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The fate of the proposed administrative assistants was precisely the same as that of Majority and Minority Policy Committees. Each was passed by the Senate; each was stricken out by the House; the Senate concurred for expediency. The Senate, however, demonstrated its belief in the desirability of these measures by appropriating funds for them on a when-as-and-if basis.
There is no good reason for not carrying out this entire recommendation forthwith. The member's job at present is a backbreaker. IV. Additional help for committees
Congressional committees should be given more assistance (1) by retention of adequate staffs and (2) by expansion of the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress.
This recommendation has been adopted in its entirety, by statute. Specifically, all regular standing committees are authorized to retain four professional staff members at $5,000-$8,000 per year and adequate clerical help, and the Legislative Reference Service is to expand its budget from less than $200,000 to $550,000 for the fiscal year 1947, $650,000 for 1948, and $750,000 for 1949, including the retention of about twenty experts at $10,000 per year.
Two aspects of this recommendation warrant continued consideration. Strengthening the Congress states that “The committees should go into the open market to procure the necessary talent wherever it may be found, and should be prepared to pay the price prevailing for the lawyers, engineers, accountants, statisticians, and analysts needed.” All concerned emphasize the necessity for careful selection of this expert personnel, particularly with respect to the blunt rejection of patronage as a factor. It is questionable, however, that the best staff can be obtained with the top salary limitation of $8,000.
The second aspect worthy of continuing consideration is the desirability-from the standpoint of increased economy and effectiveness of a combination and coordination of the research work done by the staffs of the equivalent Senate and House committees. This possibility was emphasized in Strengthening the Congress as an important reason for “twinning" the committees. V. Elimination of filibuster in Senate
The Senate should adopt a cloture rule rigid enough to eliminate the filibuster.
The bill establishing the Joint Committee specifically precluded matters "concerned with floor procedure," a euphemism referring to Senate cloture. The Act is correspondingly silent on the subject.
A cloture rule is one which limits debate in order to bring an issue to vote. It should be invokable by a simple majority rather than by the present two* thirds vote, because the democratic process is based upon rule by the majority.
Without such a cloture rule, a minority can prevent passage of a bill by filibustering.
The primary danger in the next two years is that of legislative inactivity resulting from a Democratic Presidency and a Republican Congress. It therefore becomes imperative that any obstructions to the enactment of legislation by majority vote be removed. It is noteworthy that the filibuster or threat of filibuster has been used in recent years almost entirely for the obstruction of legislation generally regarded as desirable and progressive. The statements in Strengthening the Congress on cloture still stand:
"The importance of the filibuster should not be measured only in terms of the number of filibusters, because the mere threat of filibuster is usually sufficient to block action.
“Objection is made to cloture on the grounds that it 'limits free speech,' that it is a 'gag rule,' and that it is 'undemocratic.' Cloture would not limit free speech,' since any Senator could talk as freely and as much as he might wish in places other than the Senate. It is unfair to stigmatize as a 'gag rule' the prevention of unrestricted talk on the Senate floor, where it obstructs the business of the most important body in the country, i. e., Congress. Cloture would not be undemocratic'; rather, it would be definitely democratic in that it would prevent a small group of men from imposing their will on the majority.”
If the majority in either House wishes to limit debate in order to vote on an issue, why not permit the majority to do so? The House does it; why not the Senate? It is time for elimination of the filibuster. VI. Provisional legislation Congress should expand use of provisional legislation (or legislative veto).
Provisional legislation is legislation with a string tied to it. Technically it is s Congressional authorization with specified policy limitations, empowering the Esecutive to propose actions a given period in advance of their effective date,
during which period Congress retains the right to veto them. If no Congressional veto takes place, the executive proposals go into effect.
Provisional legislation enables Congress concurrently (a) to establish policy, (b) to avoid bogging down over details, and (c) to exert control in advance of executive action. On the other hand, it enables the executive branch to work out technical details, which it can do at least as well as Congress, and to achieve a desirable flexibility in administration.
Provisional legislation was not made a part of the Joint Committee report or the Act primarily because its use and application are not yet fully recognized. It is y nonetheless a worthwhile technique for reducing the Congressional work load and permitting Congress to concentrate on major policy. VII. Elimination of riders
Congress should discontinue the passing of riders that are unrelated to the main content of bills.
