The Washington Post

Senate might huddle in old chamber on ‘nuclear’ option — but remember the room’s violent past

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

But before they order in the catering, senators might want to think about the history of that space and what that might augur. Sure, it was the site of some of the chamber’s finest moments, including a meeting of both parties before the impeachment trial of President Clinton in which the sides agreed to a plan.

But the Old Senate Chamber might best be known as a den of artifice and violence.

These days, the chamber is most often used by senators for staging shoots of themselves being sworn into office (no photos are allowed on the real Senate floor where the actual oath-taking takes place). So, there’s a strong tradition of fakery.

And then there’s the fact that it’s the scene of the most spectacular example of Congress-on-Congress violence.

Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina bludgeoned Sen. Charles Sumner with a cane in 1856, after Sumner insulted the congressman’s cousin. Sumner spent three years recovering from the blows.

Per the Senate historian’s office: “The caning of Senator Sumner signalled the end of an era of compromise and sectional accommodation in the Senate, further heightening the discord that culminated in war.”

But, hey, sounds like a promising place for some productive peace talks!

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Be a man and cry
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
Play Videos
Drawing as an act of defiance
A flood of refugees from Syria but only a trickle to America
Chicago's tacos, four ways
Play Videos
What you need to know about filming the police
What you need to know about trans fats
Syrian refugee: 'I’m committed to the power of music'
Play Videos
Riding the X2 with D.C.'s most famous rapper
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Europe's migrant crisis, explained