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Approving the Panama Canal Treaties


Gaining approval for ratification of the Panama Canal treaties was a truly daunting task for Senate leaders Robert Byrd and Howard Baker. Following seven decades of debate and protests over control of the Panama Canal, in 1977 President Jimmy Carter signed two treaties agreeing to return control of the canal to Panama. When the controversial treaties arrived for the Senate’s advice and consent, Senator Byrd quickly assessed their chances. “You’re not going to get a treaty without me,” he told the president, “and you’re not going to get a treaty without Senator Baker.” After weeks of debate, the Senate approved both treaties, clearing the way for ratification.