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STATEMENT OF MRS. KATHRYN H. STONE, FIRST VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF THE UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON, D. C.
Mrs. Stone. It is a great privilege to be here this morning. I had the privilege almost 3 years ago of testifying before the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, and have had the privilege of following the enactment of the law and the working of the law in the last session of Congress.
I should like to pause, parenthetically, before I start the broad subject, to comment on the very interesting discussion you have just been having. It seemed to me for a few moments that you were really discussing a senso of values that we can't legislate and can't bring about by any other than educational means.
I should like to just pass on the feeling that I get from responsible radio men with whom I have been talking in the last few days that they are undergoing now extensive reorganization of their educational departments, and they are trying to put much more worthwhile material on the air. I should like to comment also on the plan followed over at the home rule hearings in the House, the joint hearings held recently, where they took the transcript, then edited and rebroadcast it in the evening, at an hour when all could listen. A half-hour's rebroadcast of that testimony was exceedingly interesting and very valuable. Those who couldn't have been there during the day could hear it. It seems to me that that is the right direction.
I certainly agree with you that the little "flashes" of what is happening in the important work of the committees are unrepresentative and likely to be unfair, but I believe that the radio companies and the newspapers are very responsive to public opinion, and that a citizens' group such as mine has a special responsibility to encourage the right kind of educational work along these lines.
The League of Women Voters of the United States, a citizen group with 550 local leagues in 33 States, strongly supported the Legislative Reorganization Bill and follows with close interest the progress which is being made since its enactment. It is our belief that nothing is more important to the fate of the Nation than that the United States Congress be great of stature. Mature deliberation by Congress as a whole, and by important working groups in the committees, is, we believe, dependent in large measure upon the organizational framework and tools which you shape for your use. The better the organization, the more precise the tools, the freer you will be for deliberation. We believe that the reorganized committee structure has appreciably facilitated and will in the future contribute even more to the legislative function.
The smaller number of committees and the fewer committee assignments per member have, as was anticipated, contributed to the prestige of the committees, as well as reduced the jurisdictional difficulties. The seeming proliferation of subcommittees is riot, upon analysis, necessarily a tendency to backslide toward more committees. The League suggests, however, that as adequate staffs are built up for the committees, it should become possible to reduce the number of subcommittees in order to attain the great advantage of having the minds of more representatives focused upon more of the major problems at the important committee stage.
The League of Women Voters recognizes the peculiar problem attendant upon the use of staff representatives and representative bodies. You do not wish to duplicate the extensive research of the various executive agencies. It is for your staffs to provide you with an accurate background of knowledge, but the creative synthesis which leads to the solution of the broad problems of today must be largely or wholly your own. The regular use of research staff by legislators is a relatively new technique which requires fuller experimentation.
The League, with its deep interest in merit principles, suggests that setting up your own congressional personnel office would facilitate the procurement of an adequate staff. We should like to see the increased appropriations intended for improving the calibre of staff utilized only for qualified personnel with appropriate education and experience.
For the individual Congressman, the League sees the Congressional Reference Service as an invaluable aid. The large central staff allows for specialization in subject matter and is a more efficient way to spread the work load, a difficult thing to do in a small office.
Increased appropriations for the Legislative Reference Service and increased attention to the problem of how best to use this service appear desirable. The League suggests that your committee might wish to undertake a study of the ways in which the Congressional Reference Service is now being used and summarize and describe the most effective of these ways. We are particularly impressed by the manner in which the House District Committee has utilized the Legislative Reference Service in its fresh and objective attack on the problem of District home rule.
The League deplores the creation of special committees in each House as contrary to the spirit of the Reorganization Act, but recognizes that the number of special committees has been greatly reduced. We hold that most of the functions performed by special committees should be performed by standing committees which have the power to act. Also, legislative surveillance of the executive agencies seems to the League to be better carried on through the continuous interest of the standing committees. This makes for a basis of mutual understanding.
