Senate Resolution 301 (McCarthy Censure)

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Senate Resolution 301 was the official censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy on December 2, 1954 for his behavior contrary to senatorial traditions in his role as leader of a congressional witch hunt for communist subversives.

An undistinguished, first-term senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy burst onto the national scene in 1950 when he presented a list of what he claimed were 205 known communists currently working in the State Department at a speech he gave in Wheeling, West Virginia. He did not present documentation supporting his accusations, but was able to exploit the Cold War atmosphere of fear and suspicion that had unleashed the virulent Red Scare of the late 1940s and early 1950s. He and his aides, Roy Cohn and David Schine, accused and browbeat witnesses, intervened in senatorial elections leading to the defeat of Democratic candidates, destroyed countless reputations, and generally terrorized American public life for four years.

After the Republicans took control of the White House and Congress in 1953, McCarthy was named chairman of the Committee of Government Operations and its Subcommittee on Investigations. Although the administration was now Republican, he still accused government agencies of being soft on communism. In January 1954, in the first televised hearings in American history, Senator McCarthy attacked the Secretary of the Army Robert Stevens and, indirectly, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As the American public watched him accusing, bullying, and harassing -- all without proof -- McCarthys support began to wane. By the end of the year the Senate censured him by a vote of 65 to 22.

 

 Senate Resolution 301

 

Resolved, That the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, failed to cooperate with the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in clearing up matters referred to that subcommittee which concerned his conduct as a Senator and affected the honor of the Senate and, instead, repeatedly abused the subcommittee and its members who were trying to carry out assigned duties, thereby obstructing the constitutional processes of the Senate, and that this conduct of the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, is contrary to senatorial traditions and is hereby condemned.

Sec 2. The Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, in writing to the chairman of the Select Committee to Study Censure Charges (Mr. Watkins) after the Select Committee had issued its report and before the report was presented to the Senate charging three members of the Select Committee with "deliberate deception" and "fraud" for failure to disqualify themselves; in stating to the press on November 4, 1954, that the special Senate session that was to begin November 8, 1954, was a "lynch-party"; in repeatedly describing this special Senate session as a "lynch bee" in a nationwide television and radio show on November 7, 1954; in stating to the public press on November 13, 1954, that the chairman of the Select Committee (Mr. Watkins) was guilty of "the most unusual, most cowardly things I've ever heard of" and stating further: "I expected he would be afraid to answer the questions, but didn't think he'd be stupid enough to make a public statement"; and in characterizing the said committee as the "unwitting handmaiden," "involuntary agent" and "attorneys-in-fact" of the Communist Party and in charging that the said committee in writing its report "imitated Communist methods -- that it distorted, misrepresented, and omitted in its effort to manufacture a plausible rationalization" in support of its recommendations to the Senate, which characterizations and charges were contained in a statement released to the press and inserted in the Congressional Record of November 10, 1954, acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute, to obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate, and to impair its dignity; and such conduct is hereby condemned.

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