The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, February 21, 2005

The Senate ambush that never was

The long process of eliminating Jim Crow abounds in counterfactuals.

Keith Finley suggests an intriguing one rather as a throwaway [1]:

The first challenge to the Southern Caucus in the 81st Congress was S Res 15, reported out [2] by the Rules Committee on February 17 1949,
a bipartisan resolution designed to close the loophole in Rule XXII that exempted procedural motions from cloture

The usual wackiness ensued - but with Southern senators disciplined and under the able leadership of Richard Russell (a team likened by Harry Byrd [3] after the event to the Army of Northern Virginia and Robert E Lee).

In the end, it was a famous victory [4]: in future, cloture would apply to motions; but not to proposed changes in the Senate rules (including Rule XXII itself, of course). And the requirement for cloture was raised from two-thirds of senators present and voting to two-thirds of Senate membership.

Later on, the Cavaliers returned to their plantations in triumph early, not waiting for the adjournment (October 19 1949). At which point
With most senators absent on the eve of the session’s end, Indiana Republican Homer Capehart pressured Scott Lucas to address why the Senate had not acted on a list of legislative items, including several civil rights proposals. Had Lucas proved willing, the Senate could have easily passed an anti-lynching, anti-poll tax, or FEPC bill that day by unanimous consent in the absence of southern resistance.

The white hats had a genuine chance for a Capracorn coup against the forces of reaction - and they blew it!

That's all I have for the moment [5]. Scott Lucas, Alben Barkley's replacement as Majority Leader, was something of a waste of space, I believe. And, before Tom Daschle's defenestration in November, the only sitting Majority Leader to fail to be re-elected (I believe).

I'd hypothesise that Lucas did not have the stomach for the sort of warfare the French were waging in Indo-China at the time: the Confederate senators as the Viet Minh and Russell as Ho Chi Minh. Call that an analogy? Now that's an analogy...

  1. No reference to the passage in the Congressional Record, for instance (Chapter 3 page 29a).

  2. Finley p19a.

  3. Finley p28a. Byrd being a Southerner, he did not let the fact that Lee eventually surrendered get in the way of a glorious analogy!

  4. Finley p27a:

  5. Caro's Master of the Senate may have more, amongst other sources.

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