19th Century: The Great Orator vs. The Indiana Progressive
1. Daniel Webster, Whig - Massachusetts, 1782-1852
Dubbed “The Great Orator,” Daniel Webster fought to keep the country unified during the pre-Civil War debate over slavery. Indeed, he became the de facto spokesman for those seeking to save the union after delivering what’s been called, “The Most Famous Senate Speech” in a debate that lasted over nine days with a senator from South Carolina. Ironically, it was another speech – arguing in favor of the Compromise of 1850 and saying that bickering over slavery was pointless because it wasn’t going away – that ended his Senate career. That speech played well as a middle-of-the-road position in many parts of the country, but not in his liberal home state. Soon after, he resigned the Senate to become Secretary of State. Webster died just four months after Henry Clay – another #1 seed – did.
16. Albert Beveridge, R-Indiana, 1862-1927
Albert Beveridge was one of the key progressive senators of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (1899-1911), backing the legislation that Teddy Roosevelt was pushing as president.
Mixed Centuries: The Great Compromiser vs. The Father of the ‘Pell Grant’
1. Henry Clay, D-R, Whig - Kentucky, 1777-1852
Henry Clay’s ability to navigate a fractured Senate is credited with fending off war between slave-owning and free states -- at least three times. He was pivotal in the negotiations in the creation of the Missouri Compromise, which allowed the United States to continue its Western expansion. For his efforts, Clay earned the nicknames “The Great Compromiser” and “The Great Pacificator.” How revered was he? Abraham Lincoln called him "my beau ideal of a statesman" and often used his quotes in his speeches. He was the first ever to receive the honor of being laid in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Clay also engineered the only censure of a president -- Andrew Jackson. Clay's death, which took place a decade before the Civil War's start, was regarded as the end of the Senate's "Golden Era."
16. Claiborne Pell, D - Rhode Island, 1918-2009
Claiborne Pell served in the Senate for more than 35 years (1961-1997), and he’s best known for authoring the legislation creating federal grants for college students -- or Pell Grants.
20th Century: The Master of the Senate vs. The Tax Expert
1. Lyndon Johnson, D - Texas, 1908-73
Lyndon Johnson was dubbed the “Master of the Senate” by author Robert Caro, and he drew the blueprint for what we think of as the modern majority leader. LBJ understood the rules and what made senators tick. Ironically, his greatest accomplishments – passing the Great Society measures and the Civil Rights Act – came when he was president, earning him the nickname "Super Majority Leader." As a young majority leader, Johnson helped usher through President Eisenhower’s civil rights bill that only passed by weakening key enforcement provisions to pacify Southern Democrats.
16. Russell Long, D - Louisiana, 1918-2003
Russell Long – the son of 20th Century populist Huey Long – served in the Senate for nearly 30 years, and chaired the powerful Finance Committee for more than a decade. In fact, he was best known for shaping the tax code, and he helped manage John F. Kennedy’s tax-cut legislation through Congress.
Modern era: The Last Lion vs. The Texan (who more than knew Jack Kennedy)
1. Ted Kennedy, D - Massachusetts, 1932-2009
Regarded as the last lion to serve in the Senate, Ted Kennedy worked across the aisle to achieve major legislative accomplishments -- on health care, education, civil rights, and raising the minimum wage. He also was instrumental in Barack Obama’s presidential quest, delivering him key support in the middle of the heated 2008 campaign between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
16. Lloyd Bentsen(winner of Lloyd Bentsen/Phil Gramm play-in), D - Texas, 1921-2006
Lloyd Bentsen is best known for being the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential running mate in 1988, and for uttering this line at Dan Quayle during the VP debate: “I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” But before that, Bentsen served in the Senate for 22 years (from 1971-1993), and he was chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Bentsen also was Clinton’s Treasury secretary from 1993-1994.
This story was originally published on Fri Mar 22, 2013 11:59 AM EDT