Youtube edutainer CGPGrey posted this video explaining at the linked timestamp, a pro-forma session of the Senate.

He explains that the Senate can "take a recess" without officially doing so, by holding a pro-forma session in which one senator announces a 3 day break for the Senate, doing so on every 4th day as long as the Senate wants to vacation.

Of interest is that, in the video, Grey says that this can only be done because the Senate always assumes a quorum, unless "someone asks for a roll call" to show otherwise.

This document says on page 5 under "Ordering the Yeas and Nays," however, that one-fifth of a quorum must ask for a roll call.

Does that mean, then, that, barring a constitutional amendment, it is not possible to prevent the Senate from using this recess loophole?

1 Answer 1


There’s no way for the executive branch to stop pro forma sessions.

The Supreme Court ruled in N.L.R.B. v. Noel Canning that “the Senate, not the president, gets to decide whether it is legitimately in session”. The ruling came after President Obama appointed officials to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was in recess but held pro forma sessions.

The President’s power to adjourn Congress is limited. Under the constitution, they can only do so if the House and the Senate disagree about the time of adjournment. This power has never been invoked before.

The Constitution says that neither the House nor the Senate may adjourn for more than three days without the other’s consent, and if they disagree about the time of adjournment, the president “may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper.”

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