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We think Obama's resignation announcement today surprised everyone, but it was understandable given the need for him to stay away from Senate business next week. But we were curious, was it early or late compared to other President and Vice-President-elects? What we found surprised us. Obama's Senate resignation is, by far, the earliest resignation by an incoming President or Vice-President, looking back to 1920. (And with the March inauguration dates then and earlier, it's unlikely we missed any earlier November resignations.).
It's the only November resignation, and, in fact, there have been only three other pre-Christmas resignations, Bush on Dec. 21, 2000, Clinton on Dec. 12, 1992, and Kennedy, the previous earliest Senate resignation, on Dec. 22, 1960.
Update: Biden probably won't resign his seat until after the new Senate takes office in early January, as he was also elected to a new Senate term.
Update 2: The NY Times has more:
In 220 years of presidential elections, only three other sitting members of Congress have won the White House: Representative James A. Garfield in 1880, Senator Warren G. Harding in 1920 and Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960. Garfield resigned from Congress right after his election, and Kennedy had no lame-duck session to worry about.Update 3: Turns out Garfield resigned from the House on Nov. 8, 1880.
Harding showed up on the opening day of the lame-duck session that followed his election and gave a short valedictory speech on the Senate floor, taking note of the “somewhat unusual circumstances” of his presence and the “delicacy about my position,” according to Congressional records. He then boarded a train and returned to Ohio, never casting any votes in his dual role as president-elect and senator.
None of the senators elected vice president since World War II — Al Gore, Hubert H. Humphrey, Lyndon B. Johnson, Walter F. Mondale or Dan Quayle — faced a lame-duck session after being elected, according to Donald A. Ritchie, the associate Senate historian.
Senator Alben W. Barkley, Democrat of Kentucky, the majority leader, had a brief lame-duck session in December 1948 after he was elected vice president under Harry S. Truman, but it lasted just two hours and was largely a formality.
Here's the full list of Senate, House and Governor resignation dates of all President and Vice-President-elects back to 1920.
Senate Resignation Dates:
Gore, January 2, 1993
Quayle, January 3, 1989
Mondale, December 30, 1976
Humphrey, December 30, 1964
Johnson, January 3, 1961 (Johnson was also elected to a new Senate term in 1960).
Kennedy, December 22, 1960
Nixon, January 1, 1953
Barkley, January 19, 1949
Truman, January 17, 1945
Curtis, March 4, 1929 (Presidential Inauguration Day)
Harding, March 4, 1921 (Presidential Inauguration Day)
House Resignation Dates:
Garner, term ended March 4, 1933 (Presidential Inauguration Day)
Governor Resignation Dates:
Bush, December 21, 2000
Clinton, December 12, 1992
Agnew, January 7, 1969
Roosevelt's term ended December 31, 1932.
Coolidge's term ended January 6, 1921. (VP-elect).
All information is from Wikipedia.