This question on politics.stackexchange.com isn't getting any answers, so I'll try a similar question here.

  • Is there some statute or provision of the Constitution of the United States or case law saying that the way a U.S. senator resigns is by submitting a letter of resignation to the governor of the state that the senator represents, rather than to some other person such as the president of the senate (who is also the vice-president of the United States) or other federal officer?
  • Is that considered the proper way to do it only because someone set a precedent and others follow precedent? If so, when was the precedent set? And might it be considered law if there is no Constitutional provision or statute or case law?
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    Tangentially, I believe that when Nixon resigned the Presidency, there was considerable debate over to whom he should submit the letter, as there was neither law nor precedent to guide. Somehow it was decided the Secretary of State would be best, and now there is a precedent. – Nate Eldredge Nov 14 '15 at 0:29
  • @NateEldredge : Here I thought that was covered in the 25th Amendment. But it appears that it is not. – Michael Hardy Nov 14 '15 at 1:50
  • Since posting this question, I have received an email from someone working in the office of the historian of the Senate saying that there have been some cases in which the president of the Senate was the addressee. But still no word on whether some authority ordained these practices. – Michael Hardy Jan 30 '16 at 2:49

Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution specifies that

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.

It therefore seems likely that if there is any procedure specified for the resignation of a senator, it is specified in the Senate rules. Since Senate rules are passed by the Senate only, not being voted on by the House of Representatives nor presented to the President for his signature, they are not laws.

My quick perusal of the rules, however, did not find anything.

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  • Are you sure they are not laws? As an administrative rule made under a power granted by the Constitution I am pretty sure they would qualify as administrative laws. – Dale M Nov 16 '15 at 0:30
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    @DaleM It really depends on your definition of law. It's binding on its members, and certain provisions are binding on members of the public (for instance, parliaments can often compel witnesses to provide evidence to a committee or inquest). But many things are binding only on members - company constitutions, for instance - and that doesn't necessarily make them law. I would not call parliamentary procedure law, although it is called parliamentary law sometimes - nor have I ever head it referred to as law without the category. – jimsug Nov 16 '15 at 3:32
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    @dale All that said, I don't believe the SCOTUS has the power to review and discipline breaches of parliamentary procedure. So by your definition, it wouldn't be law. – jimsug Nov 16 '15 at 3:36
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    @DaleM no, the Supreme Court cannot enforce the rules of a house of Congress. "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." This means that each house is its own sole authority with respect to its rules. It reminds me somewhat of parliamentary sovereignty in the UK, except of course the scope is each house itself instead of the entire country. – phoog Nov 16 '15 at 5:30
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    @DaleM as far as the definition of "law" I am assuming that we are speaking of the countable definition of law ("a law" in the question) which, in the US, refers to the definition implied in the constitution, namely that of bills, signatures, and overridden vetos. In the phrase "common law" we are dealing with a non-countable sense. There's no "law" that causes common-law marriages, for example, just a tenet or principle of common law. "Law" in that sense is uncountable, and denotes the entire system of legal precedent, etc., that constitutes common law. – phoog Nov 16 '15 at 5:37

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