10 Shocking Moments in U.S. Congress History
The United States Congress, which is made up of two houses (the Senate and the House of Representatives), has seen its fair share of shocking moments throughout history. From heated debates to huge legislative wins, Congress has been at the forefront of political decisions in America for centuries. But these ten moments, in particular, shocked the nation.
The Great Brawl of 1858
On February 5, 1858, a fistfight broke out between two members of Congress in the Capitol Building. Soon, more politicians joined in, and the melee lasted for several hours. Coat racks were thrown, bowie knives were drawn, and the police eventually had to intervene.
Jeannette Rankin’s “No” Vote
In 1917, Representative Jeannette Rankin stunned the nation when she became the first woman ever elected to Congress. But it was her vote against entering World War I that had everyone in shock. She was the only member of Congress to vote against it.
Joseph McCarthy’s Rampage
In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy launched a sweeping investigation of alleged Communist infiltration in the U.S. government. He accused numerous politicians and citizens of being “Communist sympathizers,” and publicly shamed and ruined the lives of innocent people. The controversy surrounding McCarthy’s tactics has earned its own name: the Red Scare.
The Watergate Scandal
In 1972, it was discovered that President Nixon’s team bugged the phones in the headquarters of the Democratic Party. The investigation linked the President to the scandal, and the subsequent congressional hearings led to his resignation.
Bobby Seale and the Blanket Gagging
In 1966, Black Panther member Bobby Seale was arrested and charged with murder in a highly publicized trial. During the proceedings, Seale repeatedly interrupted the judge and was eventually bound and gagged with a strip of cloth. This act and the scene of Seale being bound and gagged had a profound impact on civil rights and ignited a greater dialogue for a revised justice program in the country.
The Government Shutdown
During the presidency of Barack Obama, a rift between Democrats and Republicans led to a partial government shutdown lasting for several weeks in 2013. The issue was finally resolved with both parties signing a budget and compromise agreement, but the shutdown had a lasting impact on the government and caused extensive financial loss across the country
Frank Church’s Hearings
In 1975, Senator Frank Church held a series of hearings on the abuses of U.S. intelligence agencies, including the FBI and NSA. The investigation revealed serious violations of individual privacy with illegal electronic surveillance of American law-abiding citizens.
The “Gavel Down”
In 1995, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich declared “The Republican Revolution” and announced the first “gavel down” – terminating some of the Congressional debates at midnight on Christmas Eve. He was emboldened by new Republican power that resulted from the Congressional elections of 1994 where Republicans won control of Congress as the first Republican-controlled Congress in forty years.
The Debt Ceiling Crisis
In 2011, politicians debated fiercely over the federal budget debate, which were driven by conservative ‘Tea Party’ politicians urging deeper budget cuts. Negotiations resulted in failures, infighting, and questioning global perceptions of American fiscal and political responsibility. While the US maintained its low-risk footing, the scramble went down to the wire, and even the Tuesday after the day America would run out of cash.
The Impeachment of President Donald Trump
One of the most recent dramatic acts on the division of America politically and sensitively. In December, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the House would be drawing up articles of impeachment for what many are calling a blatant abuse of power by the US President in 2019 which heavily impacted USA’s ethical grounds.
These ten incidents had a far-reaching impact on the country and remain in the collective memory of Americans, encapsulating the most intriguing and rupturing moments in a body that New York Times reported having a public approval rating steadily sliding into stable predictably negative levels of history.