Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
Posts tagged "U.S. Senate"
Asker zzchili Asks:
ok, congress can impeach the president and supreme court justices. is there anyone who can impeach a congressperson? im wondering more about the senate since they get 6 years before we the people can remove them.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:


Congress can impeach and remove its own members, which is pretty rare because a congressperson has to actually do something really contrary to law or the chamber rules to get kicked out. They can also be censured by their chamber (in which they lose all their committee chair positions but still keep their seat) or be formally reprimanded for bad behavior.

It’s really up to the constituents (the people represented) to kick their Congresspeople out if they’re not doing their job. It’s unfortunate that so many people focus on voting for high offices like the President because they forget that it’s Congress that is the major policy-maker of the country.

Ladyhistory, I love you and your blog, so I just want to jump in and point out that it’s actually kind of up-in-the-air whether members of Congress can be impeached. Only the House of Representatives has the power of impeachment. Once the House impeaches an official (President, Vice President, member of the Supreme Court, or “civil officers” of the United States), the Senate sits as a jury and, if the impeached officer is found guilty by a 2/3rd vote, he or she is removed from office.

The question is whether members of Congress are “civil officers” of the United States. Many people argue that they are not. The House has only impeached one member of Congress — Senator William Blount at the end of the 18th Century. When Blount’s case went to the Senate for a trial, the Senate decided that they didn’t have the jurisdiction to try a member of Congress. Instead, they expelled him. Expulsion is the way that the House and Senate have tossed out members who would otherwise be impeached, and the precedent set by the Blount case has led to Congress expelling members from time-to-time (like the Southern Senators who supported the Confederacy during the Civil War or members convicted of significant crimes). Expulsion is rare because once a member of Congress realizes that they are likely about to be expelled, they usually resign.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If the Republican Party shot itself in the foot in October and through some miracle, Democtats took both chambers of congress, do you think Obama would be able to get anything important done, or is he already too far gone now?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Well, let’s be clear, for the Democrats to miraculously win both chambers of Congress in November, it would require a more serious wound than the GOP shooting itself in the foot. Both parties shoot each of their members in both feet almost as a requirement for taking your seat in the House and Senate; so, it’s definitely not happening.

But, yes, if Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, President Obama would still have time to get some things done — roughly from the day the new Congressional session began (January 3, 2015) until the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the summer of 2016. After the nominating conventions, all eyes turn to the general election, of course, but more crucially, members of Congress (particularly the House since all members face re-election) focus on their own campaigns and get very cautious. But for those 18 months or so, the President could definitely get some things done, and would be smart to push through immigration reform and try to shore up the liberal side of the Supreme Court since it’s up-in-the-air who the next President will be and it’s impossible to say whether there would be favorable conditions for confirmation in the 115th Congress that starts in 2017.

It’s not happening, though. And, conversely, if the Republicans win both chambers of Congress on November 4th, President Obama becomes a lame-duck President before he eats breakfast on the morning of November 5th. 

How do you think The Senate Games will play out in November?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I think it is going to be close.  Very close — probably 51/49 or possibly even a tie.  But I think the Democrats will hold on.  To me, the Senate seats that are the major toss-ups which will go down to the wire are Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Alaska.  All four of those seats are held by Democratic incumbents and it’s going to take everything they have to hold on to their seats and save the Senate for the Democrats.

Of those four races, I think Senator Pryor (Arkansas) and Senator Begich (Alaska) will hold on to their seats, Senator Landrieu (Louisiana) will lose, and the North Carolina seat is almost too close to even guess at, but if forced to, I’d say that Senator Hagan barely squeaks out a victory.  Assuming everything else goes as expected, that would put the Senate at 51-49 in the favor of the Democrats (there are two independents in the Senate but they both caucus with the Dems).  Fortunately for the Democrats, even if there is a tie in the Senate, they’ll remain in control because Vice President Biden would be responsible for breaking any ties.

By the way, if the Republicans gain control of both the House and the Senate on November 4th, Barack Obama becomes a lame-duck President on November 5th. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If someone ran for the U.S. Senate at 29 and won the election, could that person still be sworn in? I know Biden turned 30 right before he was sworn in, but what if he would have turned 30 in February, after the official swearing in in January. Would they have let him wait to be sworn in after he turned 30 or do they check all this stuff when you apply to run?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Today they certainly check.  If someone was elected to the Senate at 29 and didn’t turn 30 until after the new Congressional session started, the Senator-elect would just have to wait until he or she turned 30 and became Constitutionally eligible before they could take their seat.  You mentioned Biden, who was 29 when he was elected, but turned 30 prior to the date he was scheduled to be sworn in.  In the 1930’s, a Senator-elect from West Virginia won his seat when he was 29 and didn’t turn 30 until after the Congressional session started, so he had to wait until his 30th birthday before he could take his seat. 

