[House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House]
[Chapter 45. Recess]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

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                           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 
      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.

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  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 
     At any time on certain days of the week. 88-2, Apr. 7, 1964, p 
     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 
      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-

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  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


      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.

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      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.

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     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.