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Senate Madness – Sweet 16: 20th Century, Modern Era

20th Century Era

The winner of the following two contests will face off in the regional final for a chance to go to the Final Four.

1. Lyndon B. Johnson vs. 12. Richard Russell

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.

12. Richard Russell, D-Ga., 1897-1971: He served in the U.S. Senate for nearly 40 years, becoming the dean of southern conservative Democrats during the 1950s and 1960s. Russell chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and he staunchly opposed the civil-rights legislation of that era. Due to his legislative acumen and skill, one of the Senate office buildings is named after him. 

2. Everett Dirksen vs. 11. Mike Mansfield

2. Everett Dirksen (20th), R-Illinois, 1896-1969: When you have a building named after you, you did something. The 37-year member of Congress believed in governance, in compromise, and was a pivotal figure in getting the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts passed. He voted as minority leader for cloture to end the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act. He held the position as Republican leader until the day he died. Dirksen’s also responsible for the modern-day televised response to the president’s State of the Union. (By the way, Dirksen is also 10-seed Howard Baker’s father-in-law.)

11. Mike Mansfield, D-Mont., 1903-2001: Succeeding Lyndon Johnson as Senate majority leader after LBJ was elected vice president, Mansfield helped deliver many of the Great Society’s legislative accomplishments -- like Medicare and Medicaid. He also played a key role in breaking the filibuster against the civil-rights legislation.

Modern Era

The winner of the following two contests will face off in the regional final for a chance to go to the Final Four.

1. Ted Kennedy vs. 5. Hubert Humphrey

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.

5. Hubert Humphrey, D- Minn., 1911-78: A strong debater, parliamentarian, and liberal, the "Happy Warrior” Humphrey merged Minnesota's Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties, and he fought for civil rights, farmers, and small businesses.  His biggest legislative achievements were helping get through the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As vice president to LBJ, he helped to pass the Voting Rights Act and Medicare. 

11. Joe Biden vs. 2. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

11. Joe Biden, D-Del., 1942-present: Biden is currently vice president, but before that, he was a well-known fixture in the U.S. Senate for 36 years. First elected at the age of 29, Biden authored the 1994 crime bill, as well as the Violence Against Women Act (which Congress just reauthorized). Biden, who ran for president twice unsuccessfully, also served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Foreign Relations Committee.

2. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Modern), D-New York, 1927-2003: He was known for his intellect (he wrote 19 books), his forward thinking (he foresaw the Soviet decline), connections to history, and his ideas to come up with solutions to big problems -- from auto safety to cities to racism. He could work across the aisle and had a hand in the 1980s Social Security fix as well as working with Bob Dole on a health-insurance fix (not what the White House wanted) in the 1990s that never came to fruition. He also was one of the only Democrats to speak out against late-term abortion, calling it "infanticide." The New York Times called him an “often brilliant synthesizer whose works compelled furious debate and further research.”