By a vote of 41 to 14, the Senate approved the Oregon Treaty, settling a long-standing boundary dispute between the United States and Britain at the 49th parallel.
President James K. Polk signed the Oregon bill, officially organizing the Oregon Territory.
President Millard Fillmore signed the Donation Land Claim Act, proposed by Samuel R. Thurston, the territorial delegate from Oregon, designed to promote homestead settlement in the Oregon Territory.
Oregon became the 33rd state in the Union.
Delazon Smith of Portland and Joseph Lane of Winchester took the oath of office as Oregon's first senators and then drew lots to determine their Senate class assignments. Smith drew Class 2, a short term that expired on March 3 of that year, and Lane drew the Class 3 seat, for the term ending March 3, 1861. During the legislative session following Smith's unsuccessful bid for reelection, a half dozen state senators hid in the woods to prevent the establishment of a quorum and the election of a pro-Union U.S. senator. The Senate seat remained vacant until October 2, 1860, when Republican Edward Dickinson Baker of Oregon City was elected.
Senator Joseph Lane was nominated for vice president of the United States on the Southern Democratic ticket headed by the incumbent vice president, John C. Breckinridge, against the regular Democratic ticket headed by Stephen A. Douglas. Both lost to the Republican, Abraham Lincoln and his running mate, Hannibal Hamlin.
At his first inauguration, Abraham Lincoln was introduced to the crowd by Senator Edward D. Baker, a member of the inaugural arrangements committee. Lincoln and Baker had served together in the Illinois legislature and Lincoln had named one of his sons Edward Baker Lincoln.
Senator Edward D. Baker was killed while commanding a Union army regiment at the Battle of Ball's Bluff, becoming the only sitting U.S. senator to be killed in combat. Baker's death helped spur the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.
The Senate, by a vote of 21 to 16, defeated a measure to expel Benjamin Stark of Portland, a pro-slavery senator appointed to succeed Edward D. Baker, an abolitionist. A petition from Oregon had accused Stark of disloyalty, and the Senate referred the matter to a select committee. The committee found that Stark was a supporter of the Confederate rebellion, but because the Oregon legislature would soon elect someone to finish Baker's term, there was little sentiment for expulsion. Stark served until the election of Benjamin F. Harding of Salem, who presented his credentials on December 1, 1862.
The Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections declined to investigate charges that Senator John H. Mitchell of Oregon was guilty of bigamy, desertion, and living under an assumed name. Mitchell had been born John M. Hipple. He had left a wife and two children behind in Pennsylvania, and married again in Oregon without a divorce. In 1874 he obtained a divorce from his first wife and legally changed his name.
A marble statue of Senator Edward D. Baker, sculpted by Horatio Stone, was installed in the Capitol.
The election of the next president of the United States hinged on a single disputed electoral ballot from Oregon together with conflicting ballots cast by the outgoing and incoming legislatures in three southern states. Unable to decide which ballots to count, the Senate and House created an electoral commission which awarded all of the disputed ballots to the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, who won the presidency by a single electoral vote.
La Fayette Grover of Salem took his seat as a newly elected U.S. senator. As governor of Oregon, Grover had tried to assist Samuel J. Tilden's election as president by disqualifying a Republican elector and substituting a Democrat. The electoral commission created by Congress awarded the disputed elector to Hayes. When Grover presented his credentials, Senator John H. Mitchell presented a petition charging Grover with corruption. Grover asked the Senate to investigate the charges and on June 15, 1878, the committee on Privileges and Elections found no evidence to support the charges made against Grover.
John H. Mitchell was elected to the Senate term that began on March 4. The Oregon legislature had failed to elect a senator at its regular session and the governor called legislators back into special session in November. The Senate seat was vacant from March 4 to November 17.
When the New York Times, Washington Post, and other newspapers published an extradition treaty with Great Britain before the Senate had lifted its injunction of secrecy on the treaty, the Senate created a special inquiry, dubbed a "smelling committee," chaired by Senator James N. Dolph of Portland, to uncover the source of the leak. Dolph inspected the press gallery door for cracks through which reporters might have overheard the closed Senate debate and called several senators, newspaper correspondents, and State Department officials to testify. The committee eventually disbanded without identifying the leaker.
The Senate, by a vote of 50 to 19, denied a seat to Henry W. Corbett, who had been appointed by the governor after the Oregon legislature deadlocked over the election of a new senator. Corbett had previously served in the Senate from 1867 to 1873, but his 1897 appointment was opposed by a broad coalition of senators.
Senator John H. Mitchell was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of having received fees for expediting land claims before the United States Land Commission. Mitchell was convicted in July 1905 by died on December 8, 1905, while his case was being appealed.
Despite a Republican majority in the state legislature, Democratic governor George E. Chamberlain of Portland was elected senator because of the state's direct primary nominating law, whereby legislators pledged to support whichever candidate received the most popular votes.
Senator Harry Lane of Portland gave his last Senate speech as one of the senators who filibustered against passage of a bill to arm American merchant vessels against German submarines. President Woodrow Wilson denounced them as a "little group of willful men," called Congress back into special session, and prevailed on the Senate to establish its first cloture rule. Angry voters in Oregon explored the possibility of recalling Lane, although state laws for recall did not apply to members of Congress.
Senator Robert Nelson Stanfield of Portland was arrested in Baker, Oregon, on charges of being drunk and disorderly. Stanfield, a self-proclaimed “dry” during the period of national Prohibition, denied the charges but the arrest contributed to his loss in the May 1926 Republican primary. He then ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for reelection.
