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Constitution Monday: Why Congressional Record

Note: Throughout this series, items that are hyperlinked were in the Constitution as written in 1787 but have since been amended or superseded.

Article I of the Constitution of the United States established the Legislative Branch, known as Congress. Here is Article I, Section V, which covers a number of housekeeping rules for Congress, especially those related to transparency (emphasis mine):

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.

I find it interesting and encouraging that our Founders thought that public coverage of Congressional proceedings was so important they wrote into the Constitution. That fact should make us take notice.

If you’d like to see the “Journal of Congress” from 1994 onwards, check out the Congressional Record at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=CREC. If you’d like to see some of Congress’ earliest journals, check out the Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation site at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/.

And if you’d like to see an issue of the  Congressional Record between 1875 and 1994, then go visit your nearest Federal Depository Library.

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