I recently watched CGP Grey's video on the Supreme Court nomination process, which discusses (among other things) the use of pro forma sessions of the US Senate to keep the President from making recess appointments. As I understood it, a single senator can call the Senate to order and then immediately adjourn the session. While there is not a quorum of senators present, a quorum is presumed to exist unless someone makes a quorum call; and so one senator can call the Senate to order and adjourn it so long as they "don't notice" that there's nobody there.

Would it be possible for another senator to throw a monkey wrench into the works in the following scenario?

  1. After an adjournment of three days, Senator A calls the Senate to order for they assume to be a pro forma session. Senator B is sitting in the back row. No other senators are present.
  2. Senator B immediately raises a point of order: the Senate cannot be called to order without a quorum. This session cannot occur without 51 senators present.
  3. The president, noting that an adjournment has lasted longer than three days, argues that the Senate is de facto not in session, and makes a whole passel of recess appointments.

I'm sure that the answer is "this wouldn't work", or someone would have tried it; one could easily imagine a scenario in which the President & Senator B were in the same party and agreed to pull a stunt like this. So my questions are:

  • Would Step 2 work? Can a senator block the Senate from being calling to order via a quorum call?
  • If Step 2 would work, would the "de facto" argument in Step 3 work? (This is obviously a heavier lift.)

This is related to this question, but that one was asking about whether a pro forma session could be turned into a "real" session by making a quorum call. My question is whether a senator could effectively "cancel" a pro forma session by making a quorum call, and whether this could give a President the power to make recess appointments.

  • My guess is that the quorum call is only in order once the session has actually begun, so it can't prevent the session from beginning. The quorum call would instead suspend all business until a quorum is present - which is no problem, because no business was going to happen during that pro forma session anyway. Sep 15, 2021 at 17:57

1 Answer 1



The lack of a quorum prevents the Senate from conducting business, however, it is still in session.

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