Article I, Section 5: "[...] 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."
There’s a difference between Congress on break
and Congress unable to meet if we needed them to.
Section 4 is about safety.
It preserves continuity of government.
The following pages address an actual amendment of text
in this amendment, showing that it stays with the format of Amendment XVII,
extending it in the simplest, most logical way.
Emergency procedures for loss of quorum in either house of Congress have long been needed.
A majority must be present for either House to do business.
First Article II, Section I, then Amendments XII, XX and finally XXV arose in Congress out of concerns about losing the President
– but not one clause covers our losing themselves!
Ensuring that no emergency can take Congress from us protects us against coups as well as against foreign powers and natural disasters.
Even a protracted power failure in November and December could affect quorum, breaking the continuity of government
But wait, isn’t this amendment about campaign finance reform?
You can see why improving electoral process, protecting the ballot, enforcing voting rights and
ending gerrymandering and malapportionment are process reforms, but why is this lumped in with them?
Congress is the branch most accountable to the people to keep the greatest power in our government in the people’s hands.
It's by far the most powerful branch of the federal government.
Everything the Constitution covers (which is a lot) is under Congress in one way or the other.
Every regulation by the Executive branch agencies, and most of what the President proposes,
must be approved by Congress because regulations have the effect of laws and
only legislatures may make law
And Congress holds the purse strings.
Insulating Congress against us at the polls is one way individual power brokers and party machines take power.
When it’s deliberate, erosion of the public's role transfers power to them.
Even the movement to shift power to state and local legislatures can come down to this:
they’re more subject to local and regional power brokers and party machines.
But there’s another way Congress can be taken from the people’s power.
If it can’t meet at all or can’t make quorum for any reason, decisions will be made elsewhere.
Even Congressional gridlock can have this effect.
Section 4 isn’t just about terrorism or blackouts. It’s a vital public control.
If we reform campaign finance, elections, districting, and lobbying,
recover the public’s power in the courts by ending caselaw drift and selective incorporation,
and safeguard against invalid amendment by either Congress or the courts,
there will still be one option for those who would take our government from our hands.
The public has to say, “Not on our watch.”