This Week in Senate History
August 28-29, 1957
Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina set several Senate records during his long legislative career. In November of 1954 he became the first senator elected as a write-in candidate in a general election. In August of 1957 Thurmond set a one-man filibuster record that still stands today, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes in opposition to the Civil Rights Act. Thurmond also holds the record for being the oldest-serving senator, reaching the age of 100 on December 5, 2002, just a month before retiring from the Senate on January 3, 2003.
September 2, 1884
Senator Henry B. Anthony of Rhode Island died at the age of 69. Known in his day as the Father of the Senate, this popular Republican had served continuously since 1859 and was the Senate's most senior member at the time of his death. Anthony's name is most associated with a Senate rule designed to keep measures that have been cleared for floor action from being bottled up on the Senate calendar. The "Anthony Rule" was an early attempt to limit floor debate by allowing senators to speak no more than five minutes on certain measures before voting.
September 3, 1812
When Louisiana became the 18th state in the Union on April 30, 1812, the Louisiana state legislature elected the state's first two U.S. senators, Jean N. Destréhan and Allan B. Magruder. Since the Senate stood in adjournment at the time of their election, both men had to wait until November to take the oath of office in open session. While waiting, Destréhan decided that he preferred the excitement of the local legislative arena to the relative quiet of that era's U.S. Senate. Accordingly, he resigned his unclaimed seat on October 1. He was subsequently replaced by Thomas Posey.
Senate Creates Permanent Committees
For its first quarter century, the Senate relied on three- to five-member temporary (or select) committees to sift and refine legislative proposals. The emergency conditions of the War of 1812 accelerated the transition from temporary to permanent committees by highlighting the importance of legislative continuity and expertise. On December 10, 1816, the Senate took the final step and formally converted 11 major select panels into permanent “standing” committees.
War Powers and Declarations of War
The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war. Since the first declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812, Congress has declared war on 10 other occasions, including the last formal declaration of war with Rumania in 1942. Since that time Congress has agreed to resolutions authorizing the use of military force and has continued to shape U.S. military policy through appropriations and oversight.