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This Week in Senate History


January 11, 1884
Senate Rules

Shortly after the Senate convened for the first time in 1789, it adopted a code on 20 rules of procedure. As the Senate grew increasingly complex in the decades that followed, it approved major revisions of its rules of five occasions. On January 11, 1884, senators tried to impose order and coherence on the latest code, reducing its 78 rules to 40. A measure of their success is that the 1884 code remained largely intact for nearly a century. Although it was revised in 1979, much of its language appears in the rules that guide today's Senate.

January 12, 1922
Photo of Senator Truman Newberry

The 1918 election to fill a Michigan Senate seat proved to be one of the most bitter and costly contests of that era. In May 1919, the Senate provisionally seated Republican industrialist Truman Newbery, who narrowly defeated Democratic automaker Henry Ford, pending investigation of charges that Newberry had violated campaign-spending laws. A year later, a federal court found Newberry guilty, but the Supreme Court overturned the conviction. On January 12, 1922, the Senate affirmed that Newberry had been duly elected, but "severely condemned" his excessive campaign expenditures. Facing continuing controversy, Newberry resigned from the Senate later that year.

January 13, 1993
Judge Walter Nixon Impeachment

In a case concerning the 1989 impeachment trial of Judge Walter Nixon, the U.S. Supreme Court in January 1993 ruled that the Senate's constitutional power to try impeachments is not subject to judicial review. This decision set aside the 1992 finding by Federal District Judge Stanley Sporkin that the Senate had improperly conducted the 1989 trial of Federal District Judge Alcee Hastings by receiving testimony before a committee rather than the full Senate. Sporkin had remanded the Hastings case to the Senate "for a trial that comports with constitutional requirements," but stayed his order pending the Supreme Court's decision.

January 16, 1832
Senate Chamber, Washington

On this day, French political and social observer Alexis de Tocqueville visited the Senate in session. "At a few yards' distance is the door of the Senate, which contains within a small space a large proportion of the celebrated men of America," he later wrote, describing the senate of 1832. "Scarcely an individual is to be seen in it who has not had an active and illustrious career: The Senate is composed of eloquent advocates, distinguished generals, wise magistrates, and statesmen of note, whose arguments would do honor to the most remarkable parliamentary debates of Europe."