Why is it so important to the excecutive branch that there is a full Congress? Can action not be taken by the sole remaining Congressman, or is the problem that this Congressman would have way too much power?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs on politics.stackexchange.com Mar 25, 2020 at 3:14
  • Reasonable enough, I'll repost there instead
    – user30654
    Mar 25, 2020 at 3:31
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    @BlueDogRanch why the president wants to might be political but it’s also a legal question about how Congress operates.
    – Dale M
    Mar 25, 2020 at 3:53

1 Answer 1


No, action cannot be taken by the remaining Congresspeople1

Section 5 Clause 1 of the Constitution says:

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;

There are 100 senators and 435 members of the house - you need 51 senators and 218 members for each house to "do Business". Until at least half the vacancies are filled no business of Congress can be conducted.

When there are casual vacancies in the Senate (e.g. because the Senator got blown up during the State of the Union), the Seventeenth Amendment requires that an election be held to choose a replacement. The amendment also allows states to empower their governors to appoint a replacement until such election can be held. In practice, a majority of states (but by no means all) allow the governor to appoint a replacement, and then hold an election for the replacement at the time of the next general election.

When there are casual vacancies in the House, the legislature of the relevant state has to call an election to fill the vacancy (Section 2 Clause 4).

1 My recollection is that there was more than one survivor and I distinctly remember the Speaker was a woman.

  • Thanks; yes there were 2 remaining congresspeople but I was just generalizing the question. Does that mean the President can take no legislative action, and that's why he would want a Congress?
    – user30654
    Mar 25, 2020 at 4:47
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    @user30654 the President can never take legislative action - they can only ask Congress to do so.
    – Dale M
    Mar 25, 2020 at 5:43
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    It is not clear from the constitution whether the quorum is a majority of sworn members or a majority of allocated seats. The Rules of the House use the former, and provide that "Upon the death, resignation, expulsion, disqualification, removal, or swearing of a Member, the whole number of the House shall be adjusted accordingly." This answer is wrong for the House; I haven't looked at the senate rules, but it could also be wrong for the senate.
    – phoog
    Mar 25, 2020 at 20:20
  • "Does that mean the President can take no legislative action, and that's why he would want a Congress?" The President can only appropriate funds with an act of Congress originated in the House and ratified verbatim by the U.S. Senate and then signed by the President (or passed with a veto override). Both houses need to function to do that or pass other legislation.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 1, 2020 at 23:12
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    This answer is simply wrong. Congress can act with less than a quorum by unanimous consent of those present.
    – Joshua
    Sep 19, 2022 at 18:17

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