Tuesday 21 September 2010

The First Day of A New Congress

In just over three months a new Congress (the 112th) will come into existence (in the UK the new Parliament mets a few days after it is elected. In 2010 the election was held on 6th May; the first day of meeting was 18th May - and this was regarded as a long interval!).

The Constitution (as amended states that "The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day." Art I Section 4.2)
In the House of Representatives there are certain things which must be done. The main stages of the day's events in the chamber include

1.The Clerk of 110th Congress calls the House to order
2.The Chaplain of the House offers a prayer
3.Members repeat the pledge of allegiance
4.A Roll Call vote is taken - to establish that a quorum exists. Members vote electronically
5.Certain announcements are made - about delegates; and deaths or resignations of former Members
6.The Speaker is elected - both parties nominate for this (and other posts), but the majority party - the Democrats in 111th Congress - win the viva voce roll call vote. [A 'viva voce' vote involves each member stating his vote after his or her name is read out]
7.The newly elected Speaker is sworn in
8.The Oath of Office is taken collectively by all Members in the Chamber. In the afternoon individual oath taking is repeated for the benefit of photographers.
9.Each party announces its leaders
10.Officers of the House are elected (usually each party has agreed its own list, but the majority party prevails)
11.Resolutions regarding messages between the twn Houses; and also with the Presidency, are passed
12.Rules of Procedure are adopted

For a fuller account of first day activities - read Mildred Amer's excellent CRS (Congressional Research Service) report " The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor"

You may wish to skip from 08-35 to 41-55 (Quorum Call) and 51-35 to 02-00-30 (Election of Speaker)