Joint session of the United States Congress

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Congress in Joint Session.
Congress in Joint Session.

Joint Sessions of the United States Congress are the gathering together of both House and Senate which occur on special occasions such as the State of the Union Address and Presidential Inauguration.


[edit] Forms of Joint Session and Joint Meeting

While any meeting of both House and Senate of the US Congress is commonly called a Joint Session, there is a distinction between the two terms Joint Session and Joint Meeting:

  • Joint Session of congress requires a concurrent resolution from both House and Senate to meet. Joint sessions include the counting of electoral votes following a Presidential election and the State of the Union and other Presidential addresses.
  • Joint Meetings occur with unanimous consent agreements to recess and meet. These are usually convened to hear addresses from US or foreign dignitaries other than the President.

Meetings of Congress for Presidential Inaugurations are a special case called formal joint gatherings, but may also be Joint Sessions if both houses are in session at the time.

Joint Sessions and Joint Meetings are traditionally presided over by the Speaker of the House and take place at the House Chamber. However, the Constitution requires the President of the Senate to preside over the counting of electoral votes.

[edit] State of the Union

At some time during the first two months of each session, the President customarily delivers the State of the Union Address, a speech in which he assesses the situation of the country and outlines their legislative proposals for the congressional session. The speech is modeled on the Speech from the Throne given by the British monarch, and is mandated by the Constitution of the United States. Thomas Jefferson discontinued the original practice of delivering the speech in person before both houses of Congress, deeming it too monarchical. Instead, Jefferson and his successors sent a written message to Congress each year. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson reestablished the practice of personally attending to deliver the speech; few Presidents have deviated from this custom since.

[edit] Subjects of Joint Sessions and Joint Meetings

In addition to State of the Union Addresses, inaugurals and counting of electoral votes, Joint Sessions usually fall into one of several topics.

[edit] Foreign dignitaries

Foreign Heads of State and Heads of Government from 48 countries have addressed Joint Meetings of Congress more than one hundred times. Heads of State or Government from the United Kingdom have addressed Joint Meetings most often - eight times. Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed Congress three of those eight times.

Twice have Joint Meetings been attended by the Heads of State or Government from two countries. On September 18, 1978, Congress was addressed by Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, and Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel. On July 26, 1994, Congress was addressed by Hussein I, King of Jordan, and Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel.

On February 28, 2006, Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy, addressed the Congress at the invitation of President Bush; before him just three other Italian statesmen had the honour of addressing the Congress: Alcide De Gasperi, Giovanni Gronchi, and Bettino Craxi.

[edit] Presidential addresses

In addition to State of the Union Addresses, Presidents deliver addresses to Congress on specific subjects. The first such speech was delivered by John Adams on the subject of US relations with France. The most popular subjects for such addresses are economic, military and foreign policy issues.

Some of these addresses, such as Bill Clinton's 1993 Economic Address and George W. Bush's Budget Message of 2001, are sometimes wrongly labeled as State of Union Addresses.

[edit] Military leaders

Joint Meetings of Congress are sometimes called to hear addresses by Generals, Admirals or other military leaders. Perhaps the most notable example is Douglas MacArthur's farewell address to Congress.

[edit] Astronauts

Six times in the first decade of the Space Age, Congress jointly met to be addressed by Astronauts after their trips in space.

[edit] Memorials

Nine times, Congress has jointly met to hold a memorial service for a deceased President or former President. Congress has also met to memorialize Vice President James Sherman and Marquis de La Fayette.

[edit] Anniversaries

Congress sometimes meets to mark the anniversary of an historical event or of a Presidential birthday. The first such occasion was the centennial of George Washington's first inauguration in 1889. Congress has met to mark the centennial of the birth of each President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The next Presidential centennial will be Lyndon Johnson's on August 27, 2008. It is not yet known whether Congress will hold a Joint Meeting or not.

[edit] Historic Joint Sessions

Any Joint Session is significant.

[edit] References

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