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Mr. SABATH. I think she used to be the secretary of Jim Mann and, if she is the lady, she was a mighty careful type of woman.
The CHAIRMAN. If there are no further questions, we have a large number of gentlemen here this morning to be heard.
Mr. COLLINS. I am very much obliged to you, gentlemen.
STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM H. STAFFORD, A REPRESENTA
TIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WISCONSIN
Mr. STRAFFORD. Resuming the consideration of the provision for a modification of the Private Calendar, I wish to say it was my ill-fortune not to be able to be present when the Republican Conference was held in which they proposed the drastic modificationdrastic modification as I considered it—that would, under the practical operation of that rule, have permitted virtually every private bill that was reported to go through Congress. I felt impelled, therefore, from the fact I had been following the Private Calendar for 18 years at the request of the Republican leaders, to vote against the rule recommended by the Republicans and supported in the House, by my vote, at least, the rule presented by the Democrats.
Until the sixty-eighth Congress, it was my unpleasant task, at the request of Mr. James R. Mann, the Republican leader, to be the only person in the House to act as so-called censor of bílls on the Private Calendar. When I returned to Congress two years ago, Mr. Tilson asked me to do a like service, a similar service, again. It was Mr. Mann's firm belief that the Private Calendar bills should be closely scrutinized. He even resorted to the extreme of leading filibusters when the Private Calendar was called under the rule of the House, so as to prevent bills which were not meritorious, reported from the various Claims Committees, being considered.
Mr. Ross Collins has been appointed by the Democratic leadership as chairman of the committee of censors or objectors, as you may see fit to call them, and I wish to compliment him for the very excellent work he has been doing in scanning the various private bills reported from the various committees. Criticism has been lodged against the action of the objectors, but let me say, having seen the way the group has acted, I do not think there is any grave abuse of the policy. I have thought over this projected rule during the recess and I know of bill after bill on the Private Calendar that has been reported, running into thousands of dollars, that has very little merit, and I think in these times of economy, when we should safeguard the interests of the public, it would be wise for the committees of Congress, that have jurisdiction over private claims, to not report any of these private bills. I could cite instance after instance, when the War Claims Committee was under the chairmanship of Mr. Snell, where he adopted the policy that there should be no old, stale, war claims reported. In the last Congress, the committee reversed that policy and brought out six or eight old, stale, war claims. It is not for me here to say that they lacked merit, but they did not have much standing and I took the position and took the responsibility and the unpleasant responsibility of objecting to them, because they were stale; they were stale, hoary claims. And the same way in the Claims Committee. In the record of yesterday, on the closing pages, the chairman of the committee, Mr. Black, states that every bill that was reported by the Private Claim Committee in the last Congress was ordered to be reported favorably in this Congress. Why, gentlemen, there are four times as many bills reported in each Congress by the Claims Committee as are reported out of the other committees.
Now I only wish to say, in defense of my own position in scanning the Private Calendar, that I did not accept, when Mr. Garner offered to me, the use of his legislative clerk and the work of his private committee--of the abstracts and their judgments on these bills; nor did I accept the work of Mrs. Donnelly, the efficient secretary of Mr. Mann. "Mr. Mann did not lodge with any clerk the determination of his position on public bills, or private bills; he left it to me (and it is a big honor, although a very unpleasant task), when he was in charge, to go over each private bill. In those early days, Mr. Chairman, up to my retirement from Congress eight years ago, the Private Calendar was only called three or four times during the entire Congress, and sometimes only twice toward the end and, before it was called, I would be asked by Mr. Mann whether I was prepared. So in determining my position on every private bill that was brought up in the last Congress, I examined privately the report before the bill was considered. I do not think I was justified to accept the judgment of any woman or any man on the question whether objection should be raised, but I determined for myself in advance and read over every report. I do not know whether I will be able to do that very onerous work in the coming session, because I know how much energy I expended on it.
Mr. BAN KHEAD. You recognize, in the present situation, this is the only medium by which the citizen has an opportunity to have a redress of his grievance?
Mr. STAFFORD. Yes.
Mr. BANKHEAD. You will concede I think, Mr. Stafford, there are a number of legitimate and fair claims presented and reported that ought to be acted upon?
