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the lives of every American citizen; of course, primarily the farmers, in the first instance.
Senator Smith. There have been many efforts made to reorganize the Department of Agriculture, have there not?
Senator RUSSELL. If there has ever been any plan except this blank-check plan, I am not aware of it.
Senator Smith. There have been a number of bills introduced in the Congress during the past years dealing with reorganizations in the Department, but there has not been any progress made
Senator RUSSELL. In the administration of President Truman the Secretary wanted this blank-check power, and I submit that, if Mr. Truman and Secretary Brannan had submitted a specific reorganization plan for the Department of Agriculture, it would have been approved by the Congress.
In my judgment, if President Eisenhower and Secretary Benson would come in and take the Congress into their confidence in what they propose, that plan would be approved by the Congress of the United States.
But that is an entirely different proposition from just delegating this sweeping power in perpetuity from here on out.
How is the Congress ever to recapture it?
Now, the Reorganization Act will expire by operation of law on April 1, 1955, unless it is extended by the Congress. The powers to reorganize and to shift and to shuffle, which are delegated to the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture by this bill, will never expire unless the Congress passes some bill over a Presidential veto to recapture them. That is the only way that you can possibly get them back.
Senator Smith. The Congress enacted into law the Reorganization Act for the purpose of expediting action when congressional procedures failed. Would you not believe that the Congress would have full opportunity to act legislatively if the plan did not work satisfactorily?
Senator Russell. No, Madam Chairman; I do not believe so, for the reason that I stated. No President of the United States is going to have any man in the office of Secretary of Agriculture that he cannot support. Ordinarily the Congress can create or diminish or enlarge a function in that Department by an ordinary majority vote. But, if the Congress were to undertake to overturn a reorganization plan of the Secretary of Agriculture, the Chair knows as well as I do, as a practical legislator who has had great experience and who has great ability, that the President would veto the bill. And you are putting yourself in a position where it would take a two-thirds vote to recapture an authority which the Constitution says that Congress has by a simple majority vote. And that is in perpetuity, because this power that is given to the Secretary of Agriculture does not expire in 1955. It is in that office from here on out unless Congress can mobilize a two-thirds vote to recapture any of it, and that is most unlikely in view of the differences of opinion that we have as to farm programs at this time.
Senator Smith. The plan, Senator Russell, provides that the Secretary shall consult with interested persons or groups before reorganization may become effective.
Senator RUSSELL. It says as far as he deems it practicable for him to do so. He does not have to do it. If the Chair will just read the
sentence before, she will find that the Secretary shall, as far as he deems it practicable, consult with
Senator Smith. Do you not think that the Secretary would consult with the chairmen of the agricultural committees before he made any real change?
Senator RUSSELL. I assume that he would, perhaps, in this administration. We have had administrations where they would not have, and we may have them again somewhere down the line where he would not confer with the chairmen of these committees. That comes right back to the fact that this is permanent legislation. The Congress sought to avoid a situation of that kind by putting a shutoff date on the President of the United States with his powers. But this plan would give a greater power to a nonelected official.
Senator SMITH. Senator Russell, we have on this committee members who have had considerably more experience than I have had in agriculture. In fact, I am flanked by them, one on each side of me, in particular, and I shall lean especially on the Senator from Idaho in this matter.
Senator Dworshak, have you some questions?
Senator DWORSHAK. Thank you for that compliment, Madam Chairman. I do not know that I am any more qualified than the other members of this group, men like Senator Dirksen, who have had long experience in the field of agriculture.
Senator Russell, your colleagues recognize, of course, that you have been closely identified with agricultural activities and have been a student of agricultural policies. I have heard you, I am sure, in the past criticize many of the policies of the Department of Agriculture, and
Senator RUSSELL. I have done it unsparingly, in Democratic and Republican administrations, when I thought they were wrong.
Senator DWORSHAK. Yes. That is exactly what I had in mind when I said that. I recognize that.
What would you do, if you were the Secretary of Agriculture, to solve some of the problems involving duplication and overlapping and some of the confusion which have frustrated many of the improvements which might have been effected within the Department?
Senator RUSSELL. I have not heard of any definite plan for improvement that the Secretary has in mind. If he had one, he did not reveal it to the Subcommittee on Appropriations. But I urged him
I to be prepared to give them to this committee, and I hope that he will.
Of course, I do not have that responsibility. My responsibility is in the legislative field. But I will state that the first thing I would do, if I were Secretary of Agriculture-I will not pursue this indefinitely, because it would lead me off into a field that I have not studied, because I am not charged with that responsibility—the first thing I would do would be to get up a reorganization plan that would consolidate the activities of the Production and Marketing Administration and the Soil Conservation Service. It can greatly increase the efficiency of the Department and, in my opinion, bring about substantial economies.
I would submit that plan to the Congress of the United States. In my judgment, there would be no opposition to it, and it would become law, by operation of law.
Those are two of the largest activities in the Department. I would do that.
