Jan. 29, 1890: U.S. House Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed, a Republican from Portland, takes action to end the “disappearing quorum” tactic used by House Democrats to prevent House business from being conducted.

He marks members “present” even if they refuse to respond to a roll call. The procedure survives a court challenge and becomes part of what later are known as “Reed’s Rules,” a guide to procedure and parliamentary law that still holds sway today in the House and in many state legislatures.

Reed also abolishes the filibuster in the House, a stalling tactic that is still used in the U.S. Senate.

Reed serves as House speaker from 1889 to 1891 and 1895 to 1899. His iron grip on the chamber during those periods prompts his enemies to give him the nickname “Czar Reed.”

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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