Mr. STAFFORD. Yes.
Mr. BANKHEAD. But if you adopt the policy you suggest, of repression and nonconsideration of these matters, it would deny justice to rightful claimants along with barring those who might not have a good claim?
Mr. STAFFORD. My response to the query of the Gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Bankhead) is that where bills were objected to it might be the policy—I do not know whether it is workable, but I have thought of it—where they were captiously objected to, if they were bills for a very large amount, that they might come before the Committee on Rules, have a hearing of merely five minutes and ask for a rule, and under an omnibus rule be granted the privilege of consideration. That has been proposed for a general rule.
Under the general rule that was proposed by the Republican Conference, I say here, frankly, that every bill that could be reported by the Claims Committee of the House would go through. And to whose advantage? To the advantage of claim agents! I know one bill, for the benefit of one of my constituents, where 25 per cent of
this outrageous amount goes to a set of attorneys in my home city, and 25 per cent goes to a set of attorneys in this city, and it is a most unrighteous claim and should not go through.
You are not going to find, Mr. Chairman, any 6 Members or 5 Members-certain I won't be a party to any such procedure, to go around and try to get 5 Members to object. I do my little duty as I see it, according to the rule laid down by Mr. Mann.
I may have made mistakes, but every objection I made I could justify. Over in my office, I have 200 bills that I objected to, and all of those I could justify, but I am not called upon here to justify them this morning. Now, I want to make the statement I think these legislative committees should pass general legislation giving general relief, rather than singling out one private individual. I could go on and justify it, but I know your time is limited. But I will just mention one case, where I took the responsibility of objecting, granting a year's salary to the widows of persons formerly in the Consular Service. Formerly we did that by an omnibus bill. I was criticised severely and it was even said on the floor of the House I was depriving a year's salary to a constituent of mine and when I came to investigate during the recess, I found out that constituent had $36,000, and yet we were going to vote a year's salary as an honorarium. We do that for the widows of naval officers who die abroad, when they are dependent
Mr. MICHENER. But is it not the real situation this, that the Congress has set up rules in a legitimate way for the transaction of its business. These bills are introduced; Members have a right to introduce them. They are then referred to the committee for consideration. The committee, assuming it does its duty, functions and reports on the bills. Then the bills get on the calendar, whereupon immediately a supercommittee, not set up by the Members of Congress, not within the rules at all, but suggested possibly by the leadership on either side, proceeds to perform the function which they claim is saving the Congress against itself—this supercommittee? And it is due to that situation that we find so much complaint to-day in the House?
Mr. STAFFORD. And I am suggesting a remedy, and I can cite one instance in reply to the gentleman's query, where the Government would have been robbed of millions of dollars.
Mr. MICHENER. I think that is entirely beside the question. You could argue that, of course, but it seems to me when the Congress by its rule provides for the disposition of the business before the Congress, the business should be disposed of in accordance with the rules.
Mr. STAFFORD. Yes.
Mr. MICHENER. And that we are beside the question when we ask outside Members, not on the committee, to assume this censorship. I have every respect for the gentleman and his ingenuity, his industry, his honesty, and his fairness, but I have never been able to appreciate, when a committee has thoroughly considered a bill and brought it on the floor of the House, where it is the duty of the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Stafford) or any other set of objectors to come in and say
Well, now, it is all right, but we do not think that committee did its duty and we think this legislation should not pass, and we are going to insist upon the rule which gives one or two of us the right to prevent the consideration of a bill which the committee did consider.
Mr. Cox. May I ask this: If under the practice the finding of that committee is automatically to be accepted as the judgment of the House, does it not occur to the gentleman that there ought to be some set-up somewhere along the line that might bring about a further review by somebody other than the members of the committee considering the claim-in other words, something to give assurance that the House will exercise its judgment and not depend wholly upon the report of the committee, but possibly upon an understanding of the facts in a general way, itself?
Mr. STAFFORD. We set up the Consent Calendar on public bills for the purpose of expediting the passage of legislation. At the beginning, when that rule was first put into force, there were captious objections. I claim that the consent rule, as far as public bills are concerned, has worked very satisfactorily. Now there should be some supplemental legislation, some supplemental rule of procedure; but as suggested by the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Michener), and the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Cox), to provide for every bill to be given consideration is, I think, unworkable. I think, as I suggested, there are bills that are objected to by the censors that should have an opportunity to come, maybe, before this committee and just be given a hearing for a rule-bills of large moment.
