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Senate Madness - Round Two: Mixed Era

1. Clay vs. 9. Ervin

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."

9. Sam Ervin, D - North Carolina, 1896-1985
Sam Ervin, known as the “Ol’ Country Lawyer,” was a constitutional expert who was well liked by colleagues and chaired the “Watergate Committee,” which aired televised hearings of the Nixon Watergate scandal. Nixon resigned the presidency in 1974.

4. La Follette vs. 12. Norris

4. Robert La Follette, R-Wis., 1855-1925: The quintessential senator of the Progressive Era, La Follette sought to regulate the railroads and worker protection. He also opposed America’s entry into World War I, and he helped launched an investigation into the Teapot Dome scandal. In 1924, he ran for president as a third-party candidate under the Progressive Party banner, and he won 13% of the popular vote. 

12. George Norris, R-Neb., 1861-1944: Known as the father of the Tennessee Valley Authority – the New Deal program that provided flood control and helped bring electricity to the Tennessee River region – Norris served in the U.S. Senate for 30 years (1913-1943) as both a Republican and independent (after he supported Franklin Roosevelt for president in 1932). Norris lost his bid for re-election in 1942 and passed away two years later. 

6. Borah vs. 14. Jackson

6. William Borah, R-Idaho, 1865-1940: In addition to Robert La Follette, Borah was one of the most well-known senators of the Progressive Era. Nicknamed “the Lion of Idaho,” Borah was instrumental in passing two constitutional amendments -- the graduated income tax and the direct election of senators. He also led the opposition to the United States’ participation in the League of Nations.

14. Henry Martin “Scoop” Jackson, D-Wash., 1912-83: The 30-year senator (1953-1981) and 43-year member of Congress wielded tremendous influence with colleagues on Capitol Hill and was regarded for his deep bipartisan ties. His counsel was sought after by presidents, especially on foreign-policy issues. He was liberal on most social issues, but he was hawkish on military affairs. For example, he supported U.S. efforts to get involved in Southeast Asia, even saying in 1975: “The basic decision to go into Vietnam was right.” He was popular with the American Jewish community for his support of Israel and crafting legislation to help Russian Jews emigrate more freely to there. He was one of the first senators to benefit from television’s advent, notably during the McCarthy-Army hearings of the 1950s; Jackson said McCarthy was “hunting headlines instead of hunting communists.” He also was seen as the “Senator from Boeing” for his work procuring funding for the airline maker in his home state. He ran for and lost the Democratic nomination for president twice – in 1972 and 1976. He got his nickname, “Scoop,” by the way, because his sister thought he reminded her of a comic-strip character.

2. Cabot Lodge vs. 7. Vandenberg

7. Arthur Vandenberg (Mixed), R-Michigan, 1884-1951: Vandenberg, who used the phrase that “politics stops at the water’s edge," served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, working with the Democratic Truman administration on the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and the creation of NATO.

2. Henry Cabot Lodge (Mixed), R-Massachusetts, 1850-1924: If you want to point to one person who re-defined how politics is played on Capitol Hill, look to Lodge. He wrote the playbook for how to oppose a president. He and Woodrow Wilson did not get along. So much so Wilson’s widow told him not to come to Wilson’s funeral. The position of majority leader didn’t even exist at the time, but Lodge is referred to as the de facto majority leader because of his tenure and influence, particularly on foreign policy. The hawkish Republican scuttled the U.S.’s joining of the League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles, putting a premium on party unity. He was also instrumental in the annexing of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, and pushed for a stronger Navy. If he has a weakness, it was that his focus in the Senate was almost exclusively on foreign policy.