[House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House] [Chapter 45. Recess] [From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov] [[Page 767]] CHAPTER 45 - RECESS HOUSE PRACTICE Sec. 1. In General Sec. 2. House Authorization; Motions Sec. 3. Duration of Recess Sec. 4. Purpose of Recess Research References 5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6663-6671 8 Cannon Sec. Sec. 3354-3362 Manual Sec. Sec. 586, 911, 913 Sec. 1 . In General Under rule I clause 12(a), the Speaker may declare a recess ``for a short time'' when no question is pending before the House. Under rule I clause 12(b), the Speaker may declare an emergency recess when notified of an imminent threat to the safety of the House. Recesses also may be declared by the Speaker pursuant to authority granted by the House by privileged motion. Sec. 2, infra. Recesses are not permitted in the Committee of the Whole except with the permission of the House. 5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6669-6671; 8 Cannon Sec. 3357. Recess is to be distinguished from adjournment. Recesses are taken during a legislative day, whereas adjournments normally are taken from day to day and terminate a legislative day. Another distinguishing feature is that, during a recess, the Mace remains in place on the rostrum, indicating that the House continues in a receptive mode for business. Bills may be introduced and reports may be filed through the hopper. Except for an emergency recess under rule I clause 12(b), a recess may not interrupt a call of the roll or a recorded vote. 5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6054, 6055. The Speaker may not declare a recess during a record vote, even though the House has previously given him authority to declare a recess at any time. 5 Hinds Sec. 6054. However, when the hour previously fixed for a recess arrived, the Chair declared the House in recess during a division vote. 5 Hinds Sec. 6665. [[Page 768]] Sec. 2 . House Authorization; Motions The House may authorize the Speaker to declare a recess by motion, by unanimous consent, by suspension of the rules, or by special order. Rule XVI clause 4; Manual Sec. Sec. 83, 586, 911, 913; Deschler Ch 21 Sec. 11.8. The authority may be for a single recess on a given day, for several recesses subject to the call of the Chair, or for several days. 104-1, Dec. 15, 1995, p 37107 (motion); 104-1, Dec. 21, 1995, p 38475 (special order). However, no recess declared by the Speaker or authorized by the House alone can exceed three days (not including Sundays) because that would violate the constitutional requirement for Senate consent. U.S. Const. art. I, Sec. 5; see also Sec. 3, infra. The Speaker also may be authorized to declare a recess:
At any time during the remainder of the day. 87-2, Sept. 12, 1962, p 19258. On the following day. 86-1, May 26, 1959, p 9155. During the remainder of the week. 90-1, Dec. 15, 1967, p 37126. At any time on certain days of the week. 88-2, Apr. 7, 1964, p 7119. At any time on the legislative days of Friday and Saturday and if necessary on Sunday. 97-1, Nov. 19, 1981, p 28211. At any time during the remainder of the session. Deschler Ch 21 Sec. 11.8. Motions to Authorize a Recess Rule XVI clause 4(c) permits the Speaker to entertain ``at any time'' a motion authorizing him to declare a recess. The motion may be adopted by simple majority vote. The motion differs from authority granted by special orders, which require adoption of a resolution reported by the Committee on Rules. Generally, see Special Orders of Business. Rule XVI gives the motion for a recess a privileged status equal to that of the motion to adjourn, which is a motion of the highest precedence and privilege. Manual Sec. Sec. 911, 912; see Adjournment. Before the adoption of this rule in 1991, the motion to authorize a recess was not privileged in the House and could be entertained only by unanimous consent (8 Cannon Sec. 3354), although a privileged motion to recess was permitted by rule from 1880 to 1890 (8 Cannon Sec. 3356). A motion to authorize the Speaker to declare a recess is not debatable or amendable. Manual Sec. Sec. 911, 913. Quorum Requirements A vote by the House to authorize the Speaker to declare a recess requires a quorum. 4 Hinds Sec. Sec. 2955-2960. A request for a recess cannot be entertained if the absence of a quorum has been declared. 4 Hinds Sec. 2958- [[Page 769]] 2960. However, when the hour previously fixed for a recess arrives, the Chair declares the House in recess, even if a quorum is not present. 5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6665, 6666. Sec. 3 . Duration of Recess Generally The Speaker may be authorized by the House to declare a recess to a time certain on that day (92-2, Oct. 14, 1972, p 36474), or to declare a recess until a time certain on the following calendar day (97-1, Nov. 20, 1981, p 28628). Overnight recess may be authorized, in which event the same legislative day is retained. 