A pro forma session is a brief meeting of a legislative body, typically lasting only a few minutes, during which no formal business is conducted.
These sessions are often used to fulfill a procedural requirement or to demonstrate that the legislature is still in session, even if no actual work is being done.
Pro forma sessions are most commonly used in the United States Congress, where they are typically called to meet the requirement that each chamber must meet at least once every three days.
This requirement is set forth in the Constitution, and pro forma sessions are a way for Congress to meet the requirement without actually conducting any business.
Pro forma sessions are typically led by the presiding officer of the chamber, and they typically consist of little more than a roll call and the reading of a brief statement.
No votes are taken and no legislation is considered during a pro forma session.
While pro forma sessions serve a procedural purpose, they can also be used for other purposes. For example, a pro forma session can be called to prevent the president from making recess appointments, as the Constitution requires the Senate to be in session in order to consider such appointments.
It can also prevent a president from pocket-vetoing a piece of legislation.
During a 2007 recess, for example, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, planned to keep the Senate in pro forma session in order to prevent further controversial appointments made by the Bush Administration. Said Reid: “I am keeping the Senate in pro forma [session] to prevent recess appointments until we get this process on track.”
Pro forma sessions can also be used as a way for the majority party to block legislation that is supported by the minority party. By calling pro forma sessions, the majority party can prevent the minority party from introducing or voting on legislation, even if the majority party is not actually conducting any business of its own.
Examples of “pro forma session” in a sentence
- The majority party called a pro forma session to prevent the minority party from introducing legislation.
- The pro forma session was called to fulfill the requirement that Congress must meet at least once every three days.
- No votes were taken and no legislation was considered during the pro forma session.