Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate

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Author: Robert J. Dole  | Date: May 11, 1911

President Pro Tempore Election Deadlocked

On May 11, 1911, the Senate became entangled in a bitter deadlock over the election of a president pro tempore. This dispute demonstrated a significant change of political ideology within the early twentieth-century Congress.

In the 1910 midterm congressional elections, Democrats had gained a majority in the House of Representatives and had picked up ten Senate seats. This reduced the Republican margin of control to seven votes. The forty-nine Senate Republicans were split into progressive and conservative wings. Among the progressives were seven "insurgents" who hoped to topple the Senate’s entrenched old-guard leadership. In this effort, they were inspired by the success of a recent major revolt in the House. There, insurgents had stripped Speaker Joseph Cannon of his power to appoint committees and their chairmen.

On April 27, 1911, shortly after the Senate of the Sixty-second Congress convened, Maine’s William Frye resigned as president pro tempore due to illness. Frye had served in that post for fifteen years. A man of conservative personal and political temperament, he was considered one of the "wheel-horses" of the Senate and was deeply respected by senators of both parties.

On May 11, the Senate began balloting for Frye’s replacement. Each party caucus nominated a senior member. Republican insurgents divided their votes among four lesser candidates. On each of the seven ballots, Georgia Democrat Augustus Bacon received a plurality but remained several votes short of the necessary majority. The other maj or candidate, New Hampshire Republican Jacob Gallinger, followed closely behind. After several days of rancorous debate, leaders of both parties reluctantly agreed to alternate the duties of president pro tempore between Bacon and Gallinger for the remainder of the Sixty-second Congress.

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Chicago: Robert J. Dole, "President Pro Tempore Election Deadlocked," 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 19, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PW745W1VSNSZTL4.

MLA: Dole, Robert J. "President Pro Tempore Election Deadlocked." 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. 19 Aug. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PW745W1VSNSZTL4.

Harvard: Dole, RJ 1989, 'President Pro Tempore Election Deadlocked' 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 19 August 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PW745W1VSNSZTL4.