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Legislative Branch (Congress)

Legislative Branch (Congress)

 Table of Contents

Legislative Branch (Congress) Timeline

How It All Went Down

Mar 4, 1789

First United States Congress

The first session of the first term of Congress convenes in New York City, meeting in Federal Hall on Wall Street. (Washington, DC has not been established yet.) It takes nearly a month for either chamber to achieve a quorum, as lawmakers from other states are slow to arrive.

1789

Bill of Rights

The First Congress passes twelve amendments to the Constitution, sending them to the states for ratifications. Ten are ratified by 1791, becoming the Bill of Rights. Another will be ratified in 1991—more than 200 years later!—becoming the 27th Amendment to the Constitution.

Sep 18, 1793

Capitol Groundbreaking

President George Washington lays the cornerstone for the new US Capitol building during an official groundbreaking ceremony in the under-construction capital city of Washington, DC. Construction work on the building will not be completed for 18 years.

Nov 17, 1800

First Session in Capitol

Lawmakers hold the first session of Congress inside the new Capitol building in Washington, DC, despite the fact that construction has not been completed. (It will be another 11 years before work on the House wing of the Capitol will be finished.)

1803

Louisiana Purchase

Congress ratifies the Louisiana Purchase, authorizing President Thomas Jefferson's acquisition of the vast territory stretching from the Mississippi River to the crest of the Rocky Mountains.

Aug 24, 1814

Capitol Burned

During the War of 1812, British soldiers capture Washington, DC and set fire to the US Capitol. Congress will have to meet elsewhere for five years.

1819

McCullough v. Maryland

In McCullough v. Maryland, the US Supreme Court upholds the "implied powers" of Congress.

1865

13th Amendment

As the Civil War comes to an end, Congress passes the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery in the United States.

1868

Johnson Impeachment

For the first time, the House of Representatives exercises its power of impeachment against a sitting president, voting to impeach Andrew Johnson for violations of the Tenure of Office Act. By a margin of one vote, the Senate will acquit Johnson, allowing the president to serve out the remainder of his term.

1870

First Black Senator

Senator Hiram Revels, a Mississippi Republican, becomes the first African-American to serve in either house of Congress. Following Revels, 21 black congressmen and one other black US Senator will represent southern districts in Congress during the Reconstruction era.

1906

Congress Regulates Food Industry

Responding to public alarm over the state of the nation's food supply—alarm prompted by muckraking journalism such as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle—Congress passes the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act, establishing government regulation over the food industry.

1916

First Woman Congressman

Montana's Jeannette Rankin becomes the first woman ever elected to Congress. Although women in Montana have the right to vote, the 19th Amendment guaranteeing suffrage to all women nationwide will not pass for another three years.

1919

19th Amendment

Congress approves the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.

Aug 28, 1957

Longest Filibuster Ever

Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina speaks for more than 24 consecutive hours, attempting to filibuster the 1957 Civil Rights Act. Less than two hours after Thurmond finally stops talking, the bill passes.

1967

Brooke Breaks Color Line

Edward Brooke III, Republican from Massachusetts, becomes the first African-American to serve in the US Senate since Reconstruction.

1998

Clinton Impeachment

For only the second time in its history, the House of Representatives votes to impeach the president, with the Republican majority in the House voting to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about his sexual affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. The Senate will vote, by a wide margin, to acquit, allowing Clinton to remain in office until 2001.

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