He then escaped to Bahia in 1927, under the name of Senílson Pessoa Cavalcanti, but eventually returned to Natal, where he surrendered. In 1923, he ran for alderman in Natal, but failed. He joined the Liberal Alliance and was one of the founders, in 1933, of the Social Nationalist Party of Rio Grande do Norte (PSN).
Café Filho was elected federal deputy (1935-1937) and stood out for the defense of constitutional liberties.
Threatened with arrest, sought asylum in Argentina, returning to Brazil in 1938. He founded, along with Ademar de Barros, the Progressive Republican Party (PRP), for which he was elected federal deputy again (1946-1950).
Elected vice president by a coalition of parties that merged under the symbol Progressive Social Party (PSP), he assumed the presidency with the suicide of Getúlio Vargas, August 24, 1954. Café Filho assumed the presidency immediately after the death of Getúlio Vargas.
In his new cabinet, he had as minister of finance the economist Eugenio Gudin, supporter of a more orthodox economic policy, which sought to stabilize the economy and combat inflation.
The Minister adopted as key measures to contain cr and cutting public expenditure, seeking thereby to reduce the public concerned deficit in its assessment of the inflationary process. During the Café Filho government, was instituted the single tax on electricity, generating the Federal Electrification Fund, and the withholding tax on income from the labor wage. Stood out yet in his administration the creation of the Committee on Location of the New Federal Capital, the inauguration, in January 1955, of the Paulo Afonso hydroelectric plant and encouraging the inflow of foreign capital in the country, which would influence the process of industrialization that followed.
Temporarily removed from the presidency on November 3, 1955, due to a cardiovascular disorder, on November 8 he was replaced by Carlos Luz, the president of the Chamber of Deputies.
Recovered, Café Filho tried to reassume presidential powers, but his removal was approved by the Congress on November 22, 1955 and confirmed by the Supreme Court in December. The average growth rate of the Brazilian economy under his administration was 8,8%.
After the presidency, Café Filho was appointed minister of the Court of Accounts State of Guanabara (1961-1970). He died in Rio de Janeiro on February 20, 1970.