Historical Highlights

The 20th Amendment

January 03, 1935
The 20th Amendment Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
A 74th Congress (1935–1937) House Chamber pass signed by Edward Hart of New Jersey
On this date, the 74th Congress (1935–1937) became the first to convene for opening day in fulfillment of the requirements of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Clerk of the House  South Trimble called the session to order declaring, “This is the first time in 146 years that an old Congress dies and a new one is born on the 3d day of January…today we inaugurate the first session of the Seventy-fourth Congress.” Since the First Federal Congress (1789–1791), the official start date of the new Congress was March 4, a tradition dating back to the Articles of Confederation. The late winter date accommodated 18th and 19th-century Members who relied on primitive means of transportation to reach the capital city. Often, the House did not actually convene for business until much later in the fall. Reformers eventually sought an amendment to push back the start date to early January in order to shorten the “lame duck” session in election years (November to the following March). In 1923, Senator George Norris of Nebraska authored the initial resolution that provided the basis for the 20th Amendment. Nearly a decade later, Congress approved the amendment and the states swiftly ratified it.

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