Definition of Adjourn

An adjournment is what happens when a meeting or official gathering decides to take a break or to stop and continue at another time. Think of a sports game that’s paused because it starts to rain, and everyone plans to finish the game later. It’s a bit like that, but for meetings or political sessions rather than sports. In the context of U.S. politics, whenever Congress—which is the Senate and the House of Representatives—decides to pause their sessions or end them for a certain period, they are adjourning.

To put it another way, adjourning is like putting a bookmark in a long book you’re reading. You stop reading at a certain page so you can take a rest or do something else. Later on, you open the book again, right where you left it, and continue with the story. In politics, adjourning allows lawmakers to take a break and come back to continue their work with a fresh perspective.

How to Guide

Think of adjourning like hitting the pause button on a video game. In Congress, however, pressing that button follows a specific routine. Someone needs to suggest that the meeting should take a break by making a motion, which is like saying, “I think we should stop here.” After this suggestion is out in the open, the others in the meeting vote to decide if they should indeed take that break. If most people agree, the meeting pauses, and everyone can take a rest. This same process applies when they decide what time they should come back to continue their work.

Types of Adjournment

  • Sine Die: This is a fancy Latin phrase meaning “with no day” and it’s used when Congress has finished its work for their yearly session and there’s no set day for the next meeting. This type of adjournment happens after big jobs, like deciding on the country’s budget, are completed.
  • Recess: This is a shorter period of adjournment. Think of it like the breaks you have between classes at school or a timeout in a sports match to catch your breath or strategize.
  • Adjournment for More Than Three Days: Imagine if you and a friend can’t go out to play unless you both agree on it. Likewise, both the Senate and the House have to agree if they want to stop meeting for more than three days. This rule is to make sure they work as a team and everyone is on the same page.

Examples of Adjourn

  • Members of Congress often need to visit their hometowns to celebrate holidays or to talk with the people who voted for them. They adjourn for a recess so they can do these things and then come back to work refreshed.
  • At the end of the year, Congress usually adjourns sine die in December. They’ve completed all the major tasks they had to do, and it’s like the final bell ringing at the end of a school year.
  • In cases of emergencies like severe storms or other unexpected events, Congress might adjourn suddenly to make sure everyone is safe and can manage the situation properly.

Why is Adjournment Important?

Adjournment is not just about taking breaks. It’s an essential part of the political process. It’s like when you work hard all day and need to take a rest so you can be your best the next day. For lawmakers, it means they can stay focused and make better decisions. Meeting face to face with the citizens back home lets them understand what people need and want. Also, having a set end date for their sessions acts like a deadline. It’s like if you know a project is due on Friday, you’re going to always make sure to finish it on time. Lawmakers work hard to pass laws and sort out the country’s finances before the time runs out.


The concept of adjourning is so important that that it’s included in the U.S. Constitution, which acts like the rule book for the country. This rule book says that neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives can decide to take a break for more than three days unless they both agree to it. This rule is there to make sure they work together as a team and don’t leave anything unfinished by taking long breaks unexpectedly.


Sometimes, adjourning can cause a bit of a stir or disagreement. Maybe one political group wants to stay working to get certain laws passed, while another group wants to adjourn and go home. The President also has a special power linked to adjournment. If the Senate and the House can’t agree on when to stop meeting, the President has the authority to make the decision. These cases are rare, but it shows how important adjournment is in balancing power.

Adjournment and the President

There’s another connection between the President and adjournment. When Congress is taking a break, the President can appoint officials to certain government positions without waiting for the usual approval. These temporary appointments last only until Congress comes back into full session.

Adjournment in Modern Times

Nowadays, Congress has a set calendar with designated times for meetings and breaks. They try to plan their recesses so that they won’t interrupt important matters. Yet, sometimes the schedule can suddenly change if there’s a major disagreement or an urgent situation. It’s a bit like changing plans for your day if something unexpected comes up.

Impact on Lawmaking

Adjournment affects how laws are made. Just like a homework project that isn’t finished by the end of the semester has to be redone, bills that aren’t completed before Congress adjourns sine die at the end of its two-year session die too. They have to start from scratch in the next session. This puts pressure on lawmakers to work quickly and efficiently as the deadline approaches.

Keeping Government Running

Sometimes, to keep things running and to make sure the government doesn’t come to a complete stop, Congress will meet very briefly every few days in “pro forma” sessions. This tactic is like checking in to make sure everything is going okay even while they’re on a break. It also can be used to stop the President from making those temporary appointments without the usual process.


In conclusion, adjournment is a straightforward but powerful tool in U.S. politics. It brings order and time for rest to the hectic world of lawmaking. It acts as a deadline, an opportunity for lawmakers to connect with their constituents, and as a part of the checks and balances system, which helps prevent any single part of the government from getting too much control. So, while adjournment might seem like a simple pause, it has a significant impact on how laws are created, the timing of political actions, and the appointing of officials to key positions.

Related Topics

  • Quorum: This is the minimum number of members who must be present for Congress to make official decisions. Like needing enough players on a team to play a game, a quorum ensures that there’s fair participation in decision-making.
  • Filibuster: This is a tactic used by lawmakers to extend debate on a topic to delay or prevent a vote on a bill. It’s like when someone keeps talking to avoid answering a question they don’t want to deal with.
  • Pro Tempore: This Latin term means “for the time being” and is often used to describe a temporary leader in Congress. It’s like having a substitute teacher who takes over when the regular teacher can’t be there.
  • Cloture: This is a procedure to end a debate in the Senate, typically to stop a filibuster. It’s like setting a timer that says, “Okay, time’s up! Let’s make a decision.”