Russell in the Eisenhower Years
When the Eighty-third Congress opened in January 1953, Russell found the Senate back in Republican hands for only the second time since he arrived in Washington some twenty years earlier. With the Democrats in the minority, Russell's power was somewhat diminished, but because of his long tenure, he still wielded tremendous influence. Many commentators believed that he was the nation's most powerful senator in the early 1950s. Only his colleagues Walter George and Carl Hayden from Arizona had greater seniority. Although now on the minority side, Russell ranked first on the Armed Services Committee and second on the Appropriations Committee. He continued on the Democratic Policy Committee. His increased importance was reflected in his move from Room 410 in the Senate Office Building, where he had been since 1939, to Room 205, a large and spacious suite formerly occupied by Vice President Alben Barkley.
The Democrats were faced with some important organizational decisions. Ernest McFarland, the Democratic majority leader, had been defeated in 1952, leaving that position open. Russell, however, already had McFarland's successor pretty well decided. The new leader would be his friend from Texas, Lyndon Johnson. Despite Johnson's lack of seniority, Russell had been pushing him for a party leadership role for more than two years. He had appointed Johnson to head the Defense Preparedness Subcommittee in 1950. Although this committee in no way compared with the Truman Committee organized to investigate the national defense program during World War II, it did enhance Johnson's image and position in the Senate. Russell had also backed Johnson for majority whip in 1951.
Right after the election of 1952, Russell began to line up support for Johnson. He and several other senators announced on November 10 that they favored the election of Johnson as the next Democratic leader