Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate

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Author: Robert J. Dole  | Date: June 17, 1932

Senate Defeats Bonus Bill

On June 17, 1932, United States senators voted to defeat a "bonus bill" for veterans of the First World War. A difficult vote to cast under any circumstances, it was made even more ominous by the twelve thousand marchers waiting outside the Capitol Building.

The time was the Great Depression. Among the millions of unemployed Americans were thousands of veterans of the First World War. Some of these veterans proposed that the bonus scheduled to be paid to them in 1945 be made payable immediately in 1932 From all over the country, veterans converged on Washington in what became known as the bonus march They camped at various sites near the Capitol, where they lobbied for the bill’s passage.

On the evening of June 17, the bonus marchers congregated on the Capitol Plaza, silently awaiting the outcome of the Senate vote. Inside the building, Capitol policemen armed with rifles guarded the doors There was an unsettling sense of trouble brewing, for no one knew how the marchers would react if the bill did not pass.

At 9 p.m., one of their leaders emerged and announced that the Senate had rejected the bonus bill by a vote of 62 to 18. Promising to continue their fight, the veterans stood facing the Capitol and sang "America." Then they peacefully departed for their camps.

One month later, the bonus army was violently dispersed. Nervous government officials ordered the U.S. Army to clear the veterans out of their camps. Soon, tanks were rumbling down Pennsylvania Avenue, mounted cavalrymen were charging the crowd, and tear gas was tossed The situation got completely out of hand. Thus, the bonus march on Washington ended with the former American servicemen and their families suffering more than a hundred casualties.

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Chicago: Robert J. Dole, "Senate Defeats Bonus Bill," Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate: A Series of Bicentennial Minutes Presented to the Senate During the One Hundredth Congress (Washington, D.C.: U.S Government Printing Office, 1989), in Original Sources, accessed August 7, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=6H1DBZCXNL3CL1E.

MLA: Dole, Robert J. "Senate Defeats Bonus Bill." Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate: A Series of Bicentennial Minutes Presented to the Senate During the One Hundredth Congress, Washington, D.C., U.S Government Printing Office, 1989, in , Original Sources. 7 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=6H1DBZCXNL3CL1E.

Harvard: Dole, RJ 1989, 'Senate Defeats Bonus Bill' in Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate: A Series of Bicentennial Minutes Presented to the Senate During the One Hundredth Congress, U.S Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.. cited in , . Original Sources, retrieved 7 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=6H1DBZCXNL3CL1E.