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The Repeal of the Twenty-One Day Rule

January 03, 1951
The Repeal of the Twenty-One Day Rule Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
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Speaker Sam Rayburn was a supporter of the “Twenty-One Day Rule” when the House adopted it in 1949. But the measure proved so controversial, Rayburn voted with a majority of the House to repeal it in 1951.
On this date, at the opening of the 82nd Congress (1951–1953), the House repealed the “Twenty-One Day Rule” by a vote of 243 to 180. A short-lived effort to circumvent the power of racial conservatives, the rule had first been adopted at the opening of the 81st Congress (1949–1951). As proposed by Representative Herman Eberharter of Pennsylvania, a liberal northern Democrat, it empowered committee chairmen to bring to the floor any reported bill that the Rules Committee had not structured for debate within three weeks. Proponents hoped to win timely consideration of civil rights measures and social legislation long obstructed by a determined, well-placed southern minority. But the rule stirred such controversy that many initial supporters, including Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn of Texas who regularly locked horns with the Rules Committee, reversed themselves and voted for repeal. Charles Halleck of Indiana, a high-ranking Republican, argued that the Rules Committee played a vital function vetting “unwise, unsound, ill-timed, spend-thrift and socialistic measures.” On at least two other occasions, the House considered a similar rule but both efforts fell short. Eventually, other reforms mitigated the ability of Rules Committee chairmen to block legislation.

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