This recommendation has been adopted in its entirety.
Continued vigilance is nonetheless necessary. The Act restates the Senate rule and thereby records an intention. The House has a similar rule. However, the intention can be circumvented if the Rules Committee should bring in a special
1x rule to cover a particular case or if no member raises a point of order when a "rider" is presented. VIII. Broader appropriation bills
Congress should trend toward reasonably broad appropriation bills and away from detailed bills.
This recommendation is endorsed implicitly in the Act by change in rules, which is all that could be expected. The Act directs the Appropriations Committees to develop standard appropriation classification schedules and uniform accounts, thereby tending to eliminate excessive itemization. The Act also directs the General Accounting Office to study restrictions placed on expenditures to determine the general desirability thereof and specifically whether compliance costs more than if there were no restrictions. IX. General Accounting Office
Congress should insure that the General Accounting Office is an effective instrument for control of executive expenditures:
1. By giving it audit power over all Federal agencies, departments, and corporations. 2. By insisting on current and useful reports from the Office.
3. By establishing a Joint Committee on Public Accounts to insure action on these reports.
This recommendation has been adopted in its entirety by statute, except that reports are to be submitted to the appropriate regular standing committees rather than to a Joint Committee on Public Accounts. While the latter would be the best method of insuring action, it is expected that the regular standing committees, plus the Senate and House Committees on Expenditures in the Executive Departments which will receive all reports, will exercise sufficient surveillance. X. Question periods to hold executive branch accountable
Congress should experiment with periods for questioning executive department!' heads before each of the whole Houses.
This recommendation falls within the category of "floor procedure” and therefore was excluded from the consideration of the Joint Committee because of the euphemism designed to preserve the right of filibuster.
The question period is a desirable technique. With the proper safeguards, it would have the following advantages, as set forth in Strengthening the Congress:
“1. All members, rather than only the members of affected committees, could hear the presentation of executive officials on important matters.
“2. Public interest would be engendered in vital questions.
“3. The transmission of information now conveyed loosely and informally through press conferences, committee hearings, telephone calls, and chance meetings would be institutionalized and definitized.
“4. Congress would readily obtain succinct and responsible written statements of executive policies, plans, and procedures. As a result, Congress would tend to be more receptive to executive-sponsored legislation than when such legislation is presented without forewarning and without Congressional participation in formulation.
"5. The plan might provide desirable incentives for executive department heads boy creating public recognition for well-done jobs; conversely, it might ultimately bring about the resignation of department heads whose programs had been repudiated.” XI. Formal inquiries into basic national affairs
Congress should make more frequent formal and organized inquiries into basic rutional affairs.
'This recommendation was not made a part of the Joint Committee report or the Act because it is properly a function of each Congress. It is therefore incumbent upon the people to make known which basic national affairs they wish made subject to formal and organized inquiries.
These inquiries might be conducted by a regular standing committee, by a special committee, or by a mixed commission composed of members of Congress as well as executive branch officials and private citizens. The nature of the subject should determine which of the three is employed. Parenthetically, howcver, it should be noted that regular standing committees have the disadvantage of having a full load to carry in the ordinary conduct of their work; that special committees have the disadvantage of confusing the contemplated clean-cut committee structure and of tending to become self-perpetuating; and that mixed commissions have the advantage of utilizing specialized and authoritative personnel.
Typical subjects currently needing national inquiries are the construction industry and labor-management relations. XII. Seniority rule
Congress should develop a substitute for the seniority rule for committee chairmanships.
T'he Joint Committee reported that its membership was unable to agree upon a recommendation, and the Act is correspondingly silent. Nonetheless, the case against the seniority system in Strengthening the Congress still holds and will continue to hold until action is taken, as follows:
"Chairmen of Congressional committees wield a powerful influence. They are appointed on the bases of (a) length of service on the committee and (6) alliliation with the majority party. This rule has been rigid for many years. It has the following serious defects:
"1. The protection given a chairman because of his seniority enables him to be arbitrary with impunity.
