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Nye Swears in (with Help)


Gerald Nye served his first full day in the U.S. Senate on this date in 1926. Although appointed to the Senate by North Dakota Governor Sorlie in November, the 33-year-old Nye was not allowed to take his seat until January 12th, and only then with the help of fellow North Dakota Senator, Lynn Frazier.

Nye’s political career began in 1924, when the progressive Republican newspaper editor ran for a seat in Congress. Although he did not win the election, Nye garnered much support among the state’s constituents. During the summer of 1925, North Dakota Senator Edwin Ladd died suddenly. Governor Sorlie decided to call a special election for the following June, but appointed Nye on November 14th to fill the position during the interim. Nye traveled to Washington, and presented his credentials to Congress on December 7th.

To everyone’s surprise, the Senate refused to approve the appointment. An argument concerning the validity of Nye’s appointment was put forward by the more conservative members of Congress, fearing Nye’s progressive leanings more than the actual legality of the appointment. They claimed that Governor Sorlie did not have the authority to appoint Nye. Although most governors at the time held the power to appoint individuals to vacant Senate seats, North Dakota’s State Constitution did not explicitly allow for the practice. Instead, the wording of the Constitution simply allowed for the appointment of “state officials.” So, at issue was whether or not a Senator was considered a “state official” – many in the Senate argued that a Senator was a federal official, rather than a state employee. Nye’s supporters, however, argued that the controversy was only a matter of semantics, and was intended to prevent the addition of Nye’s progressive vote rather than uphold the legality of the state’s constitution.

The Senators recessed for the holiday break, but debated another five days after their return in January. A vote on the issue was called, and Nye’s appointment was approved by only two votes. Given the narrow margin, conservative leaders began to clamor for a second vote, but Senator Frazier quickly “…rose, said that Mr. Nye was at hand, [and] asked that he be sworn in.” Frazier took the younger Senator by the hand and led him down the aisle, where Nye swore his oath and was finally seated in the U.S. Senate.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


Time Magazine, Monday, January 25, 1926. “The Congress: Nye.” (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,721527,00.html)