Back in the nation’s relatively early days it was a bit easier to slide into a Congressional seat before hitting the required age, but that could have just been due to the fact that it was easier to fudge the records at a time when record-keeping wasn’t as thorough.  Or it could have simply been that the rest of the Senate didn’t make a fuss about it.  Henry Clay actually took his seat in the Senate when he was still 29 years old and two other Senators in the early 19th Century — Virginia’s Armistead T. Mason and Tennessee’s John Eaton — joined the Senate when they were just 28 years old.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
How was Joe Biden able to be sworn in as a Senator at 28 if you have to be 35?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

You have to be 30, not 35, to be a Senator. Biden was 29 when he was first elected to the Senate, but his birthday was a couple of weeks after Election Day, so he became old enough prior to being sworn-in.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm confused and think you can help. In House of Cards there is a scene where the VP is being referred to as Mr. President. Was that a mistake? I don't understand.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

In the scene you’re referring to, the Vice President is addressed as “Mr. President” because he is in the Senate chamber executing his only Constitutional responsibility — presiding over the Senate.  Although the Vice President is President of the Senate, he rarely presides over it unless there is some important reason or if he is needed to break a tie.

There is a president pro tempore of the Senate — generally the longest-serving Senator of the majority party — but the day-to-day duty of presiding over the Senate is usually rotated from Senator-to-Senator.  During debate, anyone who is sitting in the chair presiding over Senate activities is addressed as “Mr. President” as part of parliamentary procedure.

Imagine that you were an idiot. And then imagine that you were a member of Congress. Wait a minute…I repeated myself.
Mark Twain

I now know the difference between a cactus and a caucus — in a cactus, all the pricks are on the outside.

Lyndon B. Johnson, to reporters, after meeting with the Senate’s Democratic Caucus following LBJ’s election as Vice President, January 1961

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If two new Senators from both major political parties were to be added to the Senate Reception Room in the 'Famous Nine' series, who do you think they should be?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Damn, that’s a tough one.  There’s going to be controversy, no matter what.

First of all, LBJ would definitely belong in there because of his success as Senate Majority Leader, but he already has a Vice Presidential bust in the Capitol and a portrait in the White House, among other recognitions.  So, I’m excluding him, any other VPs (ex: Humphrey), and people who have buildings named after them (ex: Mansfield, Russell, Dirksen).

Also, I’m picking Senators from post-1945, otherwise there’s a case to be made for Thomas Hart Benton and George Norris, who JFK both thought got robbed by being left out of the Famous Five.

Okay, for the Democrats, I’m going to have to go with Ted Kennedy and George McGovern.  There are so many others that could easily fit in here (sorry, Senator Inouye, especially on Veterans’ Day, and, sorry, Robert Byrd), but I’m sticking with Kennedy and McGovern.

The first Republican is easy: Bob Dole.  That’s the first name that came to mind when I saw this question.  Wonderful leader, wonderful man.  The second Republican is tougher.  I can’t pick Strom Thurmond because of the Dixiecrat thing and for being super racist even though he fathered a child with the black maid.  Jacob Javits is a possibility, but the Republicans on the list are already leaning too liberal or progressive, so I think a conservative is the fair choice.  I’m going to go with Barry Goldwater.

This was a GREAT question.  I want to hear what you guys think.  Here are the “Famous Nine” Senators who are represented in the Senate Reception Room:

•John C. Calhoun
•Daniel Webster
•Henry Clay
•Robert La Follette
•Robert Taft
•Robert F. Wagner
•Arthur H. Vandenberg
•Oliver Ellsworth
•Roger Sherman

Here’s who I added:

•Edward M. Kennedy
•Bob Dole
•Barry Goldwater
•George McGovern

Who do you think belongs?


When Andrew Jackson died at his home, the Hermitage, in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 8, 1845, Sam Houston was rushing to Jackson’s bedside.  Houston was born in Virginia and, like Jackson, moved to Tennessee where he studied law and got his start in politics — eventually serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1823-1827) and Governor of Tennessee (1827-1829).  As a young man during the War of 1812, Houston had served under Jackson in the Army at the uprising of the Creek Indians (1813).  Despite their differing views over the treatment of Native Americans, Jackson and Houston were both staunch Unionists and Jackson was Houston’s political mentor.

