ArtI.S5.C3.1 Keeping a Journal of Proceedings

Article I, Section 5, Clause 3:

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; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

The object of the clause requiring the keeping of a Journal is to insure publicity to the proceedings of the legislature, and a correspondent responsibility of the members to their respective constituents.1 When the Journal of either House is put in evidence for the purpose of determining whether the yeas and nays were ordered, and what the vote was on any particular question, the Journal must be presumed to show the truth, and a statement therein that a quorum was present, though not disclosed by the yeas and nays, is final.2 But when an enrolled bill, which has been signed by the Speaker of the House and by the President of the Senate, in open session receives the approval of the President and is deposited in the Department of State, its authentication as a bill that has passed Congress is complete and unimpeachable, and it is not competent to show from the Journals of either House that an act so authenticated, approved, and deposited, in fact omitted one section actually passed by both Houses of Congress.3

Footnotes

  1.  Jump to essay-12 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States § 840 (1833), quoted with approval in Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 670 (1892).
  2.  Jump to essay-2United States v. Ballin, 144 U.S. 1, 4 (1892).
  3.  Jump to essay-3Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649 (1892); Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U.S. 107, 143 (1911). See the dispute in the Court with regard to the application of Field in an origination clause dispute. United States v. Munoz-Flores, 495 U.S. 385, 391 n.4 (1990), and id. at 408 (Justice Scalia concurring in the judgment). A parallel rule holds in the case of a duly authenticated official notice to the Secretary of State that a state legislature has ratified a proposed amendment to the Constitution. Leser v. Garnett, 258 U.S. 130, 137 (1922); see also Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433 (1939).