What Is a Congressional Session?

A congressional session is the annual series of meetings conducted by Congress in Washington D.C. The constitution requires Congress to meet at least once every year, although each Congress typically holds two sessions. A meeting of one or both houses of Congress or a meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives is also called a congressional session.

There are three main types of congressional sessions: closed sessions, joint sessions and lame duck sessions. In closed sessions, also known as secret sessions, the Senate discusses issues dealing with national security, confidential information and sensitive communications from the president. Closed sessions are also used for deliberations during impeachment trials. Joint sessions occur when a concurrent resolution on any topic is needed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Both houses agree to meet when it is necessary to conduct formal business, hear an address from the president or count electoral votes after a presidential election. In a lame-duck session, either one or both houses reconvene in an even-numbered year after the general elections are held in November to discuss important items of business. Lawmakers who will not be members of the next Congress attend the meeting as well. These lawmakers are called lame-duck members.