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The House’s All night Session to Break Speaker Joe Cannon’s Power

March 17, 1910
The House’s All night Session to Break Speaker Joe Cannon’s Power Image courtesy of Library of Congress Reporters dubbed the 29-hour session to challenge Speaker Joe Cannon's power as the "Congress that stayed up all night."
On this date, the House of Representatives “stayed up all night” during a marathon session lasting 29 hours, debating the power of the Committee on Rules. Seizing an opportunity to challenge the power of Speaker of the House  Joe Cannon of Illinois, Representative George Norris of Nebraska introduced a resolution as a matter of constitutional privilege to change the House rules. His resolution removed the Speaker as chairman of the Committee on Rules and expanded its membership from five to 15, made up of groupings by state, which would effectively strip the Speaker of much of his power. Representative John Dalzell of Pennsylvania objected to the resolution, arguing that it should not take precedence over pending business. Dalzell’s objection allowed for debate to continue, and for reinforcements to be recruited through the night, until the Speaker delivered his ruling. Cannon’s fellow Republican Jacob Sloat Fassett of New York, chided his colleagues who had allied with the Democrats, saying “This is not [a] question of a change of rules, it is a question of a change of party control. It is a question of whether, by an unnatural and foreign alliance with our natural enemies, these rules are to be changed.” “Insurgent” Republican Congressman Henry Allen Cooper of Wisconsin responded, “That word ‘party’ has been . . . the club with which men here have been browbeaten into submission. They have shouted ‘party,’ ‘party,’ as though an honest effort to amend the rules of this House constituted some sort of treason. The rules of this House give to the Speaker more power than is accorded the presiding officer of any other legislative body on earth.” On March 19, 1910, facing inevitable defeat and personal humiliation Cannon nevertheless sustained Dalzell’s point of order. His decision was appealed to the House and overturned, and Norris’s resolution was adopted, breaking the deadlocked session and weakening Cannon’s iron-fisted rule.

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