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Filibuster

January 2, 2020

Samuel Tilden needed only one more Electoral College vote in order to become the 19th President of the United States.  The states of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina were in question.  Also, one of Oregon’s electors was disqualified and almost replaced by someone who could give Tilden the single vote he needed.

James Garfield had gone to Louisiana in order to investigate.  He began with the hope that he could find an objective solution that would be accepted by all.  He returned to Washington convinced the Democrats had suppressed the vote of the former slaves.

When the bill to create an Electoral Commission was proposed, Garfield voted against it, but when appointed to the Commission, he dutifully accepted.  The Commission voted 8 to 7 in favor of Rutherford Hayes.

But when the vote of each state came up in joint session, the Democrats stalled and filibustered.  It was already late February, and the Inauguration was scheduled for early March.  If no President were declared, who would be President?

According to the Presidential Succession Act of 1792, the president pro tempore of the Senate was next in line.  Some were whispering that Senator Roscoe Conkling was angling to get himself made president pro tempore in order to steal the office of U.S. President.  However, Conkling had no such plan.  He was not even in town much in February.

If the House and the Senate could come to an agreement, the Electoral Vote count could proceed.  Some key people from each Party met at Wormley’s Hotel on February 26, 1877.  For decades historians would opine that this meeting led to a deal that broke the filibuster.

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