"2. The seniority rule practically eliminates the possibility of withholding & committee chairmanship from the senior man, even though he may be unqualified for the job.
"%. The reasons for reelection may have no correlation with competency for a chairmanship. Thus, the basis for selection of chairmen is one not necessarily related to the factors which should control.
"4. Those sections of the country which, regularly reelect their members of. Congress tend to obtain overbalanced control when their party comes into power because their members accumulate seniority even when their party is not in power. Other sections of the country reflect changes in public sentiment by electing new members. But the latter have little chance to hold the positions where the changed public sentiment could receive appropriate recognition.
"The seniority rule is to be deplored. The people of the United States have a right to expect Congress to find a better_substitute. Party leadership should adarens itself earnestly toward this end. Efforts to achieve the degree of party responsibility and accountability needed will be seriously impeded unless the *niority rule is eliminated.
"In this report no substitute or modification is recommended. The problem of seniority is so bound up with traditions, emotions, personalities, and other considerations essentially internal to Congress that a definite recommendation waed on external study would be inappropriate. The solution should be worked out within the Congressional family.
Heveral factors should bring the seniority system to a crisis in the near future:
1. The reduction in number of committees makes the chairmen more important than ever.
2. The strong possibility of establishment of Majority and Minority Policy Committees composed of committee chairmen necessitates that the latter be the boat men for the job.
3. The need for increased party responsibility and accountability makes it imperative that the seniority system be discarded as a shield protecting committee hairmen from the will of the majority.
The seniority system should be abolished, and a better system for selecting committee chairmen should be established. XIII. $25,000 salaries
Members of Congress should be paid salaries of $25,000 per year.
The Act by statute awards ́ members an increase from $10,000 to $12,500 plus a $2,500 tax-free expense allowance, giving the equivalent of a salary of $16,000 or more owing to the tax saving on the expense allowance.
Because of wartime wage stabilization measures and subsequent anti-inflation policies, together with the ever-present reluctance of members to raise their own salaries in view of possible political repercussions, this increase is about all that could have been expected. It is still inadequate. The salary should be $25,000.
It is extremely unfortunate that members of Congress are placed in the illogical position of fixing their own compensation. Until a method is devised for removing the present stigma, it is to be expected that members will be underpaid from the standpoints of both what they need and what they ought to have.
A perfectly legal and logical way to remedy this situation would be for Congress to request the United States Supreme Court, or some other agency of preeminent position, to study Congressional compensation and make recommendations. While it would still be necessary for Congress to enact the legislation, nonetheless the absurd existing situation would have been at least partially alleviated. XIV. Retirement pay Y
With certain exceptions, members of Congress should receive at age 55 annual Service Retirement pay of $1,000 for each full year of Congressional service, up to a maximum of $10,000 annually.
This recommendation designed to permit any member 55 or more years of age to retire with adequate pay commensurate with his years of service. It was not intended to mean that members had to retire at 55. Members, of course, may serve as long as their constituents so desire.
The Act by statute places members under the regular Federal Retirement Sys- / tem. This retirement pay is not all it should be for many good reasons. It violates the principle laid down in Strengthening the Congress that “Congressional Service Retirement should meet the particular requirements and deserts of Congressional service. Other retirement plans for other types of services with other attendant circumstances shed little light on the type of program suitable for Congress.”
However, as in the case of the salary increase, half a loaf is better than none and it is perhaps unwise at this time to devote appreciable effort toward consummating a more fitting arrangement. XV. Reduction of Congressional work load
у The Congressional work load should be reduced or reallocated.
Congress is seriously overburdened. Several recommendations in Strengthening the Congress were specifically designed to correct this situation. There are many things which can be done. Presented below are certain recommendations of the Joint Committee toward this end, all of which are good:
"1. That Congress divest itself of the duty of governing the District of X Х Columbia and provide for a referendum on adoption of self-government by city charter.
“2. That an Office of Congressional Personnel be established to provide Congress with a modern personnel system for all its service employees; to establish qualification standards, job classifications, tenure of employment, regular rules for promotion and pay increases, leave, retirement.
"3. That a complete and understandable digest of a bill, together with legislative changes made by the bill, written in nontechnical language, accompany the committee report on each bill; and that this digest include a supporting statement of reasons for its passage, of the national interest involved, its cost, and the distribution of any benefits.
