In the first letter of nomination he sent to the Senate, President George Washington recommended appointment of William Short to replace Thomas Jefferson as minister to the Court of France. Reluctant to let President Washington know how they would vote on this nomination, the Senate adopted a rule providing for a secret written ballot. Some senators opposed this procedure, arguing that principled men should be willing to take a public stand. Two weeks later, the Senate revised the rule to provide for an open voice vote. From its earliest years, the Senate has jealously guarded its power to review and approve or reject presidential appointees.
June 17, 1932
Twelve thousand "Bonus Marchers" waited outside the Capitol in the darkest hours of the Great Depression as the Senate prepared for a 9:00 p.m. vote on a bill providing immediate payment of a veterans' bonus. As Capitol policemen armed with rifles guarded the doors, the Senate soundly rejected the bonus bill. Although the assembled marchers dispersed peacefully, they remained in makeshift campsites near Capitol Hill. A month later, heavily armed federal troops, led by General Douglas MacArthur and Majors Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton, torched and gassed the veterans' camps, killing several and wounding many.
June 19, 1959
In a bitter fight, the Senate narrowly rejected President Dwight Eisenhower's nomination of Lewis Strauss to be secretary of commerce. President Eisenhower called it "the second most shameful day in Senate history," second only to Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial. Time magazine pronounced it a "stinging personal slap. . .U.S. history's bitterest battle over confirmation of a presidential nomination." Others debated whether it was a "legislative lynching or political suicide." The Senate has formally rejected only a handful of cabinet nominees over the past two centuries. This vote marked the only rejection of a cabinet nominee between the years 1925 and 1989.
The Necessity of the Senate
... The necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies, to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions.... All that need be remarked is, that a body which is to correct this infirmity, ought itself to be free from it, and consequently ought to be less numerous. It ought moreover to possess great firmness, and consequently ought to hold its authority by a tenure of considerable duration....
If each [chamber] is substantially framed upon the same plan, the advantages of the division are shadowy and imaginative.. . . In this view, the organization of the senate becomes of inestimable value. It represents the voice, not of a district, but of a state;...not of the interest of one state, but of all; not of the chosen pursuits of a predominant population in one state, but of all the pursuits in all of the states. . . .it is a most important and valuable part of the system, and the real balance-wheel, which adjusts, and regulates its movements. . . .