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AMENDMENTS TO THE RULES OF THE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
SATURDAY, JANUARY 16, 1932
COMMITTEE ON RULES,
Washington, D.C. The committee met at 10 o'clock, a. m., Hon. Edward W. Pou (chairman) presiding. STATEMENT OF HON. ROSS A. COLLINS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
Mr. COLLINS. Mr. Chairman, I do not know whether the resolution the committee has been considering is applicable to both the Consent Calendar and the Private Calendar, or whether it is only applicable to the Private Calendar. I assume it is applicable only to the Private Calendar. The CHAIRMAN. I think that is right.
Mr. COLLINS. So I will address my remarks to a change in the rule with regard to objections on the Private Calendar.
If your rule is changed that five objections will be necessary instead of one, it means, in my opinion, that one of two things is bound to happen: First, that you will pass no bills, because these bills are considered in the House and, if the persons who are listed as objectors want to, they can delay the consideration of the bills indefinitely.
Mr. BANKHEAD. Just in that connection, let me state that the proposed change under the Purnell resolution and the Crisp resolution provides that we shall go in a Committee of the Whole to consider these private bills?
Mr. COLLINS. They both provide that?
Mr. COLLINS. Now considering it, then, from that standpoint, of course you can not delay the consideration of them to the same extent in the Committee of the Whole, but you can delay them to a very large extent and they will be delayed to a large extent and you will not pass, in the end, a fourth as many of these bills as you are passing now. Now that is as to that phase of it.
With regard to what is best for the country--and that seems to me to be the only consideration that should actuate any of us—we will find this situation: We will find a bill goes to the Claims Committee and it is referred to a subcommittee of one man. That is the actual practice; usually it is referred, or it has been the practice in the past to refer it to a subcommittee composed of one man whom
the Member who introduced the bill wants his bill referred to, and the bill will be brought out. It will go on the calendar and we have had three men on the Democratic side considering these bills. Mr. Greenwood and some gentleman from New York at one time, and our good friend Jerry O'Connell and I were on that committee. Well, Jerry was there for the purpose of helping the boys get their bills through and not for the purpose of objecting to them, and he spent all of his time trying to keep Greenwood and I from objecting to them.
Now there are a great many bills I have considered in the last two years that ought to have been objected to, that I did not object to, because they are border-line bills, or they are bills that you are overpersuaded about, and frankly, I believe that the bills are given more consideration by the persons in charge of them on the floor than they are by the subcommittee of one man, who considers them in committee. I know at times I have worked with as many as eight people on these bills. I would refer them to the different clerks of the Appropriation Committee for expressions of policy and to the clerks in the law library, of the Library of Congress, and to other persons other than the legislative clerks, and I can not but believe that you are going to increase your appropriations by at least three or four times if this rule is passed and there is not some effort made to delay the bills in their consideration. Of course, if you make it five, you might as well provide that every bill that is reported out of the Claims Committee shall be considered as having passed the Congress, because it will be tantamount to that; because you are not going to get five men to object to those bills for the reason it is a very difficult matter to get anybody to act as an objector. Frankly, I have adopted the policy of having all of my bills, private bills, introduced in the name of some one else; because the very fact that I act as objector will in turn cause my bills to be objected to.
So any change you make, if you make it five Members, you are going to make it impossible to defeat one of these bills; because everybody has these bills and they won't object to somebody else's bill because they say that he, in turn, will object to mine, and then they say “it is a dirty job, anyway, and I do not want to do it.” And then another argument is " you select three men who have agreed to do this; it is their duty to object to these bills ” and, in actual practice, if you make it five Members, unless a constant filibuster is carried on by your objectors, everything is going to be passed, whether it is meritorious or not. And, frankly, I have seen bills on this calendar that were outrageous. I can go to my files on bills for the last two years and show you bills that the members of this committee can not conceive a Member of Congress would introduce.
Mr. PURNELL. You mean they passed, or were introduced ?
Mr. COLLINS. No; they did not pass; but in many instances one objection defeated them and, if it had not been for one objection, they would have passed.
Mr. MICHENER. They were reported favorably!
