Johnson situation recalls topsy turvy Senate of 1950’s

Senator Tim Johnson is said to have good chances of recovering. That is indeed good news.

All the speculation surrounding Senator Johnson’s health has led to a beltway media feeding frenzy. But the Washington Post’s Al Kamen reminds us of another evenly divided Senate that was even more tumultous:

But the unsettled situation pales when compared with the bizarre 83rd Congress in 1953 and 1954, during which nine of the then-96 senators died, including one who committed suicide, and one resigned.

When the Senate convened on Jan. 3, 1953, the GOP was in charge 48 to 47, plus one former Republican, Sen. Wayne L. Morse– an independent so independent that he moved his seat to the Senate aisle and would not vote with the Democrats to organize.

By Aug. 3 of that year, when the first session adjourned, three members — including Majority Leader Robert A. Taft (R-Ohio) — had died. When the next session began in January 1954, the Democrats had become the majority, 48-47-1, but they did not assume control. At one point during that session, as various members died, the D’s even had a two-vote lead, but they never challenged Republican control of the body. The Senate adjourned Aug. 20 back where it had started, with the GOP holding a one-vote majority.

Leave a Reply