When Jackson was President of the United States (1829-1837), Sam Houston served as President as well — the first President of the Republic of Texas (1836-1838) — after leading the Texas Army against the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto.  From the beginning of the Texas Revolution, Houston dominated Texas politics — serving as the first and third President of the Republic of Texas, spending time in the Texas Congress, and working to gain the admission of Texas as a U.S. state.  When that happened, Houston was elected as one of the first U.S. Senators from Texas and served from 1846 until 1859, when he returned to Texas to serve as Governor (1859-1861).  Like Jackson, Houston was committed to the cause of the Union, and when he refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy in 1861, he was deposed as Governor.  To this day, Houston remains a giant in his adopted home state of Texas where the largest city carries his name.

In June 1845, however, that Texas giant — and Houston was a big man physically, as well, reportedly anywhere from 6’2” to 6’6” — was crying at the deathbed of Andrew Jackson.  Houston hadn’t made it to the Hermitage in time for Jackson’s final moments.  The former American President died shortly before the former Texas President arrived and “the towering Texan sank to his knees and openly wept over the body”, according to accounts.

In 1840, Houston had married Margaret Lea, his third wife, and between 1843 and Houston’s death in 1863, they had eight children.  Their second son, born on June 21, 1854, was named Andrew Jackson Houston, after Sam Houston’s late friend, former military commander, and poitical mentor.  Like his father and his namesake, Andrew Jackson Houston studied law (after dropping out of West Point), and eventually served in the Texas National Guard and as a U.S. Marshal in Texas.  His political career was less successful — losing three long-shot bids for Governor of Texas in 1892, 1910, and 1912.

But Andrew Jackson Houston’s political career had an unlikely ending.  When Senator John Morris Sheppard of Texas died in office in 1941, the Governor of Texas, W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, saw an opportunity to clear the way for his own election to the Senate.  First, he had to appoint a Senator to replace Sheppard until a special election could be held.  Governor O’Daniel chose Andrew Jackson Houston — 86 years old at the time and with no interest of holding on to the seat himself.

On April 21, 1941, Andrew Jackson Houston became the oldest man to enter the U.S. Senate (the oldest person to enter the Senate was a woman — 87-year-old Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia who served in the Senate for just one day in 1922).  His father had left the Senate 82 years earlier.  For 66 days in 1941, Andrew Jackson Houston represented Texas in the United States Senate just as his father and his namesake had nearly 100 years earlier.  Not only did Senator Houston decline to seek election in his own right, but he didn’t even live until Governor O’Daniel’s special election — dying in office on June 26, 1941, five days after his 87th birthday.

Andrew Jackson Houston’s short service in the Senate also affected another American President.  Houston cleared the way for Pappy O’Daniel to seek the seat himself in 1941.  O’Daniel’s opponent in the special election was a young member of the Texas delegation in the House of Representatives named Lyndon B. Johnson.  Although the first indications seemed to point to an upset victory by Johnson, suspicious ballots were released that pushed Governor O’Daniel to a narrow victory.  It was a lesson in Texas politics that LBJ quickly learned — when he faced Texas Governor Coke Stevenson seven years later in the 1948 Democratic Senate primary, suspicious late ballots were released that pushed Johnson to victory by just 87 votes.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
can u impeach the speaker of hte house
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

As much as I would love to, I personally cannot impeach the Speaker of the House, but I assume you’re asking if Congress can impeach the Speaker.

There’s actually some disagreement about whether or not a member of the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives can be impeached or not because the Constitution provides for the impeachment of the President, Vice President, and “civil officers” of the United States.  It can be argued that members of Congress are not civil officers of the United States because they, in fact, represent the states that they come from.

No member of the House has ever been impeached and although one Senator was impeached very early in the history of the country, the Senate never put him on trial, so there was no decision about whether or not he was a “civil officer”.  

The House and the Senate both have the act of expulsion available as a punishment against Congressmen or Senators.  Typically, when a member of the House or Senate is charged with some violation or guilty of wrongdoing, they are either censured or expelled (or the threat of censure or expulsion leads them to resign).

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Which party has held control of the House and Senate for the longest? Why were they able to retain power for so long? Thanks Anthony!
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I could be wrong because I’m doing this off-the-top of my head, but I’m almost positive that the Democrats hold the record the longest continuous majorities for both chambers of Congress.

In the Senate, the Democrats were in control for 26 years, from 1955-1981.  They held on to the upper house of the legislature for a couple years longer than the Jefferson/Madison/Monroe Democratic-Republican Party, which held the Senate for 24 years from 1801-1825.

On the other side of the Capitol, the Democrats had an even more impressive hold on the House of Representatives.  For a whopping 40 YEARS, from 1955-1995, the Dems controlled the House until Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” led to a Republican Revolution and GOP takeover of that chamber of Congress for the first time since the Eisenhower Administration.