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A 1973 Protest by House Freshmen

April 18, 1973
A 1973 Protest by House Freshmen Image courtesy of Library of Congress In 1976, Barbara Jordan of Texas, a captivating public speaker, became the first woman and the first African American to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention.
On this date, freshman Members of the Democratic Caucus gained control of the House Floor for roughly four hours. The group, led by Congressmen Edward Mezvinsky of Iowa and Gerry Studds of Massachusetts, consisted of 30 Members of the newly formed Freshman Democratic Caucus. Traditionally, freshman Members were not encouraged to express their views on the House Floor and followed the old adage of being seen but not heard. Fueled by the House’s recent inability to override a spending veto by President Richard M. Nixon and what Members perceived as the President’s usurpation of congressional power, the caucus prearranged floor time to express its views. Speaker of the House  Carl Albert of Oklahoma and Majority Leader Thomas (Tip) O’Neill of Massachusetts remained on the House Floor with the freshmen and took to the well to show their support. The event included a resolution signed by the caucus supporting the findings of the Joint Study Committee on Budget Control. Representative Barbara Jordan of Texas summed up what the freshmen believed to be a constitutional crisis: “Actions by the President and inaction by the Congress have precipitated a genuine constitutional crisis as the national Government lurches toward a system of one-man rule on the crucial question of how and where the national Government is to spend money.” The protest gained media attention, but did not deter the Nixon administration. During the second session of the 93rd Congress (1973–1975), Congress began impeachment proceedings against President Nixon, leading to his eventual resignation and the House formed a new standing committee, the Committee on the Budget, under the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. The committee’s main task was to reconcile the President’s budget with Congress’s appropriations to prevent a spending impasse similar to the one of 1973.

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