Senate pro-forma sessions (where they pretend to be in sessions but are not). Can any senator demand a quorum call?

The US Senate has been using pro-forma sessions to pretend they are not in recess for several years now.

Short version is the senate takes time off which is a recess. Presidents can appoint people in a recess so the senate now has “pro-forma” sessions. The whole thing takes maybe a minute where one senator, in an empty room (of other senators) brings the senate to session and then instantly closes it. So…the senate is now never not in session and thus a president can never do a recess appointment.

My question is:

During this process can another senator demand recognition and ask for an official count? Basically demanding a quorum call?

Or is the party in power able to do this with one person?

Senate Rule VI(3)

If, at any time during the daily sessions of the Senate, a question shall be raised by any Senator as to the presence of a quorum, the Presiding Officer shall forthwith direct the Secretary to call the roll and shall announce the result, and these proceedings shall be without debate.

Not suitable for GQ but the next question would be why Dems don’t force this?

Why would they want to? If they force a real recess, the current President can suddenly fill a whole bunch of slots that usually need Senate approval.

It would have been a better move during the Obama admin, so BHO could have appointed people. But does calling the roll and having a lack of quorum mean the Senate recesses? I thought it meant the Sergeant at Arms has to go round up enough Senators to make a quorum.

I’ve wondered if instead of calling for a roll call, a few Senators just move to recess. But I don’t know what the rules for that are, so maybe that’s not an option. It’s likely the pro-forma presiding officer can just ignore the Senator who asks for the floor to make that motion.

Actually, the Sergeant at Arms has to round up every Senator as it is illegal to have an unexcused absence from the Senate. However the Senate can start conducting business when a quorum is present while waiting for the rest of the Senators.

Senate Rule VI(4)

Whenever upon such roll call it shall be ascertained that a quorum is not present, a majority of the Senators present may direct the Sergeant at Arms to request, and, when necessary, to compel the attendance of the absent Senators, which order shall be determined without debate; and pending its execution, and until a quorum shall be present, no debate nor motion, except to adjourn, or to recess pursuant to a previous order entered by unanimous consent, shall be in order.

Moderator Note

Why would you intentionally violate GQ rules, especially in your own thread? If you want to know the answer to this, open another thread in Politics and Elections. Keep this thread to the legal issues.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

As a legal matter, if the Senate were to go into recess for more than ten days, the President is able to make recess appointments that last until the end of the next Congress. That includes judicial appointments – so that President Trump could immediately seat Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court where she would serve at least through January of 2023 (the Senate could also confirm her to the lifetime appointment at any point during those two years).

I heard one of those pro-forma sessions in a news story that meant to show the absurdity. The other party’s senator, assigned to keep an eye on such things, made attempts to be recognized for a point of order or something. The president pro-tem ignored him and closed the session for the day. Apparently, the president pro-tem has the option of deafness.

That’s a dangerous game the presiding officer played. To be a pro-forma session they have to be able to conduct business and if the presiding officer refuses to than the courts can find that they were in actual recess.
NLRB v Canning

Honestly, when I clicked on the notification in the upper right, the response showed as ONLY that post I responded to. I didn’t see the whole thread…I only saw that one thing. I even tried it a second time to be sure it wasn’t a glitch and the same thing happened. I really thought it was a PM or something and not part of the regular thread. I thought I was only responding to Saint Cad.

My mistake.