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PROVISIONS APPLICABLE BOTH TO THE
SENATE AND HOUSE
SECTION 4. [Clause 1.] “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the places of chusing Senators."
$ 124. The circumstances of the different States were so various, and so liable to change, that it was not deemed practicable to establish, by the Constitution, a general election law. The regulation of the time, place, and manner of congressional elections is, therefore, intrusted to the State legislatures, reserving to Congress the power to make or alter such regulations, except as to the place of choosing senators. Such power in Congress would be useful and absolutely necessary, in case a State should refuse or neglect to provide for the election of members of Congress, or in case it should be deemed expedient to establish a uniform time and manner of holding the elections.
Congress cannot alter the place of choosing senators, because senators are chosen by the State legislatures at the seat of government or capital of the State.
$ 125. Congress has not, as yet, (except as mentioned in the next section,) made any regulations relative to the time, place, or manner of choosing senators or representatives. The States have control of the subject at present, and the modes that have been established in the different States are various. In some States all the representatives from the State were formerly chosen together on one general ticket; in others, they were chosen separately in districts. In some States the successful candidate must have a majority of all the votes; in others, it is sufficient if he have a larger number of votes than any other candidate. In some States the votes have been viva voce, (that is, by the living voice;) in others, they are by ballot, that is, by printed or written ticket. Differences in the mode of choosing senators by the State legislatures have already been referred to. ($101.)
$ 126. By an act of Congress, passed June 25, 1842, it is provided that the representatives from a State shall be elected by districts, equal in number to the number of representatives to which the State is entitled, and each of these congressional districts shall elect one representative.
[Clause 2.] “The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.”
$ 127. In England, Parliament assembles at the call of the king, and at such time as he designates. This clause requires Congress to assemble at least once a year, on the first Monday of December, unless they shall by law appoint a different day, and it will appear from the table on page 58 that a different day for assembling has frequently been appointed.
$ 128. It seems that, by the ancient statutes and practice in England, the Parliament assembled annually, or oftener, if there was need. An act passed in the reign of William and Mary declared that there should not be a longer interval than three years between the dissolution of one Parliament and the calling of another. By a subsequent statute in the reign of George I., seven years is made the term for which a Parliament shall exist, unless sooner dissolved by the king.
$ 129. The Constitution does not, in express terms, determine the place where Congress shall meet. It is provided by an act of Congress, that, when on account of the prevalence of a contagious sickness, or for other causes, it would be dangerous to the health of the members to meet at the place to which Congress shall stand adjourned, the President may, by proclamation, convene Congress at such other place as he may deem proper.
SECTION 5. [Clause 1.] “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.”
$ 130. Each house is the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members. It is appropriate to the dignity of Congress that it should exercise this right, and it is, perhaps, better qualified to do so than any other tribunal. A similar right belongs to the Parliament of England, and is vested in the legislatures of the several States by their respective constitutions.
$ 131. By an act of Congress, passed. February 19, 1851, it is declared that, when any person shall intend to contest an election of any member of the House of Representatives, he shall, within thirty days after the result of the election has been legally determined, give notice in writing to the member whose seat he designs to contest, and in the notice he must specify particularly the grounds upon which he relies. The member who has been returned as elected, within thirty days after the service of the notice upon him, must answer the notice, either admitting or denying the facts alleged, and stating the grounds upon which he rests the validity of his election ; and must also serve a copy of his answer upon the contestant.
§ 132. The act further prescribes a mode in which evidence shall be taken in cases of such contested elections. Witnesses may be summoned to give evidence, or to produce papers, before certain classes of judicial officers enumerated in the act, and they incur a penalty for neglecting or refusing to attend or testify, unless prevented by sickness or unavoidable necessity. The questions to the witness and his answers are taken down by writing, in the presence of the parties, and by the officer before whom the examination is had are transmitted immediately, duly certified under his hand and sealed up, to the clerk of the House of Representatives. The House then examines all the evidence, and, after full inquiry and deliberation, adjudges the seat to the party to whom it appears rightfully to belong. The Senate also, in case of a contested election in that body, investigates all the allegations, proofs, and circumstances, and decides between the claimants. The decision of the House or of the Senate is final and conclusive.
$ 133. In order to prevent the passage of laws by a small number of the representatives or the senators, it is
declared that no business shall be transacted by either house unless a quorum is present, consisting of a majority of its members. But a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absentees, so that Congress may not be dissolved in consequence of the refusal or neglect of members to attend its sittings.
§ 134. By the rules of the House of Representatives, members who are absent from the house when the roll of names is called, and for whom no sufficient excuses are made, may, by order of those members present, if fifteen in number, be taken into custody as they appear, or may be sent for and taken into custody wherever to be found, by special messengers to be appointed for that purpose. No member can absent himself from the service of the house, unless he have leave, or be sick, or unable to attend. Any fifteen members (including the speaker, if there be one) may compel the attendance of absent members.
The rules of the Senate also provide for enforcing the attendance of absentees.
[Clause 2.] “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.”
§ 135. The Constitution does not undertake to prescribe the mode of transacting business in Congress, but gives to each house authority to determine the rules of its proceedings. Accordingly, the Senate and House of Representatives have each, from time to time, adopted a number of standing rules, orders, and joint rules, in which the order and manner of conducting their business is set forth with great minuteness.