All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.<...
Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances
The Constitution nowhere contains an express injunction to preserve the boundaries of the three broad powers it grants, nor does it expressly enjoin maintenance of a system of checks and balances. Yet, it does grant to three separate branches the powers to legislate, to execute, and to adjudicate, and it provides throughout the document the means by which each of the branches could resist the blandishments and incursions of the others. The Framers drew up our basic charter against a background rich in the theorizing of scholars and statesmen regarding the proper ordering in a system of government of conferring sufficient power to govern while withholding the ability to abridge the liberties of the governed.
The Theory Elaborated and Implemented
When the colonies separated from Great Britain following the Revolution, the framers of their constitutions were imbued with the profound tradition of separation of powers, and they freely and expressly embodied the principle in their charters.
The doctrine of separation of powers, as implemented in drafting the Constitution, was based on several principles generally held: the separation of government into three branches, legislative, executive, and judicial; the conception that each branch performs unique and identifiable functions that are appropriate to each; and the limitation of the personnel of each branch to that branch, so that no one person or group should be able to serve in more than one branch simultaneously. To a great extent, the Constitution effectuated these principles, but critics objected to what they regarded as a curious intermixture of functions, to, for example, the veto power of the President over legislation and to the role of the Senate in the appointment of executive officers and judges and in the treaty-making process. It was to these objections that Madison turned in a powerful series of essays.
Madison recurred to "the celebrated" Montesquieu, the "oracle who is always consulted," to disprove the contentions of the critics. "[T]his essential precaution in favor of liberty," that is, the separation of the three great functions of government, had been achieved, but the doctrine did not demand rigid separation. Montesquieu and other theorists "did not mean that these departments ought to have no partial agency in, or control over, the acts of each other," but rather liberty was endangered "where the whole power of one department is exercised by the same hands which possess the whole power of another department."
Institutional devices to achieve these principles pervade the Constitution. Bicameralism reduces legislative predominance, while the presidential veto gives to the Chief Magistrate a means of defending himself and of preventing congressional overreaching. The Senate's role in appointments and treaties checks the President. The courts are assured independence through good behavior tenure and security of compensation, and the judges through judicial review will check the other two branches. The impeachment power gives to Congress the authority to root out corruption and abuse of power in the other two branches. And so on.
Throughout much of our history, the "political branches" have contended between themselves in application of the separation-of-powers doctrine. Many notable political disputes turned on questions involving the doctrine. Inasmuch as the doctrines of separation of powers and of checks and balances require both separation and intermixture,
Following a lengthy period of relative inattention to separation of powers issues, the Court since 1976
Important as the results were in this series of cases, the development of two separate and inconsistent doctrinal approaches to separation of powers issues occasioned the greatest amount of commentary. The existence of the two approaches, which could apparently be employed in the discretion of the Justices, made difficult the prediction of the outcomes of differences over proposals and alternatives in governmental policy. Significantly, however, it appeared that the Court most often used a more strict analysis in cases in which infringements of executive powers were alleged and a less strict analysis when the powers of the other two Branches were concerned. The special prosecutor decision, followed by the decision sustaining the Sentencing Commission, may signal the adoption of a single analysis, the less strict analysis, for all separation of power cases or it may turn out to be but an exception to the Court's dual doctrinal approach.
While the two doctrines have been variously characterized, the names generally attached to them have been "formalist," applied to the more strict line, and "functional," applied to the less strict. The formalist approach emphasizes the necessity to maintain three distinct branches of government through the drawing of bright lines demarcating the three branches from each other determined by the differences among legislating, executing, and adjudicating.
Chadha used the formalist approach to invalidate the legislative veto device by which Congress could set aside a determination by the Attorney General, pursuant to a delegation from Congress, to suspend deportation of an alien. Central to the decision were two conceptual premises. First, the action Congress had taken was legislative, because it had the purpose and effect of altering the legal rights, duties, and relations of persons outside the Legislative Branch, and thus Congress had to comply with the bicameralism and presentment requirements of the Constitution.
On the same day that Bowsher was decided through a formalist analysis, the Court in Schor utilized the less strict, functional approach in resolving a challenge to the power of a regulatory agency to adjudicate as part of a larger canvas a state common-law issue, the very kind of issue that Northern Pipeline, in a formalist plurality opinion with a more limited concurrence, had denied to a non-Article III bankruptcy court.