The League regarded the proposal for home rule for the District of Columbia as an important reorganization measure. We were extremely sorry to see it eliminated from the bill. The amount of time and energy given by Congress to the government of the District has been and is very great. Constituents back home begrudge the time it takes from important matters of national policy. Fortunately, an excellent plan has been evolved and is now being considered by Congress. Congress can delegate much of its responsibility to a properly constituted local government, and this should be done as soon as possible.
The League approves the general purpose of the provision for the registration of lobbyists and is glad to comply, although our status is somewhat obscure as the wording now stands. We recommend clarification of this section so that there can be no doubt as to whom it applies. We suspect that investigation by your committee or by the Justice Department will disclose that many groups and individuals intended to be covered have failed to register. In contrast, those who approach you openly and straightforwardly have hastened to comply with the provisions.
We would like to comment on section 133 of the act which refers to committee procedure. Our experience has been that hearings are frequently called on very short notice and sometimes witnesses are given very short notice. I was called on Saturday about noon to be here this morning, for example, and that explains why you haven't copies of my statement in your hands. We have often been informed on one afternoon that hearings would commence the next day on an issue in which we were very much interested. While this may be an extreme example, it is nevertheless true that on many occasions hearings have been set on important legislation on such short notice as to make it virtually impossible for individuals and organizations to present carefully thought-out testimony. We, therefore, suggest an amendment to the act which would read somewhat as follows, and I quote:
That wherever possible public notice be given of committee hearings, by the chairman, through the Congressional Record and other means of publicity, at least 2 weeks in advance of hearings on proposed legislation.
Secondly, we would like to call your attention to a situation which is causing increasing concern among the many public-interest groups of this country. In hearing after hearing, those who speak in behalf of millions of citizens are relegated to the last afternoon or sometimes even to the last hour of a lengthy hearing to present their views., A dramatic example of this was in the joint hearings on housing recently. After testimony throughout the country, you will recall, the committee had 1 week set aside for hearings here in Washington, and 32 public-interest groups and the CIO were postponed and postponed until the final hour of that week of hearings. I am not speaking for the CIO, of course, but obviously it is an organization that deserves to be heard fully, and here were 32 public-interest groups plus this one large group relega-ted to the last hour and a half of that particular hearing.
While the committees naturally wish to have the advice and counsel of experts in a particular field, it seems to us that those speaking on behalf of the general citizenry should be given adequate voice, and in the planning of your hearings, in general, organizations should be given a chance to be heard before individuals who do not speak on the part of the Government, of course. So we should like to see positive steps taken to correct the casual treatment sometimes accorded citizen groups.
Then there is the much graver responsibility of avoiding the impugning of reputations of persons and organizations in the process of questioning witnesses. The League recently had a very dramatic case which I should like to desciibe for you. When Mr. Walt Disney, testifying before the Un-American Activities Committee, wholly through error, characterized the League of Women Voters as, I quote, "A. commie front organization," the story made big headlines across the Nation. I personally analyzed over a score of papers the next day and noted where that story was placed, with a picture of Mr. Disney drawing Mickey Mouses for two children, which, of course, added to the interest of the story. Still, in the first paragraph, or the second or third paragraph, there was this charge against the League of Women Voters. Now Mr. Disney issued a complete retraction and explained his error, but the story was carried, if at all, in a few sentences in the remotest corners of the same papers. In the New York Times, for example, the initial story was on the first page; the retraction was on page 52 of the Sunday paper. [Laughter.]
Senator Hickenloopee. Back of the want ads. [Laughter.] The Chairman. Probably in the financial section. Mrs. Stone. Who can be held responsible for the trouble caused and the damage done? That is a very serious question. It may be that Congress as a whole will have to enact some self-restraining measure, some code of fair conduct for itself, in order to control those small portions of Congress where the legislative prerogative is abused. Surely the wronged person or group should have the right to appear before the same committee and make any explanation they wish to give. Since there is no adequate recourse in the courts, the Congressmen themselves are at such point entrusted with the observance of the Bill of Rights and our traditional liberties.
