- On September 29, 2011, in an article entitled "Nearly
Empty Chamber Approves Stop-Gap Spending Bill," Associated Press reporter
Andrew Taylor wrote that Congress had passed a money bill on a day when
almost all Congressmen were away on vacation.
- I shall pass over the fact that no elected representative
is ever "on vacation." There are no vacations in the legislative
branch, although it is correct to say "Congress is not in session,"
or "Congress has adjourned."
- Congress is subject to law. In the Constitution, Article
I, section 5 specifies that each House needs a quorum to do business, and
that a quorum consists of a majority of each chamber's members. Hence for
the Senate to vote on any measure, 51 warm-bodied senators must be present.
For the House, the number is "more than half of 435", in other
words 218. Can they send in their vote by text message? Please. Have some
- The bill, about which Taylor wrote his article, is House
Resolution 2017, a "Continuing Appropriations Act." Last June
6, it passed the House, at 6.58pm, with 231 yeas and 188 Nays. (The Roll
number is 409 if you care to see how your rep voted.)
- Am I such a smarty that I happen to know such things?
Hell, no. I got those details from a user-friendly website: Thomas.loc.gov.
- Yes, that's Thomas, as in Jefferson; LOC, as in Library
of Congress; and gov, as in that nowadays-almost-totally-surreal body that
meets in Washington DC, called 'government.'
- Naturally, the bill proceeded to the Senate, in June,
and there it sat in committee for months. Senator Mary Landrieu 'reported
it out' on September 7. It includes Department of Homeland Security Appropriations
for such items as a national flood insurance fund (!) and a Radiological
Emergency Preparedness Program. (That strikes me as an impossible entity;
who can prepare for radiation?)
- The next development of the bill was "Senate Amendment
666" [ahem] proposed by Senator Harry Reid. Oddly, it has to do with
providing care for any Peace Corps volunteers who are sexually assaulted.
It "establishes a Sexual Assault Advisory Council" with 8 members
to be appointed by the President. (Just between us, I think that is overdoing
it. And one wonders: will the Peace Corps recruits be told of the existence
of that amazing body before they go overseas?)
- Reid's amendment (S.AMDT.666) was "agreed to in
Senate by unanimous consent." The next entry says: "9/26/2011:
Passed Senate with an amendment and an amendment to the Title by Voice
Vote." That was last Monday. Was the chamber nearly empty? I don't
know. But I do know, because I can read the English language, that if 51
senators were not present, the Senate DID NOT PASS this bill. So says the
- Subsequently, according to Thomas, our electronic friend:
- 9/27/2011: Message on Senate action sent to the House.
- 9/29/2011 11:05am: Mr. Culberson asked unanimous consent
that the House agree to the Senate amendments.
- 9/29/2011 11:05am: On motion that the House agree to
the Senate amendments Agreed to without objection.
- The news reporter says only 3 representatives were present.
The Constitution does not mention any exceptions that alter the force of
Article I, section 5. So, even for the passing of amendments, a quorum
to do business is required. Therefore I claim that, on the 29th of September,
the House did not pass the amended version if fewer than 218 representatives
- I don't like taking the information about how many reps
were present from a media source. Is it true that "everybody had gone
on vacation?" Would some student please find out? I do know, though,
from a reliable source, the Congressional Record, that Senator Jeff Sessions
recorded a complaint about the practice of passing legislation in the illegal
manner I have described, in regard to Senate Resolution 85 concerning the
plan to attack Libya.
- He said "I am also not happy at the way some resolution
was passed here that seemed to have authorized force in some way that nobody
I know of in the Senate was aware that it was in the resolution when it
passed" (157 Cong. Rec. S2010, daily ed. March 31, 2011).
- Sessions was referring to the way some little gremlin
snuck a phrase about establishing a 'no-fly- zone,' into the Libya resolution.
- Why did Senator Sessions go only so far as to say he
was "not happy" about it? Why didn't he tell the Congress they
were acting illegally? If Congress wouldn't listen to him, does he not
have the automatic right to write it into the Congressional Record, naming
names of the miscreants? Can't he send an article to rense.com, as I am
doing, to make known his plight?
- I would not have heard about the no-fly episode but for
the remarks made by Professor Louis Fisher, in a separate hearing about
the abominable bombing of Libya. Fisher cares like mad about the Constitution,
particularly its restrictions on 'the war power'. In that regard, Fisher
is carrying on the work of "the late Professor Harold Koh."
I do not mean Koh is deceased. His body is not deceased but there is cause
to worry about his mind.
- When Koh was dean of Yale, he was an unusually clear
thinker and a wonderful American patriot. Something happened. He is now
an official of the US State Department who would never say the things he
himself used to say about the war power! Pardon me for being fascinated
by this phenomenon. It is my best guess that someone has directly converted
Koh's intellect. Not by bribery, not by threats, just directly.
- A milder form of this conversion seems to have happened
across the board among intellectuals. If anyone knows how it is done, would
they please tell me? Surely it's not the fluoride in the water.
- Or maybe a better matter to investigate would be: How
do a few persons, such as Louis Fisher, escape it? I am curious as to
how I myself escaped it. I haven't owned a TV set in many years; could
that be a clue?
- If you have escaped it, I mean if you still have your
marbles and can care about our Constitution, please work hard at these
vital matters. Please tell everybody that the Constitution clearly says
a quorum is needed. Below, I will print Article I, section 5 in its entirety.
You may ask, Is that really its 'entirety'? Yes. Because none of the
27 amendments to the Constitution says anything to alter it.
- Oh, and are such amendments 'the final word'? No. A
decision by the US Supreme Court can modify the Constitution. And how can
a layperson find out if there has ever been a SCOTUS decision on Section
5 of Article I? Easy. You waltz down to your local library to sit at
their computer (have a computer at home? good! saves the waltzing) and
type "US Constitution, Annotated" into the search engine.
- Up will pop several versions; I feel confident about
the one carried by Cornell University. You will be informed that there
was a case in which the court upheld Congress' practice of using the number
of members PRESENT, rather than the number CASTING A VOTE, to count the
quorum. I see that decision as according well with the intention of the
Framers who, in 1787, wanted to guard against some naughty minority sneaking
in a piece of legislation, like the Libyan no-fly thing.
- In any event, since the Cornell website mentions only
that one case, we can be assured there has never been a case allowing fewer
than 51 senators to 'do business.'
- And now here is the down-low, as promised, straight from
the parchment to you:
- Article I, Section. 5. "Each House shall be the
Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members,
and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a
smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel
the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties
as each House may provide. Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings,
punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence
of two thirds, expel a Member. Each House shall 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 shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those
Present, be entered on the Journal. Neither House, during the Session of
Congress, shall, 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
- Perhaps most of the older folks have ceased to give a
damn. But you young'uns had better care. Are you in high school? You
could suggest to the teacher, or have your parent suggest to the teacher,
that every Wednesday morning the class look up the previous day's Congressional
work, at Thomas.loc.gov, and see if anything lawless has transpired.
- A lawless government. Think of the consequences of that!
Trust me, you will not be able to survive it.
- My advice: start carrying a big stick (i.e. the Constitution).
- Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB, can be reached at her website
ProsecutionForTreason.com. She wants to hear from persons under age 30
who have the audacity to say that governmental assaults on our Constitution
amount to treason. Or, contrarily, persons who have the audacity to say
that governmental assaults on our Constitution are hunky-dory. Either way,
anybody with a jot of AUDACITY!!!