Bowsher, the Court said, was not contrary, because "[u]nlike Bowsher, this case raises no question of the aggrandizement of congressional power at the expense of a coordinate branch."
While the Court, in applying one or the other analysis in separation of powers cases, had never indicated its standards for choosing one analysis over the other, beyond inferences that the formalist approach was proper when the Constitution fairly clearly committed a function or duty to a particular branch and the functional approach was proper when the constitutional text was indeterminate and a determination must be made on the basis of the likelihood of impairment of the essential powers of a branch, the overall results had been a strenuous protection of executive powers and a concomitant relaxed view of the possible incursions into the powers of the other branches. It was thus a surprise, then, when in the independent counsel case, the Court, again without stating why it chose that analysis, utilized the functional standard to sustain the creation of the independent counsel.
Although it is possible, even likely, that Morrison and Mistretta represent a decision by the Court to adopt for all separation-of-powers cases the functional analysis, the history of adjudication since 1976 and the shift of approach between Myers and Humphrey's Executor suggest caution. Recurrences of the formalist approach have been noted. Additional decisions must be forthcoming before it can be decided that the Court has finally settled on the functional approach.
By providing for a National Legislature of two Houses, the Framers, deliberately or adventitiously, served several functions. Examples of both unicameralism and bicameralism abounded. Some of the ancient republics, to which the Framers often repaired for the learning of experience, had two-house legislatures, and the Parliament of Great Britain was based in two social orders, the hereditary aristocracy represented in the House of Lords and the freeholders of the land represented in the House of Commons. A number of state legislatures, following the Revolution, were created unicameral, and the Continental Congress, limited in power as it was, consisted of one house.
From the beginning in the Convention, in the Virginia Plan, a two-house Congress was called for. The Great Compromise, one of the critical decisions leading to a successful completion of the Convention, resolved the dispute about the national legislature by providing for a House of Representatives apportioned on population and a Senate in which the States were equally represented. The first function served, thus, was federalism.
Events since 1787, of course, have altered both the separation-of-powers and the federalism bases of bicameralism, in particular the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment resulting in the popular election of Senators, so that the differences between the two Chambers are today less pronounced.
Enumerated, implied, resulting, and inherent Powers
Two important doctrines of constitutional law-that the Federal Government is one of enumerated powers and that legislative powers may not be delegated-are derived in part from this section. The classical statement of the former is that by Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland: "This government is acknowledged by all, to be one of enumerated powers. The principle, that it can exercise only the powers granted to it, would seem too apparent, to have required to be enforced by all those arguments, which its enlightened friends, while it was depending before the people, found it necessary to urge; that principle is now universally admitted."
Nine years later, Marshall introduced what Story in his Commentaries labels the concept of "resulting powers," those which "rather be a result from the whole mass of the powers of the National Government, and from the nature of political society, than a consequence or incident of the powers specially enumerated."
Subsequently, powers have been repeatedly ascribed to the National Government by the Court on grounds that ill accord with the doctrine of enumerated powers: the power to legislate in effectuation of the "rights expressly given, and duties expressly enjoined" by the Constitution;
Yet, for the most part, these holdings do not, as Justice Sutherland suggested, directly affect "the internal affairs" of the nation; they touch principally its peripheral relations, as it were. The most serious inroads on the doctrine of enumerated powers are, in fact, those which have taken place under cover of the doctrine-the vast expansion in recent years of national legislative power in the regulation of commerce among the States and in the expenditure of the national revenues. Verbally, at least, Marshall laid the ground for these developments in some of the phraseology above quoted from his opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland.
Delegation of legislative Power
The History of the Doctrine of Nondelegability
The Supreme Court has sometimes declared categorically that "the legislative power of Congress cannot be delegated,"
With the exception of a brief period in the 1930's when the Court was striking down New Deal legislation on a variety of grounds, the Court has consistently upheld grants of authority that have been challenged as invalid delegations of legislative power.
The modern doctrine may be traced to the 1928 case J. W. Hampton, Jr. & Co. v. United States, in which the Court, speaking through Chief Justice Taft, upheld Congress' delegation to the President of the authority to set tariff rates that would equalize production costs in the United States and competing countries.
As characterized by the Court, the delegations struck down in 1935 in the Panama Refining
Since 1935, the Court has not struck down a delegation to an administrative agency.
