Here's the hypothetical:

Congress is adjourned, but the Example Caucus wants it to convene again as soon as possible. Congress plans to take recess for more than three days, so they've scheduled senator Bob to do a pro-forma session.

Ahead of the session, Senator Alice and Senator Abe of the Example Caucus quietly take their seats in the chamber. When Senator Bob asks for unanimous consent to convene, they are quiet. But when Senator Bob asks for unanimous consent to adjourn, they object!

Now check me on this next part:

The Senate is therefore not adjourned, is that not so? And since Alice and Abe have a 2-1 majority over Bob, it is pointless for Bob to call for a vote to adjourn. As Alice and Abe and Bob argue, the rest of the Example Caucus files into the chamber. Now the Senate is in session (a regularly scheduled session, in fact), and they have a quorum.

They can now conduct business, can they not?

I'm trying to find out if this would work, but I have no idea if it would. If I've based the hypothetical on false assumptions and this is all silly, I apologize. I meant no harm. I'm not well versed in law that's why I'm asking.

  • 1
    The title question and the body question have contradictory presuppositions. A pro forma session exists only when the Senate is convened.
    – user6726
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


The Example Caucus would need 50 members - the 50 of them, plus Bob, would be needed for a quorum. (They can compel Bob to attend, so he can't simply leave to deny the quorum.) That's a rather large caucus.

Beyond that, I see no procedural reason why it wouldn't work. They'd likely be going against the Senate rules by bringing up votes that were not scheduled - however, they could use the same "nuclear option" that got rid of some filibusters, and change the rules on the fly to allow them to do so.

  • As I understand it, you do not need to have a quorum to compel absent members to attend, provided that the absence of a quorum has been "suggested" by any senator present and confirmed by a call of the roll (which is automatic when such a suggestion has been made). So if Alice and Abe really wanted, they could vote 2-1 to send the Sergeant at Arms out to arrest the absent senators from other parties. The press would naturally have a field day if this actually happened.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 10, 2021 at 0:22

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