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This Week in Senate History

June 17, 1932
Bonus Marchers at the Capitol

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
Lewis Strauss

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.

June 20, 1863
Waitman Willey

testOn June 20, 1863, precipitated by the Civil War and Virginia’s vote to secede from the Union, West Virginia became the 35th state in the Union. Because the western counties of Virginia were strongly pro-Union, Virginia's secession was almost immediately followed by a countermovement in the northwest part of the state to remain loyal to the Union. Both the state government and general assembly were reconstiuted in the town of Wheeling, and Waitman T. Willey of Morgantown and John S. Carlile of Clarksburg were chosen to represent Virginia in the United States Senate. With the restored government of Virginia in place, ardent northwestern Virginians then launched the decisive effort to form a new state in trans-Allegheny Virginia.

June 22, 1944
Photo of Senator Ernest McFarland of Arizona

On June 22, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill. The senator behind this law was Ernest McFarland of Arizona. Hoping to reintegrate veterans into society at the conclusion of World War II, McFarland's original proposal called for bonuses for each returning GI, monthly assistance for GIs to attend high school, college, and vocational schools, and funds for down payments on homes, farms, or businesses. McFarland worked behind the scenes to ensure support from veterans organizations and members of Congress, including Missouri senator Joel "Champ" Clark, who directed the Senate hearings and helped revise the final bill.

June 24, 1834
Roger Taney

For the first time in its history, the Senate formally exercised its constitutional power to withhold its consent to a presidential cabinet appointment by rejecting Andrew Jackson's nomination of Roger B. Taney to be secretary of the treasury. Previously, the Senate had rejected judicial and subcabinet appointments, and in 1815 it had voted against a secretary of war only to rescind its action after the president withdrew the nomination. In this case, however, the Senate's 18-to-28 vote reflected senators' disapproval of President Jackson's financial policies. Two years later, the Senate confirmed Jackson's nomination of Taney to be chief justice of the United States.

June 24, 1795
Jay Treaty

On June 24, 1795, the Senate voted 20-to-10 to approve John Jay's treaty with Great Britain. When the text of the treaty became public, mobs took to the streets to condemn George Washington, John Jay, and the U.S. Senate, outraged by provisions that many considered humiliating to the United States. The president and his supporters argued that Jay had obtained the best possible deal and that the nation could ill afford another war with Britain. The treaty's opponents argued that it failed to protect America's trading agreements with France. Although debate over the flawed pact deepened the nation's political divisions and destroyed relations with France, its ratification likely saved the still-fragile republic from a potentially disastrous war.