Term of Congress

Term of Congress in the United States

Term of Congress in the Legislative Process

The two-year period during which each Congress meets. Each term is said to last two years because new elections (for all members of the House and one-third of the senators) are held every two years; each term is the period in between those elections. January 2009 marks the beginning of the 111th term of Congress since the ratification of the Constitution.

Each term of Congress lasts for two years, and each term is numbered consecutively (Article I, Section 2, Clause 1 dictates a two-year term for Congress by providing that members of the House “shall be…chosen every second Year.”). Congress began its first term on March 4, 1789, and that term ended two years later, on March 4, 1791. The date for the start of each new term was changed by the 20th Amendment in 1933. In an earlier day, the several months from election to March 4 allowed for delays in communicating election results. This gave newly chosen lawmakers time to arrange their affairs and travel to Washington. The March date gave Congress less time to accomplish its work each year, however, and by the 1930s travel and communications were no longer an issue. The start of each new two-year term is now “noon of the 3d day of January” of every odd-numbered year. So the term of the 109th Congress began on January 3, 2005, and it will end at noon on January 3, 2007.

Term in Office

Article I, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution provides that “Representatives shall be … chosen every second Year”–that is, for two-year terms. This rather short term means that, for House members, the next election is always just around the corner. That fact tends to make them pay close attention to “the folks back home.”

There is no constitutional limit on the number of terms any member of Congress may serve. In the 1990s, people tried to persuade Congress to offer a constitutional amendment to limit congressional terms. Most versions of such an amendment would put a three- or four-term limit (six or eight years) on service in the House and a two-term limit (twelve years) for the Senate.

Sessions

A session of Congress is that period of time during which, each year, Congress assembles and conducts business. There are two sessions to each term of Congress–one session each year. The Constitution provides “The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.” (20th Amendment, Section 2).

In fact, Congress often does “appoint a different day.” The second session of each two-year term frequently begins a few days or even two or three weeks after the third of January.

Congress adjourns, or suspends until the next session, each regular session as it sees fit. Until World War II, the nation’s lawmakers typically met for four or five months each year. Today, the many pressing issues facing Congress force it to remain in session through most of each year. Both houses do recess for several short periods during a session, however.

Neither house may adjourn sine die (finally, ending a session) without the consent of the other. The Constitution provides that “Neither House … shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting” (Article I, Section 5, Clause 4).

Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution does give the President the power to prorogue –end, discontinue–a session, but only when the two houses cannot agree on a date for adjournment. No President has ever had to use that power.

Special Sessions

Only the President may call Congress into special session –a meeting to deal with some emergency situation. 4 Only 26 special sessions of Congress have ever been held. President Harry Truman called the most recent one in 1948, to consider anti-inflation and welfare measures in the aftermath of World War II.

Note that the President can call Congress or either of its houses into a special session. The Senate has been called into special session alone on 46 occasions, to consider treaties or presidential appointments, but not since 1933. The House has never been called alone.

Of course, the fact that Congress now meets nearly year-round reduces the likelihood of special sessions. That fact also lessens the importance of the President’s power to call one. Still, as Congress nears the end of a session, the President sometimes finds it useful to threaten a special session if the two chambers do not act on some measure high on his legislative agenda.

