Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Constitution - Article 1, sec 4-6

Much of the information in this series is found at The United States Constitution Online. I highly recommend this site for further exploration of the meaning of our Constitution and give it up front credit for many of the ideas written here.
Section 4 The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Choosing Senators. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.
This section outlines the process for electing the Congress and for their meeting. The power for setting elections was given to the states, but with a reservation that Congress could by law alter those regulations. It seems clear that the framers didn't necessarily intend for Congress to meet year round since the Constitution stipulated that they meet once each year on the first Monday of December. This part was later amended.
Section 5 Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide. Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member. 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. Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
Congress is given the authority to judge election disputes. It is also stipulated that a quorum must be present to carry out business. Congress is compelled to establish its rules of operation and discipline members as it sees fit. Further, the Constitution states that the proceedings of Congress be given in public record - clearly to promote transparency in government. However, it was recognized that some Congressional business must remain secret, i.e. national security issues.
Section 6 The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place. No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
Here, Congress is given the authority to set their own pay (this also was later amended). The next sentence gives them immunity from arrest in civil cases but not criminal cases. The protection of speech/debate clause was meant to protect the speech of Representatives/Senators from influence/intimidation from others, in this case particularly the other two branches of government. This turns out to be a rather important separation of powers clause.

The final clause stipulates that a member of Congress cannot simultaneously hold office in another branch of government.

 Next up: Article 1, sec 7

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