Fast Facts: Session Facts and Rules

Senate Session Facts

• Since 1929, the Senate has held 53 secret sessions, generally for reasons of national security.

• For example, in 1997 the Senate held a secret session to consider the Chemical Weapons Convention (treaty).

• In 1992, the Senate met in secret session to consider "most favored nation" trade status for China.

• In 1988, a session was held to consider the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and in 1983 a session was held on Nicaragua.

• In 1942, a secret session was held on navy plans to build battleships and aircraft carriers, and in 1943 a secret session was held on reports from the war fronts.

• Six of the most recent secret sessions, however, were held during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

Senate Session Rules

• During a secret session, the doors of the chamber are closed, and the chamber and its galleries are cleared of all individuals except Members and those officers and employees specified in the rules or essential to the session.

• Standing Senate Rules 21, 29, and 31 cover secret sessions for legislative and executive business. Rule 21 calls for the Senate to close its doors once a motion is made and seconded. The motion is not debatable, and its disposition is made behind closed doors.