Senator Charles W. McNary of Salem became chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry (presently the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry), serving until 1933. McNary, a Republican, twice sponsored bills to support farm prices and provide relief from the farm depression. Although popular in agricultural areas, President Calvin Coolidge vetoed the bills.
Charles L. McNary was elected vice chairman and assistant floor leader of the Republican Conference.
Charles L. McNary was elected Republican conference chairman and minority leader, posts he held until his death in 1944. Due to the sharply reduced Republican ranks, McNary dispensed with the position of Republican whip and held all of the party leadership posts himself. McNary rarely addressed the Senate and was known instead for "cloakroom negotiation and conciliation." In 1937 McNary became the first Republican leader to occupy one of the front-row, center-aisle seats now reserved for majority and minority leaders.
Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie selected Charles W. McNary as his vice presidential running mate. The ticket lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who won an unprecedented third term as president.
By a vote of 81 to 7, the Senate rejected an appeal by Wayne Morse to retain his seat on the Armed Services Committee and the Labor Committee (now Heath, Education, Labor, and Pensions) after leaving the Republican Party and declaring himself an Independent. The Senate rejected his second request on May 25, and Morse accepted assignments instead to the District of Columbia and Public Works (now Environment and Public Works) committees.
To celebrate the 94th anniversary of its admission as a state, Oregon unveiled two bronze statues of its prominent pioneers, the Reverend Jason Lee, a missionary, and Dr. John McLoughlin, head of the Hudson Bay Company and regarded as the "Father of Oregon," both sculpted by Gifford M. Proctor. The bronze statues are part of the National Statuary Hall Collection.
Senator Wayne Morse spoke for 22 hours and 26 minutes while participating in a filibuster against the Tideland Oil Bill, setting a record for the longest speech in Senate history to that date. His record was surpassed in 1957 by Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes.
The election of Richard L. Neuberger of Portland as the first Democrat from Oregon in 40 years gave the party a 48 to 47 lead in the Senate and made Independent Wayne Morse the swing vote in the 84th Congress. If Morse returned to the Republican ranks, Vice President Richard Nixon would hold the tie-breaking vote, but Morse registered as a Democrat, giving the party a two-vote marjin and making Lyndon B. Johnson majority leader. Democrats held the Senate majority until 1980.
Although political allies, Senators Wayne Morse and Richard L. Neuberger began a public feud with their differences over a reciprocal trade bill affecting cherry growers. The feud escalated with the public release of a letter in which Morse stated, "My disrespect for you has become so complete that there is no basis on which you and I can work together."
Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy defeated Senator Wayne Morse in the Oregon presidential primary. Morse had formally entered the presidential race on December 23, 1959, despite repeated assurances that he did not plan to run. After Morse's supporters circulated statewide petitions to get Morse on the ballot, Morse declared he could not ignore the will of the electorate.
Senator Wayne Morse cast one of the two votes (along with Alaska senator Ernest Gruening) against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and became one of the most vocal opponents of the Vietnam War. The vote in the House was unanimously in favor of the resolution. Although its sponsors insisted that it was not a declaration of war, President Lyndon B. Johnson used the resolution to support an escalation of American combat in Vietnam.
Senator Maurine Neuberger won Senate support, by a vote of 72 to 5, for a law requiring all cigarette packs to carry health warning labels.
Just as Senator Wayne Morse began one of his "five o'clock shadow" speeches, Maryland senator Daniel Brewster, who was presiding, interrupted and abruptly adjourned the Senate in order to attend a dinner engagement. The following day, Senator Brewster apologized profusely, explaining that his promised relief had not appeared as scheduled. Senator Morse accepted the apology and completed his speech that evening.
Mark Hatfield of Salem delayed taking his Senate seat until this day and waived compensation for the period from January 3 to 9, so that he could complete his term as governor of Oregon.
By a vote of 55 to 39 the Senate defeated the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, cosponsored by Senators George McGovern (D-SD) and Mark Hatfield, to withdraw all U.S. troops from the Vietnam War by the end of 1971.
Former senator Wayne Morse died while campaigning against Senator Robert Packwood of Portland. Morse had been defeated for reelection in 1968 by Packwood and in 1972 had lost an election campaign for Oregon’s other Senate seat against Mark Hatfield.
Senator Robert Packwood was elected chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee by the Republican Conference. He held that position until 1979, when he was elected chairman of the Republican Conference, defeating James McClure of Idaho by a vote of 22 to 19. In 1981 he returned as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, where he served until 1983, after he had been defeated in his re-election attempt for that post by Richard Lugar of Indiana.
Senator Robert Packwood became chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, serving until 1985, when he became chairman of the Committee on Finance. He held that position until 1987, and again in 1995. As chairman he oversaw a sweeping revision of the U.S. tax code in the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
Senator Mark Hatfield dramatically cast the deciding vote against the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment, which had already passed the House and had the support of almost two-thirds of the Senate. Hatfield cast his vote on principle, because he considered the amendment a "procedural gimmick." Republican Leader Bob Dole declined to accept his offer to resign from the Senate to allow the amendment to pass.
Senator Robert Packwood resigned from the Senate following charges of sexual misconduct. On September 6, The Senate Select Committee on Ethics had voted unanimously that the Senate expel him both because of his conduct and his efforts to obstruct the committee's investigation. Two days later Packwood announced his resignation, effective October 1.
Senator Ronald L. Wyden of Portland won the first Senate election conducted by mail-in ballot. He was sworn into office on February 5, 1996.