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This Week in Senate History


August 10, 1902
Photo of Senator James McMillan of Michigan

Senate District of Columbia Chairman James McMillan (R-MI) died at the age of 77. A successful railroad magnate and powerful Republican Party leader, McMillan had served in the Senate since 1889. He is best remembered as sponsor of the "McMillan Plan," which restored Pierre L'Enfant's 1792 master plan as the basis for developing Washington's monumental parks and federal buildings. The McMillan Plan resulted in the transfer of unsightly railroad terminals from the National Mall to a new Union Station adjacent to Capitol Hill. It also justified construction of what is today known as the Russell Senate Office Building, which opened in 1909.

August 12, 1790
Image of Federal Hall in New York City

With the adjournment of the second session of the First Congress, the Senate met for the last time in New York City. As provided in the Residence Act, which the president had signed just four weeks earlier, the national government then moved to Philadelphia until 1800, when it would relocate to its permanent capital along the Potomac River. As its final item of business, the Senate adopted a resolution of thanks to "the City of New-York for the elegant and convenient accommodations" on the second floor of Federal Hall, which it had occupied since March of the previous year.

August 16, 1856
Image of Senate Ledger Spine

For the first time, legislation provided that members of Congress would receive an annual salary ($3,000) rather than a payment ($8) for each day of actual attendance, effective December 3, 1855. The Senate's previous experimentation with an annual salary in 1816 had been received with a firestorm of public outrage. The 1855-56 annual salary was calculated to equal the sum a member would have received under the previous daily rate for attending most sessions. To prevent members from collecting their salaries without bothering to show up for sessions, the law authorized the secretary of the Senate to dock the pay of senators for unexcused absences.

August 16, 1894

Uncertain as to the scope of its investigative powers, the Senate ordered a comprehensive survey of all previous congressional investigations. In May, the Senate had responded to published charges that senators had taken bribes to support tariff schedules favorable to the sugar industry by creating a special investigating committee. In conducting its investigation, the Special Committee to Investigate Attempts at Bribery, subsequently produced the thousand-page compilation Decisions and Precedents of the Senate and House of Representatives Relating to their Powers and Privileges Respecting their Members and Officers, which usefully documents Congress' institutional development through its first century.