“4. That Congress delegate authority to the Federal courts and to the Court of Claims to hear and settle claims against the Federal Government; and that Government agencies and departments be empowered to handle local and private matters now provided for in private bills, such as private pension bills and legislation authorizing construction of bridges over navigable streams.”
The Senate refused to pass the first and second, and the House refused to pass ! the third. Therefore, only the fourth was enacted by change in rules. There are several reasons for rejection of the first; some are good and some are bad, but all represent the sincere convictions of their propounders. The reason for rejec
tion of the second is fear of infringement of patronage. There seems to be no good reason for rejection of the third. XVI. Fiscal policy and legislative budget
A soundly conceived fiscal and monetary policy is vitally important. Nevertheless, of all its activities, Congress appears weakest in this respect. There is little effort made (a) to release total revenue and total appropriations so that they are balanced or designedly unbalanced, (b) to analyze specific revenue measures in terms of total revenue requirements, (c) to align specific appropriations measures with a predetermined level for total appropriations, (d) to grant real discretion to appropriations committees as regards the total amount of money to be spent since such a large percentage is already committed by the previous passage of substantive legislation. Majority Policy Committees would be in a strategic position to determine over-all fiscal policy and to assure that legislation coming forward through all committees was in accordance therewith.
Getting and spending the taxpayers' money warrants a rational and controlled Congressional procedure. Instead, there is fiscal anarchy. The Joint Committee sums up its appraisal with a question: "With this divided authority existing .: how could Congress have a general fiscal policy or follow it if it had one?”
The recommendation made by the Joint Committee to meet this situation is as follows:
"That by joint action the Revenue and Appropriations Committees of both Houses submit to the Congress within 60 days after each session opens a concurrent resolution setting over-all Federal receipts and expenditures (estimated) for the coming fiscal year. If total expenditures recommended exceed estimated income, Congress should be required by record vote to authorize creation of additional Federal debt in the amount of the excess. All appropriations (with specific exceptions) would be reduced by a uniform percentage in case total appropriations erceeded the amount of the approved budget figure.
The foregoing recommendation was adopted by the Senate. However, it was revised by the House and eventually appeared in the Act as a change in rules, as paraphrased below:
"The Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Finance and the Committev on Appropriations of the Senate are directed to meet jointly at the beginning of each regular session of Congress and report a legislative budget for the ensuing fiscal year, including the estimated over-all Federal receipts and expenditures for
Such report shall contain a recommendation for the maximum amount to be appropriated for expenditure in such year. If the estimated receipts exo***t the estimated expenditures, such report shall contain a recommendation for a reduction in the public debt. "The report shall fix the maximum amount to be appropriated for expenditure
If the estimated expenditures exceed the estimated receipts, the solution shall inolude a section as follows: "That it is the sense of the Congress that the public debt shall be increased in an amount equal to the amount by which the estimated expenditures for the ensuing fiscal year exceed the estimated repriprs, such amount being $.
Act accomplishes an important objective: appropriations are viewed as & whoir: invenuen aro viowed as a whole; appropriations and revenues are related;
Congres must lnoe up to increasing the federal debt if expenditure estimates proper receipts ontimaton. While all these Congressional actions may seem ele
rary, they are novortheless a long step forward. It is one thing to incur debt er arrion of appropriations have been passed and it is found that revenues are sufficient. It is quito another thing to acknowledge at the outset that additional fort will have to be inourred. The people will have their first opportunity for infring opponition to debt increase during a given fiscal year before that year
per the pubstantial progress represented by the Act, it is not enough. The funt opriation should be set as a matter of policy: The Joint Committee Papel climt fr the individunt appropriations exceed this total, they should be
Forum, Automationlly, except certain irreducible items such as permanMen printios, intorent on the public debt, and veterans' pensions.
het me recommendations on machinery for formulation of fiscal i min bertos delicionoy. The establishment of policy and the resolu
A placed in the hands of the two revenue committees and the ***Wypialton committoon. This decision was probably regarded by the denne og politically expedient. However, it seems clear that a matter
in suel voar.
* Trunlly over.