(Answer 1938 – they were never slow in taking care of themselves!)
In his book, “Washington Goes to War,” journalist David Brinkley, who with Chet Huntley co-anchored The Huntley-Brinkley Report on NBC from 1956 until 1970, wrote:
“Until the late thirties, Congress usually retreated from the Washington summers by adjourning its sessions in May or June … [to] await their next session, which was in the autumn if the times were busy or the following January if they were not. The annual sessions of Congress averaged a little over five months.
“But by the late 1930s some members [of Congress] had discovered the comforts of air conditioning … They asked to have cool air pumped into the House and Senate chambers and into their office buildings across the street. And so, in 1938, the United States Congress made a fateful decision that a few of the more cantankerous members said foretold the collapse of the Republic. It installed air conditioning. With its chambers and offices cool and pleasant, some predicted, Congress would stay in session all year and pass the additional time making even longer and more tiresome speeches, enacting more laws, spending more money and running the national debt higher. Longer sessions they said, would mean more government and more taxes, more forms for the people to fill out and more bureaucrats hired to read and file them.”
— David M. Brinkley (1920-2003)
Funny thing – Skip and I were only saying yesterday that if Congress had to suffer without air conditioning, maybe we’d get less oppressive government!