Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Congress Convenes in Special Session

A special session of the new 62nd Congress opened yesterday with the swearing in of new Senators and a new speaker of the house, Champ Clark (D-MO).  The Democrats take power after sixteen years of gracious Republican stewardship of Washington politics.  The special session was called by President Taft to finish work left over from the previous Congress, such as a tariff commission and the free-trade treaty with Canada. 

Vice President Sherman swore in yesterday the 31 new and re-elected Senators, where the margin of the Republican majority was cut to eight by the mid-term elections.  According to the Democrat-leaning Washington Herald, this narrow majority would give the insurgents the swing votes they need to put several of their members in key committee chairmanships, as was witnessed yesterday.  These Republicans-in-name-only could potentially disrupt Taft's legislative agenda for the session.

Seventeen new Senators were among those sworn in.  These included: James O'Gorman, who was elected just last week by the New York Legislature after 64 ballots; Charles Johnson, from Maine, a rare New England Democratic Senator; John Kern, who replaces the same Beveridge who dogged Lorimer in the last session; and Republican Henry Lippit who replaces the venerable Nelson Aldrich.  One interesting moment occurred near the end of the day when Senator Kern was invited to preside over the Senate by Vice President Sherman.  Kern failed in the 1908 election in his bid to be vice president.

Champ Clark gaveled the House to order at noon yesterday to begin the Democratic reign over that chamber.  Raucous cries and obscene rebel yells were heard in the House with two likely Presidential Candidates, Nebraska statesman William Jennings Bryan and Ohio Governor Judson Harmon, who finally met in the House Gallery, looking on.  Afterward, Clark outlined the Democratic agenda which includes a downward revision of the tariff, a constitutional amendment allowing for the direct election of Senators, the reduction of waste and extravagance in public expenditures, the publication of campaign contributions and disbursements, and the admission of Arizona and New Mexico as states in the Union.  Not mentioned is the Canadian free-trade bill, though it was introduced in the House by Representative Samuel McCall (R-MA) yesterday.

Link: Congress Begins Business of Special Session [The Washington Herald]

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