« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
$ 136. The power given to each house to punish its members for disorderly behaviour, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, to expel a member, is intended to enable Congress effectually to maintain its usefulness, dignity, and independence.
$ 137. What sort of disorderly conduct may be punished, and what punishment may be inflicted besides expulsion, do not appear to be very clearly settled. The Senate, in 1797, expelled William Blount for an offence which was not committed in his official character, nor during a session of Congress, nor at Washington, nor in violation of any positive law. He was charged with an attempt to entice from his duty an agent of the government among the Indians, and to destroy the confidence of the Indians in the general government.
$138. There is no express power given by the Constitution to either house to punish for a breach of its privileges, for disorderly conduct, or for contempt, except when committed by its own members. Yet it has been held that such power exists, because it is essential to the protection, dignity, and existence of the legislative body; also, that Congress is the sole tribunal to determine when it should be exercised, or what punishment should be inflicted.
$ 139. A similar power has been frequently exercised by the legislatures of the States and by the Parliament in England. When imprisonment is a part of the punishment imposed for contempt, such imprisonment, unless limited to a shorter period, terminates with the session of Congress, and no court has a right to inquire directly into the correctness or propriety of the commitment or to discharge the prisoner.
[Clause 3.] “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."
§ 140. The object of a journal is to provide a permanent and accurate record of the proceedings of Congress. The journal of the House is drawn up by the clerk; that of the Senate, by the secretary.
§ 141. The deliberations, votes, and proceedings of the Senate and House of Representatives are generally open to the public. The Senate, however, frequently holds what are termed "executive sessions," in which confidential communications from the President of the United States, nominations to office, treaties, and other matters are considered. It may also hold confidential legislative sessions. When acting on confidential or executive business, the Senate is cleared of all persons except the secretary, the principal clerk, the sergeant-at-arms, and doorkeeper, and sits with closed doors.
$ 142. Thus, too, whenever confidential communications are received by the House of Representatives from the President, the house is cleared of all persons except the members, clerk, sergeant-at-arms, and doorkeeper, and so continues during the reading of such communications, and (unless otherwise directed by the house) during all the debates and proceedings had thereon. Also, when the speaker or any other member shall inform the house that he has communications to make which he conceives ought to be kept secret, the house is in like manner cleared till the communication be made, and it be determined whether the matter requires secrecy.
$ 143. The proceedings of the Senate in executive session, from which the injunction of secrecy has not been removed, and its confidential legislative proceedings, are contained in manuscript records, and are accessible only to the President of the United States, and to the members and the secretary and certain officers of the Senate; but no further extract from those records can be furnished except by special order of the Senate.
$ 144. The journals of the House, and the journals of the legislative proceedings of the Senate, and of such portions of the executive business of the Senate as have been directed to be made public, have been regularly printed and published from the organization of the government, March 4, 1789, down to the present time. The rules of the House of Representatives require the clerk, at the end of each session, to send one of the printed copies of the journal to the executive and to each branch of the legislature of every State.
$ 145. The yeas and nays, or a recorded list of the affirmative and negative votes of the members, shall be taken at the desire of one-fifth of those present. The name of each member is then called, and the manner in which he votes is entered in the journal, and thus becomes known to his constituents and the country. The taking of the yeas and nays requires a great deal of time, and they are often called for by the minority for the sole purpose of embarrassing and delaying the majority. Hence it is that they are not allowed to be taken, except by a vote of one-fifth of the members present.
$ 146. A member of the Senate or House, if he desires to vote on a question, must be present and give his vote in person. He cannot appoint a proxy to vote for him in his absence, although in England a lord in Parliament may, by license obtained from the king, make another lord his proxy to vote for him in his absence; a similar privilege, however, is not extended to members of the House of Commons.
$ 147. By one of the rules of the House of Representatives, no member is allowed to vote on any question in the event of which he is immediately and particularly interested.
By an act of Congress, passed April 21, 1808, no member of Congress is allowed to hold or enjoy any contract or agreement made in behalf of the United States, and, if he shall enter into any such contract, he may be adjudged guilty of a high misdemeanor, and sentenced to pay a large fine, and the contract becomes void. By the same act, penalties are imposed upon any officer of the United States who enters into a public contract with a member of Congress.
[Clause 4.] “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 be sitting.”
$ 148. This clause is intended to secure convenience and despatch in the business of legislation, by preventing the delay and inconvenience which would be occasioned if one branch of the legislature could suspend its sittings for a long period, or could adjourn to a place remote from that in which the other house is sitting.
$ 149. In England, the king has a right to adjourn a Parliament from one session to another, or to put an end to its existence altogether, which renders another election necessary. In this country, the President has no authority to put an end to a session of Congress, and he cannot even adjourn their sittings from one day to another day, unless the two houses disagree with respect to the time of adjournment. (Art. II., sect. 3.)
$ 150. Congress can separate only in two ways: 1st, by adjournment; 2d, by expiration of the two years, which is the limit of the duration of a Congress; for a new Congress commences on the 4th of March in every other year. The number of sessions which a particular Congress may hold, is not fixed by the Constitution; a Congress generally holds two, but sometimes three sessions. All that the Constitution requires, is that 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. The time when one session of a Congress shall close and the next session commence, is generally determined by a joint resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives. But in every second year Congress must necessarily adjourn on the 3d day of March, because the term for which all the representatives and one-third of the senators are elected expires on that day.
SECTION 6. [Clause 1.] “The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place."