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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.
Quorum – Do I Love You?
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.
- Committee of the Whole
- Quorum Call (Congressional Glossary)
- § 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
- in Congressional Procedure
- Chapter 1.C. Rules
- Chapter 1.E. Members of Congress
- Chapter 2.H. Simple Resolutions
- Chapter 3.E. Markups
- Chapter 3.G. Reporting Legislation to the Floor
- Chapter 4.A. Introduction
- Chapter 4.F. Motion to Suspend the Rules
- Chapter 4.I. Voting
- Chapter 5.G. Quorum Calls
- Chapter 5.H. Filibuster
- Chapter 5.M. Voting
- Chapter 6.G. The President
- Chapter 8.B. Nominations
- Chapter 8.D. Treaties
- Chapter 8.G. Impeachment and Trial
- Chapter 8.M. Rulings and Appeals of Rulings of the Chair
- Chapter 8.R. Amending the Constitution
- House Rule XX – Voting and Quorum Calls
- Senate Rule VI – Quorum-Absent Senators May Be Sent For
- “Quorum Requirements in the House,” CRS Report 98-870 (7-page PDF)
- “Quorum Requirements in the Senate,” CRS Report 98-775 (4-page PDF)
- “Voting and Quorum Procedures in the Senate,” CRS Report 96-452 (16-page PDF)
- “Quorums in House Floor Proceedings,” CRS Report 97-704 (7-page PDF)
- “The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: An Introduction,” CRS Report 96-548 (20-page PDF)
- “The Legislative Process on the House Floor: An Introduction,” CRS Report 95-563 (18-page PDF)
- Congressional Operations Briefing – Capitol Hill Workshop
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Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook: A Practical Guide
Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates
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