I've noticed that most days, the House chamber is relatively empty during general proceedings and most certainly does not have a quorum - even when taking votes.

What is stopping a very persistent member from calling for a quorum every day and effectively stalling the legislative process?

  • 2
    Being hated by their colleagues for deliberately and pointlessly wasting their time?
    – Philipp
    Feb 15, 2016 at 18:22
  • 3
    @Philipp While true, that's not necessarily enough of a deterrent. See: Ted Cruz.
    – cpast
    Feb 15, 2016 at 19:26
  • I'm not American, but presumably after a few calls, they'd have the required numbers and the tactic would fail.
    – Golden Cuy
    Feb 15, 2016 at 21:28
  • @AndrewGrimm - I think it'd be more about disrupting the process in an ongoing manner, rather than a one-time delay. Most legislative work goes on in committee meetings, offices, and elsewhere in the vicinity of the Capitol, but not on the floor. Making everyone stop to head to the floor repeatedly would disrupt all that.
    – Bobson
    Feb 16, 2016 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


Nothing at all that I'm aware of... at first.

However, if this Congressman refused to stop at his (or her) party's behest, assuming they have one (and aren't Independent), they would be subject to whatever disciplinary action that the House decides to take.

The Constitution specifies Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member. This report by the Congressional Research Service in 2013 discusses discipline in the House, specifically. Quotes are from there, emphasis is mine:

The House may discipline its Members without the necessity of Senate concurrence. The most common forms of discipline in the House are now “expulsion,” “censure,” or “reprimand”; although the House may also discipline its Members in other ways, including fine or monetary restitution, loss of seniority, and suspension or loss of certain privileges. In addition to such sanctions imposed by the full House of Representatives, the standing committee in the House which deals with ethics and official conduct matters, the House Committee on Ethics—formerly called the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct—is authorized by House Rules to issue a formal “Letter of Reproval” for misconduct which does not rise to the level of consideration or sanction by the entire House of Representatives. Additionally, the Committee on Ethics has also expressed its disapproval of certain conduct in informal letters and communications to Members.

The House may generally discipline its Members for violations of statutory law, including crimes; for violations of internal congressional rules; or for any conduct which the House of Representatives finds has reflected discredit upon the institution. Thus, each house of Congress has disciplined its own Members for conduct which has not necessarily violated any specific rule or law, but which was found to breach its privileges, demonstrate contempt for the institution, or reflect discredit on the House or Senate.

Summarizing the rest of the report, in reverse order, a "reprimand" is a resolution

adopted by a vote of the House with the Member “standing in his place,” or is merely implemented by the adoption of the committee’s report.

This is effectively a "stop doing that" notice.

A censure would be the next step:

In the House of Representatives, a “censure” is a formal vote by the majority of Members present and voting on a resolution disapproving a Member’s conduct, generally with the additional requirement that the Member stand at the “well” of the House chamber to receive a verbal rebuke and reading of the censure resolution by the Speaker of the House.

In other words, it's a very public shaming (at least among their peers), although it also doesn't carry any lasting penalty.

Finally, there's expulsion:

In In re Chapman, the Supreme Court noted the Senate expulsion case of Senator William Blount as supporting the constitutional authority of either house of Congress to punish a Member for conduct which in the judgment of the body “is inconsistent with the trust and duty of a member” ... expulsions in the House (and in the Senate) have traditionally involved conduct which implicated disloyalty to the Union, or the commission of a crime involving the abuse of one’s office or authority.

While there have only been 5 expulsions from the House in its history (3 in the Civil War, two more recently for corruption), this would solve the problem once and for all.


The Congressman would be able to keep it up only until he frustrated the rest of his peers into making him the 6th person ever expelled from the House.


I'm not sure if it's the same in the House, but in the Senate, just before the last Senator in the chamber yields the floor before leaving, s/he starts a quorum call, so the Senate spends a fair amount of time in a state of quorum call that the Senators have agreed to ignore. If another Senator wishes to come in and say something for the record, s/he can cancel the quorum call, say it, and then put the Senate back into a state of quorum call, before walking out and leaving the floor empty.

See also this June 9, 2011 Washington Post story, which describes how the Senate had spent 32% of its time that year so far in quorum calls, or this New Yorker article called "The Empty Chamber."

So in short, this is a normal practice practiced by Senators generally, and they are not considered "rogue" because of it.

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