98-1, Nov. 10, 1983, p 32200. A recess does not terminate a legislative day, and a legislative day may not be terminated during recess. 8 Cannon Sec. 3356. On occasion, upon the expiration of an overnight recess, the House is called to order and the Chaplain offers the prayer. 104- 1, Dec. 18, 1995, p 37310; 107-1, Sept. 12, 2001, p ____. However, this is the exception rather than the rule. When a recess is declared, the bell and light system will so indicate with six bells and six lights. Termination of a recess is indicated by three bells and three lights. The Speaker has been authorized to declare recesses at any time during a Thursday-evening-to-Monday-noon period subject to the call of the Chair. 98-1, Nov. 10, 1983, p 32197. However, a recess cannot extend longer than three days by House order alone, because neither House may adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other. See Adjournment. Such adjournments are provided by concurrent resolution, whereas adjournments of three days or less may be ordered by the House alone. 94-1, Feb. 6, 1975, pp 2641, 2642. Recess for a Short Time; Emergency Recess The Speaker is permitted by rule I clause 12 to declare a recess for ``a short time . . . subject to the call of the Chair,'' when no question is pending before the House. The Speaker has used this authority to recess the House overnight. See, e.g., 106-2, Dec. 14, 2000, p ____; 107-1, May 3, 2001, p ____. The House stood in recess on the legislative day of September 11, 2001, from 9:52 a.m. on September 11 until 10:03 a.m. on September 12. 107-1, Sept. 11, 2001, p ____. As a result of the events of September 11, the House adopted rule I clause 12(b) in the 108th Congress. Clause 12(b) authorizes the Speaker to declare an emergency recess when notified of an imminent threat to the safety of the House. [[Page 770]] The Speaker's declaration of a recess for a ``short time'' under rule I clause 12 may follow his postponement of a question under rule XX clause 8 because, after postponement, a question is no longer pending before the House. Both postponement authority and clause 12 recess authority have become a familiar scheduling technique of the majority leadership in the modern practice of the House. The customary inquiry by the Chair asking ``For what purpose does the gentleman rise?'' does not immediately confer recognition, such that a Member's mere revelation that he seeks to offer a motion to adjourn does not suffice to make that motion ``pending'' so as to prevent a declaration of a short recess. 105-1, Oct. 28, 1997, p ____. Emergency Convening Authority During any recess or adjournment of not more than three days, if the Speaker is notified by the Sergeant-at-Arms of an imminent impairment of the place of reconvening, then he may, in consultation with the Minority Leader, postpone the time for reconvening within the three-day limit prescribed by the Constitution. In the alternative, the Speaker, under the same conditions, may reconvene the House before the time previously appointed solely to declare the House in recess within that three-day limit. Rule I clause 12(c). Sec. 4 . Purpose of Recess Where the Speaker is given authority to declare a recess by unanimous consent or a special order, the specific purpose of the recess may be stipulated. The Speaker may be authorized to declare the House in recess in order to: Attend to a Member who has suddenly taken ill on the floor of the House. 91-1, July 8, 1969, p 18614. Await the receipt of a message from the President. 91-1, Jan. 17, 1969, pp 1188-92. Await a message from the Senate. 91-1, Feb. 7, 1969, p 3268. Await a report from a committee on certain emergency legislation. 91-2, Mar. 4, 1970, p 5867. Await a conference report. 92-1, Dec. 14, 1971, pp 46884-88. Await a report from the Committee on Rules. 91-2, Mar. 4, 1970, p 5867. Await Senate action on a House joint resolution continuing appropriations for several departments of the government that are without funds. 95-1, Nov. 4, 1977, p 37066. Await or attend a joint meeting to receive certain dignitaries. 92-1, Sept. 8, 1971, p 30845. [[Page 771]] Receive former Members of the House in the Chamber. 95-2, May 19, 1978, p 14660. Permit Members to attend certain ceremonies. 93-2, Dec. 19, 1974, p 41604. Make preparations for a secret session of the House pursuant to rule XVII clause 9. 96-1, June 20, 1979, p 15711. Recesses for many of the purposes outlined above, as well as for unannounced purposes, are now accomplished under the Speaker's authority to declare a short recess under rule I clause 12(a). Under rule I clause 12(b), the Speaker may declare an emergency recess when notified of an imminent threat to the safety of the House, even while business is pending.