three days. Thus the Senate had to hold a pro forma session every three days.

  • Do they then close the session and immediately open the next when they're ready to return from what would be their recess? – Bobson Jan 14 '14 at 16:32

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