Imágenes de páginas

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 sunall 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.

§ 136. The power given to each house to punish its mem. bers 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 perma nent 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 JPresident, 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 ses sion, 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 .ecorded 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

« AnteriorContinuar »