Quorum - Call of The House (compelled Attendance)

Call of The House (compelled Attendance)

The call of the house procedure may be used if necessary to obtain a quorum in legislatures and other assemblies that have the legal power to compel the attendance of their members. The procedure does not exist in ordinary societies, since voluntary associations have no coercive power. The call of the house "is a motion that unexcused absent members be brought to the meeting under arrest." The call of the house procedure is governed by the rules of the assembly, which may provide that one-third, one-fifth, or some other number less than a majority present may order a call of the house by majority vote. Under Robert's Rules, when a quorum is not present, the motion takes precedence over every motion except that to adjourn. But "if the rule allows the call to be moved while a quorum is actually present (for the purpose of obtaining a greater attendance), the motion at such times should rank only with questions of privilege, should require a majority vote for adoption, and, if rejected, may not be renewed while a quorum is present."

When a call of the house is ordered, Robert's Rules provides that the clerk should call the roll of members and then call the names of absentees, "in whose behalf explanations of absence can be made and excuses can be requested." Following this, the doors are locked and no member is permitted to leave, and "the sergeant-at-arms, chief of police, or other arresting officer is ordered to take into custody absentees who have not been excused from attendance and bring them before the house," done on warrant signed by the presiding officer and attested by the clerk. Once arrested members are brought in, "they are arraigned separately, their explanations are heard, and on motion, they can be excused with or without penalty in the form of a payment of a fee." A member may not vote or be recognized by the chair for any purpose until he has paid the fee assessed against him.

Once a call of the house has been ordered, "no motion is in order, even by unanimous consent, except motions relating to the call." However, motions to adjourn or dispense with further proceedings under the call can be entertained "after a quorum is present or the arresting officer reports that in his opinion a quorum cannot be entertained." Adjournment terminates the call of the house.

In the United States Senate, the procedure was used in the early morning hours of February 25, 1988. Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, then the Senate Majority Leader, moved a call of the house after the minority Republicans walked out in an attempt to deny the Senate a quorum after Senate aides began bring cots into the Senate cloakrooms in preparation for an all-night session over campaign finance reform for congressional elections. Byrd's motion was approved 45-3 and arrest warrants were signed for all 46 Republicans. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Henry K. Giugni and his staff searched the Capitol's corridor and Senate office buildings for absent Senators, and after checking several empty offices, spotted Senator Steve Symms of Idaho, who fled down a hallway and escaped arrest. After a cleaning woman gave a tip that Senator Robert Packwood of Oregon was in his office, Giugni opened the door with a skeleton key. Packwood attempted to shove the door closed, but Giugni and two assistants pushed it open. Packwood was "carried feet-first into the Senate chamber by three plainclothes officers" and sustained bruised knuckles.

Prior to 1988, the last time the procedure had been used was during a 1942 filibuster over civil rights legislation. Southern senators had spent days filibustering legislation to end poll taxes used in the South to disenfranchise blacks and other low-income voters. Taking place just days after midterm elections had resulted in the loss of nine seats. Democratic Majority Leader Alben W. Barkley obtained an order on a Saturday session on November 14, 1942 directing Sergeant at Arms Chesley W. Jurney to round up the five Southern absentees to obtain a quorum. Jurney sent his Deputy Sergeant at Arms, J. Mark Trice, to the apartment of Senator Kenneth McKellar of Tennessee at the Mayflower Hotel. Then 73 years old and the third-most senior Senator, McKellar was later described by Senator Bill Frist in his book on Tennessee senators as an "extraordinarily shrewd man of husky dimensions with a long memory and a short fuse." Trice called from the lobby, but McKellar refused to answer his phone, so the deputy sergeant at arms walked up to the apartment and convinced the senator's maid to let him in:

When Trice explained that McKellar was urgently needed back at the Capitol, the 73-year-old legislator agreed to accompany him. As they approached the Senate wing, McKellar suddenly realized what was up. An aide later recalled, "His face grew redder and redder. By the time the car reached the Senate entrance, McKellar shot out and barreled through the corridors to find the source of his summons."
Barkley got his quorum, but McKellar got even. He later convinced President Franklin Roosevelt not to even consider Barkley's desire for a seat on the Supreme Court. Such a nomination, he promised, would never receive Senate approval.
When Senate Democrats convened the following January to elect officers, a party elder routinely nominated Sergeant at Arms Jurney for another term. McKellar countered with the nomination of a recently defeated Mississippi senator. An ally of McKellar strengthened the odds against Jurney's reelection by suggesting that he had been involved in financial irregularities. As the Democratic caucus opened an investigation, Jurney withdrew his candidacy.
While no documentation of "financial irregularities" survives, Jurney had the misfortune of being caught between a frustrated majority leader and an unforgiving filibuster leader. The poll tax issue continued to spark filibusters until finally put to rest in 1964 by the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Read more about this topic:  Quorum

Famous quotes containing the words call and/or house:

    What I call middle-class society is any society that becomes rigidified in predetermined forms, forbidding all evolution, all gains, all progress, all discovery. I call middle-class a closed society in which life has no taste, in which the air is tainted, in which ideas and men are corrupt. And I think that a man who takes a stand against this death is in a sense a revolutionary.
    Frantz Fanon (1925–1961)

    A house in the country is not the same as a country house.
    Gertrude Stein (1874–1946)