Concerns in the scholarly literature with respect to the scope of the delegation doctrine
The fact that the Court has gone so long without holding a statute to be an invalid delegation does not mean that the nondelegation doctrine is a dead letter. The long list of rejected challenges does suggest, however, that the doctrine applies only to standardless delegations of the most sweeping nature.
Notice Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998), in which the Court struck down the Line Item Veto Act, intended by Congress to be a delegation to the President, finding that the authority conferred on the President was legislative power, not executive power, which failed because the presentment clause had not and could not have been complied with. The dissenting Justices argued that the law was properly treated as a delegation and was clearly constitutional. Id. at 453 (Justice Scalia concurring in part and dissenting in part), 469 (Justice Breyer dissenting).
The Nature and Scope of Permissible Delegations
Application of two distinct constitutional principles contributed to the development of the nondelegation doctrine: separation of powers and due process. A rigid application of separation of powers would prevent the lawmaking branch from divesting itself of any of its power and conferring it on one of the other branches. But the doctrine is not so rigidly applied as to prevent conferral of significant authority on the executive branch.
In Loving v. United States,
The second principle underlying delegation law is a due process conception that undergirds delegations to administrative agencies. The Court has contrasted the delegation of authority to a public agency, which typically is required to follow established procedures in building a public record to explain its decisions and to enable a reviewing court to determine whether the agency has stayed within its ambit and complied with the legislative mandate, with delegations to private entities, which typically are not required to adhere to such procedural safeguards.
Two theories suggested themselves to the early Court to justify the results of sustaining delegations. The Chief Justice alluded to the first in Wayman v. Southard.
Filling Up the Details.-In finding a power to "fill up the details," the Court in Wayman v. Southard
Filling up the details of statutes has long been the standard. For example, the Court upheld a statute requiring the manufacturers of oleomargarine to have their packages "marked, stamped and branded as the Commissioner of Internal Revenue . . . shall prescribe," rejecting a contention that the prosecution was not for violation of law but for violation of a regulation.
Kollock was not the first such case,
Contingent Legislation.-An entirely different problem arises when, instead of directing another department of government to apply a general statute to individual cases, or to supplement it by detailed regulation, Congress commands that a previously enacted statute be revived, suspended, or modified, or that a new rule be put into operation, upon the finding of certain facts by an executive or administrative officer. Since the delegated function in such cases is not that of "filling up the details" of a statute, authority for it must be sought under some other theory.
Contingent delegation was approved in an early case, The Brig Aurora,
The theory was utilized again in Field v. Clark,
Standards.-Implicit in the concept of filling in the details is the idea that there is some intelligible guiding principle or framework to apply. Indeed, the requirement that Congress set forth "intelligible principles" or "standards" to guide as well as limit the agency or official in the performance of its assigned task has been critical to the Court's acceptance of legislative delegations. In theory, the requirement of standards serves two purposes: "it insures that the fundamental policy decisions in our society will be made not by an appointed official but by the body immediately responsible to the people, [and] it prevents judicial review from becoming merely an exercise at large by providing the courts with some measure against which to judge the official action that has been challenged."
The only two instances in which the Court has found an unconstitutional delegation to a public entity have involved grants of discretion that the Court found to be unbounded, hence standardless. Thus, in Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan,
Typically the Court looks to the entire statute to determine whether there is an intelligible standard to guide administrators, and a statute's declaration of policies or statement of purposes can provide the necessary guidance. If a statute's declared policies are not open- ended, then a delegation of authority to implement those policies can be upheld. For example, in United States v. Rock Royal Co-operatives,
The Court has been notably successful in finding standards that are constitutionally adequate. Standards have been ascertained to exist in such formulations as "just and reasonable,"
The Court has recently emphatically rejected the idea that administrative implementation of a congressional enactment may provide the intelligible standard necessary to uphold a delegation. The Court's decision in Lichter v. United States
Even in "sweeping regulatory schemes" that affect the entire economy, the Court has "never demanded . . . that statutes provide a 'determinate criterion' for saying 'how much [of the regulated harm] is too much.'"
