Quorum (CongressionalGlossary.com)

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

Quorum

Il Quorum siamo noi!
Creative Commons License photo credit: ateneinrivolta

Quorum, n. A sufficient number of members of a deliberative body to have their own way and their own way of having it. In the United States Senate a quorum consists of the Chairman of the Committee on Finance and a messenger from the White House; in the House of Representatives, of the Speaker and the Devil.

– Ambrose Bierce, The Devils Dictionary

The minimum number of members whose presence is necessary for the transaction of business. In the Senate and House, it is a majority of the membership. U.S. Constitution, Article. I. Section. 5. Both chambers usually assume a quorum is present even if it is not. If a point of order is made that a quorum is not present, the only business that is in order is either a motion to adjourn or a motion to direct the sergeant-at-arms to request the attendance of the absentees.

The number of senators that must be present for the Senate to do business. The Constitution (Article. I. Section. 5.) requires a majority of senators (51) for a quorum. Often, fewer senators are actually present on the floor, but the Senate presumes that a quorum is present unless the contrary is shown by a roll call vote or quorum call.

A quorum in the House of Representatives is when a majority of the Members are present. When there are no vacancies in the membership, a quorum is 218. When one or more seats are vacant, because of deaths or resignations, the quorum is reduced accordingly. Because of Members’ other duties, a quorum often is not present on the House floor. But any Member may insist that a quorum must participate in any vote that takes place in the House. If a Member makes a point of order that a quorum is not present, and the Speaker agrees, a series of bells ring on the House side of the Capitol and in the House office buildings to alert Members to come to the chamber and record their presence. A quorum is 100 in the Committee of the Whole House.

Individual committees set their own quorum requirements to conduct a hearing. However, House rules require that not fewer than two members be present. Senate committees usually allow a single senator to be present to conduct a hearing. Individual House committee rules also set a quorum requirement for waiving a hearing notice, but House rules disallow the quorum from being less than one-third. Senate committees have no comparable rule. Finally, for House committees, a majority of members of a committee constitutes a quorum for authorizing a subpoena or closing a committee session. Most congressional committees allow ex officio members to be counted toward establishing a quorum.

Also see Cloture; Committee of the Whole; Filibuster; § 6.40 Committee Hearings, § 6.112, House versus Committee of the Whole, § 6.130 House Floor: Voting, and § 6.250 Voting in the Senate, in Congressional Deskbook.

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