Mr. O'Connor. As you know, Mr. Stafford, I have railed against that system in the House and made a couple of speeches last year denouncing it.
Mr. STAFFORD. Yes; and I could not agree with you.
Mr. O'CONNOR. And it is going to be some time before I can reconcile my idea of a legislative body where you have one, two, three, or a dozen men, who, as you come in here and tell us, for instance and I do not intend to be offensive—that Mr. Mann appointed you, and you tell us. Mr. Tilson appointed you, and I know they did, but the membership of the House does not know that. There is a certain secrecy and covetousness about it. Who are these men! If Mr. Garner, the Speaker, is going to appoint anybody, why does he not announce to the membership of the house who they are; why keep it under cover?
Mr. STAFFORD. Mr. Garner was minority leader last year.
Mr. O'Connor. He never announced it, anyway. I do not know that Mr. Ross Collins, or Mr. Greenwood, or Mr. Blanton, or anybody else was ever appointed to anything and, if so, what; I do not know that Mr. Schafer was ever appointed by anybody. And it is just that sort of thing which is going to be a sore in this body until it is cured. There should not be this court of appeals that substitutes their judgment for that of the House. As I said on the floor, some of the objectors were self-appointed, were they not?
Mr. STAFFORD. No. Mr. Greenwood was a member and can speak authoritatively.
Mr. GREENWOOD. I was selected by Mr. Garner to be one of three to examine these bills and we have a legislative clerk who goes over and makes sort of a brief of the bills so as to present it to us in a more acceptable way. I think my attitude was a little different from Mr. Stafford's and Mr. Collins's in that respect. While I objected to quite a good many bills, I did not object to as many as
they did. I did not assume exactly the same attitude as the Agricultural Committee or Claims Committee did. I think up on the Claims Committee, in considering these bills, these subcommittees, in the first place, consider the United States Government is launching itself into a great many more activities than it did formerly and, personally, there is no way to try any sort of injury case or tort case except by coming to Congress, and I am one of those who believes the Federal courts ought to be clothed with power to decide those cases in a judicial way, and Congress ought not to be bothered with little one, two, or three thousand dollar propositions, but that the person who has a little personal injury or property damage ought to have the same right to go into court as they do in a contractual relation. Then, if there are certain exceptions where it seems injustice would be done, those cases might come to Congress, but certainly not all of these detailed claims we are handling now.
Mr. STAFFORD. To which position I heartily subscribe.
Mr. GREENWOOD. I did not take the same attitude-while I objected to a good many bills that came up, there are many times when I aligned myself with the committee; because I thought the committee reported the bill in a meritorious way.
Mr. MICHENER. Is it not a fact that many objections are just captious ?
Mr. O'CONNOR. I think so; yes.
Mr. MICHENER. And swapping—if you will object to me, some wild fellow on the other side will get up and object to you.
Mr. O'CONNOR. When you are undertaking to consider a bill by unanimous consent, I have no objection to Mr. Stafford or anybody else interposing an objection, because that is unanimous consent, but I think on the claims that have the recommendation of the committee behind them, we ought not to be forestalled to bring that claim up in the proper way for the House to consider, and ought not to allow one objection or two objections to prevent justice from being done, and, even though it go over to the next Calendar Day, I think the House ought to decide by proper vote whether it will consider that bill.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Stafford.
Mr. STAFFORD. You have with you, fortunately, a gentleman who is qualified as well as I to give personal testimony as to the proper procedure. Mr. Grenwood gave very faithful service in the last Congress.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, Mr. Black, we will hear you. STATEMENT OF HON. LORING M. BLACK, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK Mr. BLACK. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, the Committee on Claims instructed me to appear here this morning and offer our suggestions on these proposals. We have no specific suggestion to make. Generally, we want the rules changed. We feel this way about it: In the first place, a bill comes to the committee on the responsibility and good faith of a member who has made some kind of an investigation; secondly, the committee sends it to the department for its report, and there is another investigation, and then when we get the department's report as to the facts and get