While Congress must ordinarily provide some guidance that indicates broad policy objectives, there is no general prohibition on delegating authority that includes the exercise of policy judgment. In Mistretta v. United States,
It seems therefore reasonably clear that the Court does not really require much in the way of standards from Congress. The minimum which the Court usually insists on is that Congress employ a delegation which "sufficiently marks the field within which the Administrator is to act so that it may be known whether he has kept within it in compliance with the legislative will."
Preemptive Reach of Delegated Authority.-In exercising a delegated power the President or another officer may effectively suspend or rescind a law passed by Congress, or may preempt state law. A rule or regulation properly promulgated under authority received from Congress is law, and under the supremacy clause of the Constitution can preempt state law.
Delegations to the President in Areas of Shared Authority
Foreign Affairs.-That the delegation of discretion in dealing with foreign relations stands upon a different footing than the transfer of authority to regulate domestic concerns was asserted in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Corporation.
Whether or not the President is the "sole organ of the nation" in its foreign relations, as asserted in Curtiss-Wright,
Military.-Superintendence of the military is another area in which shared power with the President affects delegation doctrine. The Court in Loving v. United States
Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)
The Court in Loving held that Congress could delegate to the President the authority to prescribe standards for the imposition of the death penalty - Congress' power under Article I, § 8, cl. 14, is not exclusive - and that Congress had done so in the UCMJ by providing that the punishment imposed by a court-martial may not exceed "such limits as the President may prescribe."
Delegations to States and to Private Entities
Delegations to the States.-Beginning in the Nation's early years, Congress has enacted hundreds of statutes that contained provisions authorizing state officers to enforce and execute federal laws.
Delegations to Private Entities.-Statutory delegations to private persons in the form of contingency legislation have passed Court tests. Thus, statutes providing that restrictions upon the production or marketing of agricultural commodities are to become operative only upon a favorable vote by a prescribed majority of those persons affected have been upheld.
Statutes that have given private entities actual regulatory power, rather than merely made regulation contingent on their approval, have also been upheld. The Court upheld a statute that delegated to the American Railway Association, a trade group, the authority to determine the standard height of draw bars for freight cars and to certify the figure to the Interstate Commerce Commission, which was required to accept it.
The Court has struck down delegations to private entities, but not solely because they were to private entities. The Schechter case condemned the involvement of private trade groups in the drawing up of binding codes of competition in conjunction with governmental agencies, but the Court's principal objection was to the statute's lack of adequate standards.
Even though the Court has upheld some private delegations by reference to cases involving delegations to public agencies, some uncertainty remains as to whether identical standards apply. The Schechter Court contrasted the National Industrial Recovery Act's broad and virtually standardless delegation to the President, assisted by private trade groups,
Particular Subjects or Concerns - Closer Scrutiny or Uniform Standard?
The Court has strongly implied that the same principles govern the validity of a delegation regardless of the subject matter of the delegation. "[A] constitutional power implies a power of delegation of authority under it sufficient to effect its purposes."
This does not mean that Congress may delegate its power to determine whether taxes should be imposed. What was upheld in Skinner was delegation of authority to the Secretary of Transportation to collect "pipeline safety user fees" for users of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. "Multiple restrictions" placed on the Secretary's discretion left no doubt that the constitutional requirement of an intelligible standard had been met. Cases involving the power to impose criminal penalties, described below, further illustrate the difference between delegating the underlying power to set basic policy - whether it be the decision to impose taxes or the decision to declare that certain activities are crimes - and the authority to exercise discretion in administering the policy.
Crime and Punishment.-The Court has confessed that its "cases are not entirely clear as to whether more specific guidance is in fact required" for delegations relating to the imposition of criminal sanctions.
However, once Congress has exercised its power to declare certain acts criminal, and has set a range of punishment for violations, authority to flesh out the details may be delegated. Congress may provide that violation of valid administrative regulations shall be punished as a crime.
Congress may also confer on administrators authority to prescribe criteria for ascertaining an appropriate sentence within the range between the maximum and minimum penalties that are set by statute. The Court upheld Congress's conferral of "significant discretion" on the Sentencing Commission to set binding sentencing guidelines establishing a range of determinate sentences for all categories of federal offenses and defendants.
Delegation and Individual Liberties.-It has been argued in separate opinions by some Justices that delegations by Congress of power to affect the exercise of "fundamental freedoms" by citizens must be closely scrutinized to require the exercise of a congressional judgment about meaningful standards.
