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CRS – Secret Sessions of the House and Senate: Authority, Confidentiality, and Frequency

Secret Sessions of the House and Senate: Authority, Confidentiality, and Frequency. Christopher M. Davis, Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process. March 15, 2013

  • “Secret, or closed, sessions of the House and Senate exclude the press and the public. They may be held for matters deemed to require confidentiality and secrecy—such as national security, sensitive communications received from the President, and Senate deliberations during impeachment trials. Although Members usually seek advance agreement for going into secret session, any Member of Congress may request a secret session without notice. When the House or Senate goes into secret session, its chamber and galleries are cleared of everyone except Members and officers and employees specified in the rules or designated by the presiding officer as essential to the session. After the chamber is cleared, its doors are closed. Authority for the House and Senate to hold secret sessions appears in Article I, Section 5, of the Constitution: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings….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….” Both chambers have implemented these constitutional provisions through rules and precedents.”
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