Senate Executive Business and the Executive Calendar Page: 2 of 2
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Business on the Executive Calendar is considered in executive session. Typically, the
Senate will go back and forth during a work day between legislative and executive
sessions to handle matters on the two calendars. Legislative business is not considered in
executive sessions, nor is executive business handled in legislative sessions. On occasion,
when the Senate is in legislative session under unanimous consent procedure, it will act on
nominations "as in executive session."
The common practice of the Senate is to convene in legislative session each day.
However, either by motion or unanimous consent, the Senate will resolve into executive
session to deal with executive business. Under Senate Rule XXII, the motion to go into
executive session (or return to legislative session) is nondebatable. Once in executive
session, the first item on the Executive Calendar is automatically before the Senate. If the
majority leader decides to call up a different matter from the Executive Calendar, his
motion to proceed is debatable. Precedent, however, provides a way to obviate the
possibility of having extended debate on the motion to proceed to a treaty or nomination.
When the majority leader offers the nondebatable motion in legislative session to resolve
into executive session, he will specify in that motion that the Senate will consider a certain
matter in executive session. That matter is then the pending business in executive session
once his motion is agreed to, thus eliminating the need for a debatable motion to
proceed. To be sure, the treaty or nomination itself is subject to extended debate.
Treaties and Nominations
Treaties are typically referred to the Foreign Relations Committee, with Senate Rule
XXX governing many treaty procedures. For instance, from the days of our early
Presidents, treaties negotiated by the White House have been submitted to the Senate with
an "injunction of secrecy." Rule XXX stipulates that the Senate may remove this secrecy
injunction at any time, which it commonly and regularly does by unanimous consent when
the treaty is ordered to be printed and referred. Most of the time the Senate considers
treaties in open session, but there are occasions when secret sessions are held to discuss
classified information. Unlike nominations or regular legislation, treaties do not die at the
end of a Congress. A good example is the Genocide Treaty, which was submitted by
President Truman in 1949. Thirty-seven years later, it was finally ratified in 1986 by the
required two-thirds vote of the Senate.
Presidential nominations are referred to the appropriate committee of jurisdiction.
(Senate Rule XXXI regulates many of the proceedings on nominations.) Some
committees process thousands of nominees while others consider only a small number.
Once the nominations are taken up in executive session, they require approval by a
majority vote of the Senate. Under Senate Rule XXXI, the presiding officer asks: "Will
the Senate advise and consent to this nomination?" Nominations must be acted on in a
session or they die, and, as Rule XXXI states, they must "again be made to the Senate by
the President." Under the Constitution, Presidents "shall have Power to fill up all
Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate."
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Senate Executive Business and the Executive Calendar, report, February 20, 2001; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc815776/m1/2/: accessed April 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.