Perhaps refining the delegation doctrine, at least in cases where Fifth Amendment due process interests are implicated, the Court held that a government agency charged with the efficient administration of the executive branch could not assert the broader interests that Congress or the President might have in barring lawfully resident aliens from government employment. The agency could assert only those interests Congress charged it with promoting, and if the action could be justified by other interests, the office with responsibility for promoting those interests must take the action.
Source of the Power to Investigate
No provision of the Constitution expressly authorizes either House of Congress to make investigations and exact testimony to the end that it may exercise its legislative functions effectively and advisedly. But such a power had been frequently exercised by the British Parliament and by the Assemblies of the American Colonies prior to the adoption of the Constitution.
The Court has long since accorded its agreement with Congress that the investigatory power is so essential to the legislative function as to be implied from the general vesting of legislative power in Congress. "We are of the opinion," wrote Justice Van Devanter, for a unanimous Court, "that the power of inquiry-with process to enforce it-is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function.... A legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information-which not infrequently is true-recourse must be had to others who possess it. Experience has taught that mere requests for such information often are unavailing, and also that information which is volunteered is not always accurate or complete; so some means of compulsion are essential to obtain what is needed. All this was true before and when the Constitution was framed and adopted. In that period the power of inquiry-with enforcing process-was regarded and employed as a necessary and appropriate attribute of the power to legislate-indeed, was treated as inhering in it. Thus there is ample warrant for thinking, as we do, that the constitutional provisions which commit the legislative function to the two houses are intended to include this attribute to the end that the function may be effectively exercised."
And in a 1957 opinion generally hostile to the exercise of the investigatory power in the post-War years, Chief Justice Warren did not question the basic power. "The power of the Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad. It encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes. It includes surveys of defects in our social, economic or political system for the purpose of enabling the Congress to remedy them. It comprehends probes into departments of the Federal Government to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste."
Broad as the power of inquiry is, it is not unlimited. The power of investigation may properly be employed only "in aid of the legislative function."
In practice, much of the litigated dispute has been about the reach of the power to inquire into the activities of private citizens; inquiry into the administration of laws and departmental corruption, while of substantial political consequence, has given rise to fewer judicial precedents.
Investigations of Conduct of Executive Department
For many years the investigating function of Congress was limited to inquiries into the administration of the Executive Department or of instrumentalities of the Government. Until the administration of Andrew Jackson this power was not seriously challenged.
Investigations of Members of Congress
When either House exercises a judicial function, as in judging of elections or determining whether a member should be expelled, it is clearly entitled to compel the attendance of witnesses to disclose the facts upon which its action must be based. Thus, the Court held that since a House had a right to expel a member for any offense which it deemed incompatible with his trust and duty as a member, it was entitled to investigate such conduct and to summon private individuals to give testimony concerning it.
Investigations in Aid of Legislation
Purpose.-Beginning with the resolution adopted by the House of Representatives in 1827, which vested its Committee on Manufactures "with the power to send for persons and papers with a view to ascertain and report to this House in relation to a revision of the tariff duties on imported goods,"
Subsequent cases, however, have given the Congress the benefit of a presumption that its object is legitimate and related to the possible enactment of legislation. Shortly after Kilbourn, the Court declared that "it was certainly not necessary that the resolution should declare in advance what the Senate meditated doing when the investigation was concluded" in order that the inquiry be under a lawful exercise of power.
While Sinclair and McGrain involved inquiries into the activities and dealings of private persons, these activities and dealings were in connection with property belonging to the United States Government, so that it could hardly be said that the inquiries concerned the merely personal or private affairs of any individual.
But where the business, the activities and conduct, the behavior of individuals are subject to congressional regulation, there exists the power of inquiry,
One limitation on the power of inquiry which has been much discussed in the cases concerns the contention that congressional investigations often have no legislative purpose but rather are aimed at achieving results through "exposure" of disapproved persons and activities: "We have no doubt," wrote Chief Justice Warren, "that there is no congressional power to expose for the sake of exposure."
In his book, Wilson continued, following the sentence quoted by the Chief Justice: "The argument is not only that discussed and interrogated administration is the only pure and efficient administration, but, more than that, that the only really self-governing people is that people which discusses and interrogates its administration.... It would be hard to conceive of there being too much talk about the practical concerns . . . of government." Congressional Government (1885), 303-304. For contrasting views of the reach of this statement, compare United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41 , 43 (1953), with Russell v. United States, 369 U.S. 749 , 777 -778 (1962) (Justice Douglas dissenting).
