At times presidents have called Congress into extraordinary session to address urgent issues such as war and economic crisis. On other occasions, presidents have summoned the Senate into session to consider nominations and treaties. “The urgent need for [the] adoption of two treaties,” of “great and far-reaching importance to the welfare of the United States,” President Theodore Roosevelt wrote the Senate, “requires me to impose upon you the inconvenience of meeting at this time.”
On March 5, 1903, the Senate met in extraordinary executive session. During the next two weeks members considered dozens of presidential nominations and debated numerous treaties. Of these, two treaties received special consideration. The Senate quickly agreed to the resolution of ratification of a treaty with the Republic of Colombia giving the United States the right to build what would later become the Panama Canal. The debate over a reciprocity treaty with the Republic of Cuba, however, continued for days as senators debated many amendments. Finally, members agreed to the resolution of ratification and the Senate adjourned sine die on March 19, 1903. These treaties greatly expanded American influence in the region for generations.