I should like to request that I be permitted to introduce into my testimony the excellent series of editorials which has been appearing in the Washington Post entitled "Turning on the Light." I do not have all of them with me this morning, but I should like to obtain them and introduce them in the record, if I may, because they are so appropriate.
The Chairman. Without objection, that will be done, Mrs. Stone. (The editorials referred to appear at the conclusion of Mrs. Stone's testimony.)
Mrs. Stone. Thank you.
There are a good many provisions of the Reorganization Act that have not been fully carried out. Of that, we are wholly aware. We are following, with interest, the work of the Majority and Minority Policy Committees set up in the Senate and hope that similar bodies may be set up in the House. We regret that the legislative budget provisions have not worked out and believe that every effort should be made to arrive at a legislative budget in this session.
We regret exceedingly that the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives has not held open hearings as required by the Reorganization Act. We are also very much interested in the problem raised by Professor Burdette—that of the filibuster. We are interested in the problem of seniority and are studying both of these problems. We fully expect to go ahead with our work of building public opinion, carrying on citizen education, toward the end of accomplishing further desirable changes in the organization of Congress.
I should like to say in summary that the League of Women Voters fully recognizes that a good part of the objectives of the Reorganization Act have been carried out, that the gains are significant, that much has been learned on which to proceed.
The Chairman. We thank you, Mrs. Stone, and we are sorry that you did not have proper notice upon which to prepare your statement. The committees of the Congress still find it difficult to plan their work as far ahead as they would like to do, particularly committee hearings. We thought we could save time for the members of this committee by holding this hearing this morning, and we proceeded to do so. We do, however, on a matter of this importance, attempt to inform organizations which have indicated an interest in the matter that hearings will be held, and ask them to prepare their statements. In your case, it appears that it has been impossible to prepare copies of your statement for all the members of the committee, but the committee agrees that it has not been difficult to listen to your testimony even though we did not have printed copies before us. We realize the weakness of our committee work just as well as anybody else does.
Mrs. Stone. I was very glad to come up this morning. I appreciate the fact that you were trying to use this day to pick up some time.
The Chairman. We are hoping to overcome some of those weaknesses, which would increase the efficiency of the legislative branch of the Congress, although we recognize that it is a difficult and probably a slow process. However, it is also a continuing process, and if some gains can be made from year to year, we are constantly approaching the goal as time goes on.
The committee members have been overworked; I am sure of that. They do not find hours enough in the day to do the work which devolves upon them. Everyone has two committees; everyone here has three committees. I believe Senator Hickenlooper has four committees—don't you?
Senator Hickenlooper. Yes.
The Chairman. Including the chairmanship of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. And if we can't do the best we ought to, we are constantly working to try to do the best we can under the circumstances.
Are there any questions?
Senator Hickenlooper. Mrs. Stone, with reference to the Reorganization Act and the failure of certain provisions of it to have been put into effect, do you believe—with some of the extraordinary problems that have been mounting and piling up on us which we reasonably could have anticipated a couple of years ago might have been out of the way by this time—that the mounting problems have increased the work to such an extent that the Reorganization Act has really not had a full opportunity to test itself?
Mrs. Stone. Yes; there has not yet been full opportunity for it to prove itself. Senator Hickenlooper.
Senator Hickenlooper. In other words, for example, we had hoped that international affairs would be smoothed out, and those problems are increasing. We have not been able to settle down to a more or less routine peacetime activity here on internal affairs, which would have really given the Reorganization Act a little fairer chance during this period.
Mrs. Stone. That is certainly true. That is one of the reasons I dislike measuring the success of the act in terms of the number of bills passed and that kind of thing, since a bill embodying the European recovery program is vastly more time consuming than hundreds of bills of the usual run-of-the-mill variety that I don't think you can compare them.
Senator Hickenlooper. I have a feeling that while we can always hope that the Reorganization Act can be completely put injx) effect in all of its details—naturally whether they are modified or not makes little difference—yet we are just going to have to wait awhile and give it a fair chance.
I don't think we are wrong in assuming that international affairs will not continually plague us from now on out to the extent that they are