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Closed sessions – Closed sessions of the Senate, sometimes referred to as secret sessions, are used for deliberations during impeachment trials, as well as to discuss issues of national security, confidential information, and sensitive communications from the president. Prior to 1795, every session of the Senate was closed.
Executive session – A portion of the Senate’s daily session in which it considers executive business.
Joint session – When the House and Senate adopt a concurrent resolution to meet together to conduct formal business or to hear an address by the president of the United States.
“Lame duck” session – When Congress (or either chamber) reconvenes in an even-numbered year following the November general elections to consider various items of business. Some lawmakers who return for this session will not be in the next Congress. Hence, they are informally called “lame duck” members participating in a “lame duck” session.
Legislative day – A “day” that starts when the Senate meets after an adjournment and ends when the Senate next adjourns. Hence, a legislative day may extend over several calendar days or even weeks and months.
Legislative session – That part of the Senate’s daily session in which it considers legislative business (bills, resolutions, and actions related thereto).
Morning business – Routine business that is supposed to occur during the first two hours of a new legislative day. This business includes receiving messages from the president and from the House of Representatives, reports from executive branch officials, petitions from citizens, memorials from states, and committee reports, and the introduction of bills and submission of resolutions. In practice, the Senate often does this business instead by unanimous consent at other convenient points in the day.
Pro forma session – From the Latin, meaning “as a matter of form,” a pro forma session is a brief meeting of the Senate (sometimes only a few minutes in duration).
Recess – A temporary interruption of the Senate’s proceedings, sometimes within the same day. The Senate may also recess overnight rather than adjourn at the end of the day. Recess also refers to longer breaks, such as the breaks taken during holiday periods, pursuant to concurrent resolution.
Session – The period during which Congress assembles and carries on its regular business. Each Congress generally has two regular sessions (a first session and a second session), based on the constitutional mandate that Congress assemble at least once each year.