Protection of Witnesses; Pertinency and Related Matters.-A witness appearing before a congressional committee is entitled to require of the committee a demonstration of its authority to inquire with regard to his activities and a showing that the questions asked of him are pertinent to the committee's area of inquiry. A congressional committee possesses only those powers delegated to it by its parent body. The enabling resolution that has given it life also contains the grant and limitations of the commit-tee's power.
Because of the usual precision with which authorizing resolutions have generally been drafted, few controversies have arisen about whether a committee has projected its inquiry into an area not sanctioned by the parent body.
Still another example of lack of proper authority is Gojack v. United States,
Watkins v. United States,
For ascertainment of the subject matter of an investigation, the witness might look, noted the Court, to several sources, including (1) the authorizing resolution, (2) the resolution by which the full committee authorized the subcommittee to proceed, (3) the introductory remarks of the chairman or other members, (4) the nature of the proceedings, (5) the chairman's response to the witness when the witness objects to the line of question on grounds of pertinency.
By and large, the subsequent cases demonstrated that Watkins did not represent a determination by the Justices to restrain broadly the course of congressional investigations, though several contempt citations were reversed on narrow holdings. But with regard to pertinency, the implications of Watkins were held in check and, without amending its rules or its authorizing resolution, the Un-American Activities Committee was successful in convincing a majority of the Court that its subsequent investigations were authorized and that the questions asked of recalcitrant witnesses were pertinent to the inquiries.
In Deutch v. United States, 367 U.S. 456 (1961), involving an otherwise cooperative witness who had refused to identify certain persons with whom he had been associated at Cornell in Communist Party activities, the Court agreed that Deutch had refused on grounds of moral scruples to answer the questions and had not challenged them as not pertinent to the inquiry, but the majority ruled that the Government had failed to establish at trial the pertinency of the questions, thus vitiating the conviction. Justices Frankfurter, Clark, Harlan, and Whittaker dissented, arguing that any argument on pertinency had been waived but in any event thinking it had been established. Id. at 472, 475.
In Russell v. United States, 369 U.S. 749 (1962), the Court struck down contempt convictions for insufficiency of the indictments. Indictments, which merely set forth the offense in the words of the contempt statute, the Court asserted, in alleging that the unanswered questions were pertinent to the subject under inquiry but not identifying the subject in detail, are defective because they do not inform defendants what they must be prepared to meet and do not enable courts to decide whether the facts alleged are sufficient to support convictions. Justice Stewart for the Court noted that the indicia of subject matter under inquiry were varied and contradictory, thus necessitating a precise governmental statement of particulars. Justices Harlan and Clark in dissent contended that it was sufficient for the Government to establish pertinency at trial and noted that no objections relating to pertinency had been made at the hearings. Id. at 781, 789-793. Russell was cited in the per curiam reversals in Grumman v. United States, 370 U.S. 288 (1962), and Silber v. United States, 370 U.S. 717 (1962).
Thus, in Barenblatt v. United States,
Related to the cases discussed in this section are those cases requiring that congressional committees observe strictly their own rules. Thus, in Yellin v. United States,
Finally, it should be noted that the Court has blown hot and cold on the issue of a quorum as a prerequisite to a valid contempt citation and that no firm statement of a rule is possible, although it seems probable that ordinarily no quorum is necessary.
Protection of Witnesses; Constitutional Guarantees.- "[T]he Congress, in common with all branches of the Government, must exercise its powers subject to the limitations placed by the Constitution on governmental action, more particularly in the context of this case, the relevant limitations of the Bill of Rights."
The most extensive amount of litigation in this area has involved the privilege against self- incrimination guaranteed against governmental abridgment by the Fifth Amendment. Observance of the privilege by congressional committees has been so uniform that no court has ever held that it must be observed, though the dicta are plentiful.
There is no prescribed form in which one must plead the privilege. When a witness refused to answer a question about Communist Party affiliations and based his refusal upon the assertion by a prior witness of "the first amendment supplemented by the fifth," the Court held that he had sufficiently invoked the privilege, at least in the absence of committee inquiry seeking to force him to adopt a more precise stand.