Mr. COLLINS. They were reported favorably. Now, gentlemen, there is not but one way, as I see it, to consider this matter and I have given it a great deal of my time and thought. I have had a survey made of the manner in which other governments consider
their private claims and from this survey I decided to introduce two bills and did introduce two bills in line with the practice that has been adopted in foreign countries. The two bills, in substance, provide that the ordinary claims bill shall be referred to the Comptroller General if the amount is under a thousand dollars, and the Comptroller General shall have a right to settle it, compromise it, and pay the man the money that he is entitled to. I named the Comptroller General, because the Comptroller General is not a court. We do not want an adjudication of the question; we want to get the claim out of the way and paid and, if the man is entitled to something, he should be paid speedily. If it is over a thousand dollars, he considers the claim and submits his recommendations to the Congress and Congress in turn submits it to the proper committee. If it is a tort (other than for lands, we do not affect the standing of the committee with regard to the payment for damages to lands, and so forth, but if it is å tort), he considers it and, if it is over a thousand dollars, his consideration is reviewed by the Court of Claims and their recommendations come to the Congress.
Now, I have no pride in either of these bills, but they are steps in what I think is the right way to consider these claims bills. The Congress, in my opinion, has no business playing around here with a lot of small claims.
Mr. GREENWOOD. Mr. Collins, at that point, could I ask how would it do to have it placed in the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims or United States Courts to settle torts on the recommendation of the Comptroller General, up to a certain figure, so as to eliminate them from Congress entirely?
Mr. COLLINS. Well, I think you ought to place a limitation on it. I do not think the Court of Claims has got any business reviewing the considerations of the Comptroller General. The Court of Claims is not a court
Mr. GREENWOOD. I understood you did refer them to the Court of Claims.
Mr. Collins. I did, but I did it because I was asked to do it, and the bill I drafted was the composite thought of a dozen people, and was arrived at after-
Mr. GREENWOOD. What I was attempting to get at was to eliminate a lot of these small claims, say up to $3,000, and have them adjudicated by some court or some official who would go into them in a judicial way, so that we would be relieved.
Mr. COLLINS. Well, the reason I thought the Comptroller General should do this is because the Comptroller General is a legislative officer and he has never lost sight of the fact that he is a legislative officer, and I thought, in view of the fact he finally has to pass on the accounts, that he was the proper officer to do that. I thought his jurisdiction should extend to claims of a thousand dollars, and if his recommendation was over a thousand, or over two thousand, or over three thousand-some amount that could easily be arrived atthat his report of findings should come back to the Congress to approve, and then the Claims Committee would have something of a worth-while nature to review. I think that is the way the matter ought to be considered; I do not believe in giving to any one the final determination of claims of a large amount.
Mr. MICHENER. That matter is not before this committee, is it? Mr. COLLINS. Yes. Mr. MICHENER. I mean this is a question of a revision of the rules. That matter you are referring to would require legislation, and what I was getting at is, I thought we were just considering not how we are going to dispose of those cases but whether or not it was advisable to amend this rule.
Mr. COLLINS. Well, if you amend your rule, it just means that the other measures will not pass; because there are some men here who have lots of those claims bills, and they are interested primarily in getting these bills passed. There are lawyers here in town who play around with these claims bills; they are interested in getting them passed. It does not make any difference to me, one way or the other, except I do not want any bill to pass, as I know you gentlemen do not want any bill to pass, unless it is meritorious. And the result is going to be, if you make it five, you are going to have the result of one man's action being the determining factor in Congress,
Mr. Cox. Mr. Collins, if it is a fact that the Claims Committee in the past has been less careful and cautious in the reporting of these bills—which, of course, I do not say is the case—would you not think the adoption of this rule would give the committee a better appreciation of their responsibility and obligation to the Congress and to the country?
Mr. COLLINS. Oh, no; I do not think anything like that. I do not think anything like that, because it is impossible for the Claims Committee to function, except as subcommittees of one man. They can not function with the large number of claims that they have. There is a third of the bills introduced in Congress that are private claims bills. It is impossible for them to function correctly.
Mr. Cox. In your view just what virtue, then, has the report of the Claims Committee, made after a study and investigation?
Mr. COLLINS. Well I am not picking on the Claims Committee; it is the last thing in the world that I would do; but there is not any committee of Congress that can properly consider a third of the bills introduced in Congress.
Mr. MICHENER. That being true, take these objectors: How can they consider them.
Mr. COLLINS. We consider only the bills that are on the calendar and we usually consider about 100.
Mr. MICHENER. Well you have your other committee work.
Mr. COLLINS. I mean 100 each sitting, and then, in addition to that, each party has a legislative clerk. The legislative clerks take these bills; they set down on a piece of blank paper what the report shows and what the meat of the bill is, so that you have a synopsis of the bills in a very few lines, so that you can speedily consider them.
Mr. O'CONNOR. They tell me that in the last Congress on the majority side some lady determined all this-whether or not a bill
Mr. COLLINS. It was a very competent lady whom I understand Mr. Mann employed in his lifetime and she helped him, and the very fact she was a helper of Mr. Mann would lead me to believe she was a very excellent clerk.