Term of Congress Dates

  • The 1st United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1789 and it ended on March 4, 1791
  • The 2nd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1791 and it ended on March 4, 1793
  • The 3rd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1793 and it ended on March 4, 1795
  • The 4th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1795 and it ended on March 4, 1797
  • The 5th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1797 and it ended on March 4, 1799
  • The 6th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1799 and it ended on March 4, 1801
  • The 7th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1801 and it ended on March 4, 1803
  • The 8th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1803 and it ended on March 4, 1805
  • The 9th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1805 and it ended on March 4, 1807
  • The 10th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1807 and it ended on March 4, 1809
  • The 11th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1809 and it ended on March 4, 1811
  • The 12th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1811 and it ended on March 4, 1813
  • The 13th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1813 and it ended on March 4, 1815
  • The 14th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1815 and it ended on March 4, 1817
  • The 15th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1817 and it ended on March 4, 1819
  • The 16th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1819 and it ended on March 4, 1821
  • The 17th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1821 and it ended on March 4, 1823
  • The 18th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1823 and it ended on March 4, 1825
  • The 19th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1825 and it ended on March 4, 1827
  • The 20th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1827 and it ended on March 4, 1829
  • The 21rst United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1829 and it ended on March 4, 1831
  • The 22nd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1831 and it ended on March 4, 1833
  • The 23rd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1833 and it ended on March 4, 1835
  • The 24th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1835 and it ended on March 4, 1837
  • The 25th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1837 and it ended on March 4, 1839
  • The 26th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1839 and it ended on March 4, 1841
  • The 27th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1841 and it ended on March 4, 1843
  • The 28th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1843 and it ended on March 4, 1845
  • The 29th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1845 and it ended on March 4, 1847
  • The 30th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1847 and it ended on March 4, 1849
  • The 31st United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1849 and it ended on March 4, 1851
  • The 32nd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1851 and it ended on March 4, 1853
  • The 33rd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1853 and it ended on March 4, 1855
  • The 34th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1855 and it ended on March 4, 1857
  • The 35th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1857 and it ended on March 4, 1859
  • The 36th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1859 and it ended on March 4, 1861
  • The 37th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1861 and it ended on March 4, 1863
  • The 38th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1863 and it ended on March 4, 1865
  • The 39th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1865 and it ended on March 4, 1867
  • The 40th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1867 and it ended on March 4, 1869
  • The 41st United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1869 and it ended on March 4, 1871
  • The 42nd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1871 and it ended on March 4, 1873
  • The 43rd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1873 and it ended on March 4, 1875
  • The 44th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1875 and it ended on March 4, 1877
  • The 45th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1877 and it ended on March 4, 1879
  • The 46th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1879 and it ended on March 4, 1881
  • The 47th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1881 and it ended on March 4, 1883
  • The 48th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1883 and it ended on March 4, 1885
  • The 49th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1885 and it ended on March 4, 1887
  • The 50th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1887 and it ended on March 4, 1889
  • The 51st United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1889 and it ended on March 4, 1891
  • The 52nd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1891 and it ended on March 4, 1893
  • The 53rd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1893 and it ended on March 4, 1895
  • The 54th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1895 and it ended on March 4, 1897
  • The 55th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1897 and it ended on March 4, 1899
  • The 56th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1899 and it ended on March 4, 1901
  • The 57th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1901 and it ended on March 4, 1903
  • The 58th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1903 and it ended on March 4, 1905
  • The 59th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1905 and it ended on March 4, 1907
  • The 60th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1907 and it ended on March 4, 1909
  • The 61st United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1909 and it ended on March 4, 1911
  • The 62nd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1911 and it ended on March 4, 1913
  • The 63rd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1913 and it ended on March 4, 1915
  • The 64th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1915 and it ended on March 4, 1917
  • The 65th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1917 and it ended on March 4, 1919
  • The 66th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1919 and it ended on March 4, 1921
  • The 67th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1921 and it ended on March 4, 1923
  • The 68th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1923 and it ended on March 4, 1925
  • The 69th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1925 and it ended on March 4, 1927
  • The 70th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1927 and it ended on March 4, 1929
  • The 71st United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1929 and it ended on March 4, 1931
  • The 72nd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1931 and it ended on March 4, 1933
  • The 73rd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1933 and it ended on January 3, 1935
  • The 74th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1935 and it ended on January 3, 1937
  • The 75th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1937 and it ended on January 3, 1939
  • The 76th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1939 and it ended on January 3, 1941
  • The 77th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1941 and it ended on January 3, 1943
  • The 78th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1943 and it ended on January 3, 1945
  • The 79th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1945 and it ended on January 3, 1947
  • The 80th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1947 and it ended on January 3, 1949
  • The 81st United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1949 and it ended on January 3, 1951
  • The 82nd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1951 and it ended on January 3, 1953
  • The 83rd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1953 and it ended on January 3, 1955
  • The 84th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1955 and it ended on January 3, 1957
  • The 85th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1957 and it ended on January 3, 1959
  • The 86th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1959 and it ended on January 3, 1961
  • The 87th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1961 and it ended on January 3, 1963
  • The 88th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1963 and it ended on January 3, 1965
  • The 89th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1965 and it ended on January 3, 1967
  • The 90th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1967 and it ended on January 3, 1969
  • The 91st United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1969 and it ended on January 3, 1971
  • The 92nd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1971 and it ended on January 3, 1973
  • The 93rd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1973 and it ended on January 3, 1975
  • The 94th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1975 and it ended on January 3, 1977
  • The 95th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1977 and it ended on January 3, 1979
  • The 96th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1979 and it ended on January 3, 1981
  • The 97th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1981 and it ended on January 3, 1983
  • The 98th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1983 and it ended on January 3, 1985
  • The 99th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1985 and it ended on January 3, 1987
  • The 100th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1987 and it ended on January 3, 1989
  • The 101st United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1989 and it ended on January 3, 1991
  • The 102nd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1991 and it ended on January 3, 1993
  • The 103rd United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1993 and it ended on January 3, 1995
  • The 104th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1995 and it ended on January 3, 1997
  • The 105th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1997 and it ended on January 3, 1999
  • The 106th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1999 and it ended on January 3, 2001
  • The 107th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2001 and it ended on January 3, 2003
  • The 108th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2003 and it ended on January 3, 2005
  • The 109th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2005 and it ended on January 3, 2007
  • The 110th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2007 and it ended on January 3, 2009
  • The 111th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2009 and it ended on January 3, 2011
  • The 112th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2011 and it ended on January 3, 2013
  • The 113th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2013 and it ended on January 3, 2015
  • The 114th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2015 and it ended on January 3, 2017
  • The 115th United States Congress first met in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2017 and it ended on January 3, 2019

Resources

See Also

  • Legislative Power
  • Legislative History
  • Legislative Ethics
  • Legislative Session
  • Legislature
  • Legal Aid
  • Legislative Commissions
  • Legislative Branch
  • Legislation
  • Executive Branch
  • Legislative Function

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Term of Congress: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

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Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Term of Congress and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Term of Congress or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Term of Congress and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Term of Congress. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Term of Congress should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

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State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Term of Congress when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

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