Saturday, February 18, 2012

US Constitution: Article I, Section 4-6

I was going to address a little bit more "meat", but if I went to Section 7 I would get into some pretty heavy stuff so I popped the chalk line for this post after Section 6.
"Article I, 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 Places of chusing 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.

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 Behaviour, 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.

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 encreased 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."

Section 4 was changed by the 20th Amendment to require Congress to convene in January vice December. But I will go into that in more detail in my discussion of that Amendment. Other than that, there isn't a ton in this section. In the scheme of things, the when and where of Congress is a lot less important than the what, why, and how.

Section 5 is where the meat (if there is any in this grouping) begins. I think the most apropos part is that they shall keep a journal of their proceedings, but they get an out for secrecy. Having worked with a significant amount of classified information, I know that there is way more information that is classified or treated as secret by the Government than there needs to be. Once you are qualified to classify something and do so, there isn't really much of a check on whether or not it actually should be. With our incessant need for security seemingly at any cost, I truly worry that this Article I Section 5 power might be abused. The real kicker... we won't know until it's already done and in this case it's by the book. I mean, do we really trust "Ancient DC" Barbie & Ken (Nancy Pelosi & John Boehner) to do something in our interests and not in the interests of their beloved parties and major funding sources? I mean, who's going to pay for the tons of makeup they use each year if they are just doing things for the people?

Section 6 is pretty vanilla, though the occasional wedge issue will be brought up on laws based on this portion of the document. For instance, there used to be a regular debate about congressional salaries. But they aren't really paid all that much (<$200,000) compared to their corporate counterparts. These guys are basically the equivalent of corporate directors/vice presidents. They have quite a bit of power collectively, but they still have a relatively large power structure above them (party leaders, major constituents, and most importantly major donors/lobbies). The most interesting part of these sections (though not that important in practice) is the protection afforded members of Congress when they are attending a session. They aren't allowed to commit a felony or treason, but they are otherwise allowed to do just about anything they want. This includes outright slander or even a good brawl, which has happened more than a few times in the past. The wikipedia article only lists some of the accounts. There have been more and everyone is covered once the smoke clears by Section 6. It's like high-class WWE.

On that note, I'll leave this section. More to come...

Updated with links to the other posts:
Constitution Basics
Article 1, Sections 4-6
Article 1, Section 7

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