Johnson is like a fire chief who doesn't turn on the siren unless he can save the house. When he thinks he can't win, he sits on the side, looking for another weak spot where a successful attack might be launched. This naturally gets him in dutch with many Democrats who think there are fights which should be made even if a loss is certain.
-- Frank Tollman in The New Republic, August 9, 1954
There was no question, as the Second Session of the 83rd Congress began in January, 1954, that the Senate must come to grips with Joseph R. McCarthy. The McCarthy issue had assumed proportions that lifted it beyond party politics in the Senate, beyond the Congress itself. It was the most imperative question before the country, not only to Lyndon Johnson and the Senate but to President Eisenhower and the whole nation. But before it became Johnson's lot to devise a weapon to bring down McCarthy, the Democratic leader had other problems no less significant to his own development as a figure of power in his party.
The first of these problems came in January when Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee began kicking up trouble for Johnson the moment Congress convened. Kefauver and other liberals were pressing Minority Leader Johnson to call a party caucus at the outset of the new session and adopt a Democratic program far more liberal than President Eisenhower's. Johnson dealt with the Kefauver effort predictably. Publicly silent, he let it be known through newspaper leaks that, no matter how much he was pressed, he would not call a caucus and he would not adopt a program. Even if he had been so inclined, Johnson knew that a majority of the Senate Democrats would never endorse a Kefauver-style liberal program.