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Pro Tem
Senate Historical Office (2008) 

Observers of Congress know that the Senate president pro tempore is one of our national legislature's three constitutionally mandated officers, along with the vice president and the Speaker of the House. Few, however, are acquainted with the diversity of background and accomplishment of the 87 senators who have held that post since 1789.

Since 1949, the Senate has awarded this high honor to its majority party's most senior member. Earlier times, however, occasionally witnessed spirited election contests for the office. The most dramatic occurred in 1911, when the Senate deadlocked for three months over the selection of a PPT. Republican Jacob Gallinger (NH), candidate of the majority party, trailed Democrat Augustus Bacon (GA), and after many rounds of voting, neither candidate had secured the majority needed. Party leaders finally brokered an unprecedented compromise that allowed for Bacon and Gallinger to alternate with three other Republicans as PPT. The intense emotions fired by this deadlock prompted the Senate to publish extracts of its proceedings for all PPT elections between 1789 and 1911. The resulting 250-page document remained the only Senate-produced account of the office's development, until now.

Pro Tem: Presidents pro tempore of the United States Senate since 1789 traces the development of the office in four brief essays and features biographical profiles and photographic images of its 87 occupants. This 120 page softbound volume illustrates that the Senate, from its earliest days, elected its most exemplary members—individuals who brought to their rulings an extra measure of gravity and respect. President pro tempore Robert C. Byrd, the 86th president pro tempore to serve since 1789 and the only modern-era occupant of that post to serve four non-consecutive terms, observed, "The election of a senator to the office of president pro tempore has always been considered one of the highest honors offered to a senator by the Senate as a body. That honor has been bestowed upon a colorful and significant group of senators during the past two centuries—men who stamped their imprint on the office and on their times."

Pro Tem offers stories that demonstrate how much the Senate has changed throughout its long history—and how much it strives to maintain the ideals of the 18th-century creators.


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