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that is, to call the previous question, and decide it at once. It seems an unjust exposition of the rule, to hang a bill up for a week, because an opponent votes for it, that he may have another thrust at it upon reconsideration. Perhaps, under all the circumstances, the previous question is justly applicable to such a motion.
The speaker appoints all committees, except such as are chosen by ballot. He names a majority usually of his own side, unless on unimportant committees. The first-named member is the chairman, of course, unless otherwise directed by the committee. It is in their power, it is true, to select their own chairman, but a majority being appointed, of the same caste with the first-named, he can always be elected, if he desire it.
Standing committees, unconnected with politi. cal questions, are, after all, much better than what are called select committees. They are usually selected on account of their kind feeling towards the object referred to them. A standing committee looks at a subject with an investigating eye; they need not be for a subject, nor against it; but in that just position that enables them fairly to examine it. I know it is said that gen. tlemen, friendly to a subject, should be appointed on it. If that was the invariable rule, committees would be utterly useless, as they would always
report favourably, and no one would have any faith in their reports.
In the house of representatives of the United States, a report of a standing committee is properly estimated by the members generally. Chosen as they are, at the opening of the session, they have no bias on their minds for or against many of the measures committed to them. With the exception of political questions, I should rely with great confidence on the report of a standing committee. They keep regular minutes of their proceedings, record all their reports, and look back, for a series of years, for authorities, in making up their judgments upon any case ; . whereas a select committee is chosen for the particular occasion, and generally entrusts the report to the gentleman who presents the petition referred to them, and who is at the head of the select committee.
From the necessity of the case, congress must have great faith in its standing committees. The members cannot examine minutely and individually for themselves, every thing that may come be. fore them; they therefore leave much, and I think with great propriety, to standing committees. Even new members have the old committee book of reports to guide them, and the experience of old members on the committees to refer them to what has been said and done before, on many subjects that yearly come before them.
CALL OF THE HOUSE. Upon the call of the house, the name of the members are called over by the clerk ; those who
are present answer to their names and the absentees are noted, after which, the names of the ab. sentees are again called over, when such as may have entered the house since the first call, can answer to their names. The speaker then orders the doors to be closed, and those for whom no excuse or insufficient excuses are made, may, by the order of those present, (if amounting to fifteen in number,) be taken into custody, as they appear, by the sergeant-at-arms, or may be sent for, and taken into custody wherever to be found, by special messengers appointed for that purpose.
A call of the house is very frequently commenced, and the proceedings afterwards suspend. ed, when most if not all of the members are found to be in the house, on the call of absentees. It is one of the modes resorted to by the respective parties, to fill the house before a decision is had on any question of great interest. The call, how. ever, is sometimes made to retain a quorum at the close of the session, and particularly at night. In instances of that kind, the members remaining in the house, frequently carry out the rules to the fullest extent, and compel members who have re. tired, to repair to the house, where they hear their excuses, and discharge some upon payment of fees, and others without, as their excuses may warrant. The fees of the sergeant-at-arms are, for every arrest, two dollars ; for each day's custody, and releasement, one dollar; and for travel. ling expenses for himself, or a special messenger, going and returning, one-tenth of a dollar per mile.
Rule 9. In all cases of ballot by the house, the speaker shall vote: in other cases he shall not vote, unless the house be equally divided, or unless his vote, if given to the minority, will make the division equal; and in case of such equal di. vision, the question shall be lost.
The speaker, by this rule, never votes on a bill or any proposition that requires a vote, viva voce, unless his vote will either pass or prevent the passage of the proposition before the house. Some think it a great hardship that the speaker should only be allowed to vote once or twice during the session. I am however inclined to think the presiding officer is well satisfied with the rule ; it keeps him from unnecessarily coming in collision, upon every question, with the feelings of the res. pective parties in the house, while it gives him a vote whenever it is important that an individual should have a vote, and that is, when his vote will certainly tell. During even a long session, the speaker will not be called upon to give his casting vote more than two or three times at most. I recollect two speakers, at different times, giving their vote to second the previous question.
I have said elsewhere that the speaker is elected for the whole congress. In the early history of our congressional proceedings, I think, Mr. Muhlenberg was elected for only a single session.* The
*“ April 20, 1798. The speaker of the house of representatives being indisposed, the house elected the Hon. George Dent, speaker, pro tempore.
May 28, 1798. A message from the house was received by the senate, informing that body that the Hon. George Dent had been chosen speaker, pro tempore, and that he had signed an enrolled bill, which the clerk of the house was de
practice is however so well settled, that I apprehend it will never be changed, because it is always in the power of the house to displace their speak. er, if they think proper. He is to the house what a chairman is to a committee, and may be changed at pleasure. Indeed, it is a matter of importance that this subject should be understood, as it gives to the presiding officer and members a just notion of their relative rights. While on this subject, it may not be improper to suggest a word upon the re-organizing of the committees at the second ses. sion. It is my opinion, that the committees are as certainly chosen for the whole congress, as the speaker. The speaker holds the chair on the principle of its being a second session of the same congress-an adjournment, if you please; and why ought not the committees to stand unchanged upon the same principle? The fifteenth rule would seem to settle the question.
Rule 15. After six days from the commencement of a second or subsequent session of any congress, all bills, resolutions, and reports, which originated in the house, (reported by committees) and at the close of the next preceding session, remained undetermined, shall be resumed and acted upon in the same manner as if an adjournment had not taken place.
If the reports are to stand the same as if an adjournment had not taken place, so must the committees.
sired to bring to the senate, for the signature of the vice-president." This is the only instance I have met with in my examination of the journals, in which a speaker, pro tempore, of the house signed a bill.