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Lame duck sessions


Congress (Year)Senate Dates House DatesMajor Topics
114th (2016) Nov 15-17 Nov 14-17 Iran sanctions
Nov 18-25 Nov 18-25 Pro forma sessions
Nov 28-Dec 9 Nov 29-Dec 8 Medical research and development, defense authorization, and appropriations
Dec 13-Jan 3 Dec 12-Jan 3 Pro forma sessions
113th (2014) Nov 12-20,
Dec 1-16
Nov 12-20,
Dec 1-12
Defense authorization, appropriations, nominations, and extension of tax cuts
112th (2012) Nov 6, 9 Nov 6, 9 Pro forma session
Nov 13-16,
Nov 26-Jan 2
Nov 13-16,
Nov 27-Jan 3
Defense authorization, FISA extension, disaster appropriations, extension of tax cuts, and delay of budget sequestration
111th (2010) Nov 4-12 -- Pro forma sessions
Nov 15-19,
Nov 29-Dec 22
Nov 15-18,
Nov 29-Dec 22
Judge Porteous impeachment, New START treaty, appropriations, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and extension of tax cuts
110th (2008) Nov 17-20,
Dec 8-11
Nov 19-20,
Dec 9-10
Economic issues
109th (2006) Nov 13-16,
Dec 4-8
Nov 13-15,
Dec 5-8
Appropriations
108th (2004) Nov 16-24 Nov 16-24 Appropriations
Dec 7, 8 Dec 6, 7 Intelligence Reform
107th (2002) Nov 7, 8 Nov 7, 8 Pro forma session
Nov 12-20 Nov 12-22 Department of Homeland Security and appropriations
106th (2000) Nov 14,
Dec 5-15
Nov 13-14,
Dec 4-15
Appropriations and other legislation
105th (1998) did not meet Dec 17-19 Clinton impeachment
103rd (1994) Nov 30, Dec 1 Nov 29 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
97th (1982) Nov 29-Dec 23 Nov 29-Dec 21 Appropriations and budget issues
96th (1980) Nov 12-25,
Dec 1-16
Nov 12-24,
Dec 1-16
Budget, appropriations, and domestic legislation
93rd (1974) Nov 18-26,
Dec 2-20
Nov 18-26,
Dec 2-20
Legislation delayed by Watergate investigation
91st (1970-71) Nov 16-Jan 2 Nov 16-Jan 2 Domestic legislation and foreign aid
83rd (1954) Nov 8-17,
Nov 29-Dec 2
did not meet Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy
81st (1950-51) Nov 27-Dec 22 Nov 27-Dec 22 Korean War
Dec 26, 29 -- Pro forma session
Jan 2 Dec 26-Jan 2 Korean War
80th (1948) Dec 31 Dec 31 Formalities to conclude business
78th (1944) Nov 14-Dec 19 Nov 14-Dec 19 World War II and domestic legislation
77th (1942) Nov 5-Dec 16 Nov 5-Dec 16 World War II
76th (1940-41) Nov 7-Jan 3 Nov 7-Jan 2 Threat of war in Europe

When Congress is in session after a November election and before the beginning of the new Congress, it is known as a "lame-duck session." Prior to the adoption of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution (1933), new Congresses convened in December of odd-numbered years, allowing the post-election Congress to meet and pass legislation for more than a year. The 1933 Amendment changed the convening date for a new Congress to January 3 of odd-numbered years, shortening the time between an election and the beginning of the next Congress to just two months. Since that time, Congress has met in lame-duck session rarely, to conclude urgent or unfinished business.

For more information on lame duck sessions, see Lame Duck Sessions of Congress, 1935-2012 (74th-112th Congresses) (pdf).