Extra Sessions

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EXTRA SESSIONS. Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution of the United States empowers the President "on extraordinary Occasions" to "convene both Houses, [of Congress] or either of them." "Extra" or "special" sessions of Congress have been called so often that it is questionable whether these occasions are truly extraordinary. Frequently the Senate alone has been convened, often to confirm appointments made by a newly inaugurated president. Ratification of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution in 1933, which provides that the inauguration and the convening of the regular sessions of Congress will take place in the same month, substantially diminished the need for extra sessions.

Unlike many state governors, the president cannot limit the agenda of a special session. Furthermore, the Congress has no obligation to act upon or even consider the matters for which the president convened the session. When President Harry Truman called a special session of both houses in 1948, a contrary Congress not only refused to act on the president's recommended agenda, but it also gave its own leaders the unprecedented authorization to reconvene the legislature. With the exception of the provision involving the disability of the president (the Twenty-fifth Amendment, ratified in 1967), the national and state constitutions are silent on the question of whether legislative bodies may convene extra sessions on their own initiative.


Bland, Randall W., Theodore T. Hindson, and Jack W. Peltason. The President: Office and Powers, 1787–1984, by Edward S. Corwin. 5th ed. New York: New York University Press, 1984.

Genovese, Michael A. The Power of the American Presidency: 1789–2000. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Keefe, William J., and Morris S. Ogul. The American Legislative Process: Congress and the States. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2001.

Harold W.Chase

Eric L.Chase/c. p.

See alsoCongress, United States ; President, U.S.