I would not do it by putting it under the Extension Service, as the Secretary has the power to do under this general grant of powers. I think that the Extension Service is an educational agency. There are powerful farm groups who have apparently, at least, been somewhat persuasive with some of the officials of the Department of Agriculture at the present time who wish to put those activities under the Extention Service. I think it would be destructive of the Extension Service to give them such a large action program, and I would not do that. But I would certainly start off, if I were the Secretary, by a reorganization order that would consolidate those two vast agencies of the Government. They are the largest ones in the Department.
Senator Smith. The chairman neglected to make a statement concerning photographers, Senator Russell, at the beginning of the meeting. It was my intention to say that we prefer to have photographers take the pictures at the beginning or at the ending of the testimony. If the witness has no objection, the Chair will be very glad if the photographers will take the pictures they desire, and then delay for more until the Senator finishes.
Senator DWORSHAK. Are there any other recommendations that you might make, Senator?
Senator RUSSELL. There are a number of them, yes.
I think that all of your experimental activities should be under one head. You have them scattered through the Department now. You have your experiment stations in soil conservation, in the Bureau of Animal Industry, and every other agency of the Department.
I think that the Secretary might well give consideration to reorganizing to have one division of research in the Department that would coordinate all of your activities in the field of research and experimentation. And in my judgment, if he will do it and tell the Congress what he is doing, instead of coming in here and asking for this permanent unlimited power, the program would be approved without any substantial difficulty.
Senator DwORSHAK. Do you think that he might do that very thing under this order?
Senator RUSSELL. Well, he can do it or he can not do it, or he can abolish some of them under his authority. That is the power that I am objecting to.
Does the Senator from Idaho know what he is proposing to do under this plan? He, as a member of this committee, has to pass on this program that is so vital to the activities of the farmers of this country. Do you have any idea what the Secretary proposes to do?
Senator DWORSHAK. I have recognized for many years that we have a duplication in the field, that there has been extensive criticism because in each locality in your State as well as mine, we have numerous officials striving toward the same objective, and there is criticism of that unnecessary expenditure of Federal funds.
Senator RUSSELL. I agree completely with the Senator, and that is the reason I went to that very subject on the first thing that I said I would do if I were the Secretary, and if this Secretary will do that, the Congress will approve. But it is not necessary to give him power here to abolish agencies or functions or to cripple them, such as your Rural Electrification Administration and your Rural Telephone Service, in order to get these programs approved. And that is the very point I am making.
Senator DWORSHAK. Senator Russell, I am sure that you know that such agencies and functions as REA have almost unanimous approval, if not unanimous approval, of the Congress, and certainly no Secretary fully aware of the political implications would undertake to do anything which might seriously jeopardize the functioning of REA. Is that not right?
Senator RUSSELL. The argument that the Senator makes is the very argument that may ultimately destroy the Congress, and that is because these able people in the executive branch will never do anything wrong, we should give them unlimited powers. That has brought down great governments since the beginning of human history, that seductive siren song, that here is something that these people will not dare to touch because it is too good. They may not today, but this is something that vests this power in the office of the Secretary in perpetuity, and I am unwilling to underwrite what will be done by any person throughout the remainder of time that may fill the office of the Secretary of Agriculture.
Senator DWORSHAK. I am sure the Senator is misconstruing the comments I just made. I was trying to insinuate, if not state definitely, that a Secretary of Agriculture would not undertake to put over any unpopular policies. For instance, we can recall what Secretary Brannan did with his so-called Brannan plan.
Senator RUSSELL. Yes, sir.
Senator RUSSELL. No, he did not, and I was very much opposed to it, and I am almost equally opposed to some of the plans of Secretary Benson. But that does not enter into my objection to this reorganization program.
I am very much opposed to what I assume to be his views with respect to the support on the basic commodities. But that has nothing whatever to do with this, with my objection here.
I was opposed to the Brannan plan. But I think that Mr. Brannan was a sincere man in his desire to serve the farmers, and I know that Mr. Benson is a sincere man in his position.
Senator DWORSHAK. Senator, the point
Senator RUSSELL. But this question of delegation of powers, Senator, should never be measured by the individual to whom you are delegating them, because this is a Government of law, and that is the reason we have the Congress with its powers under the Constitution, and the executive branch with its powers under the Constitution, and the judiciary with its.
Now, there is a constant tendency of all of the other divisions to reach out and grasp power. We see the Supreme Court almost legislating at times in some of the decisions that they hand down today. At least, in my humble opinion as a country lawyer, they virtually legislate in some of their decisions. We know that the executive branch is reaching out for powers. And in the name of good government, the Congress delegates powers, and I supported the delegation of power in the Reorganization Act, but I did it because it said that the President should submit to the Congress the nature of the reorganization that was to take place, the reasons why he reorganized it in that fashion, why he took this agency and abolished this one, and how much was to be saved thereby. And by none of the criteria that are set forth in the Reorganization Act can this be called a reorganization plan.
Senator DWORSHAK. Senator Russell, I am sure you will agree with me that if the Secretary of Agriculture, under the authority granted by such a plan, were to initiate any unpopular reorganization plan or to adopt any policy which would cause adverse criticism throughout the country, there would be political repercussions, and Congress would have ways, especially the minority party in Congress at the time would have effective means, of combatting such proposals.
Senator RUSSELL. I would be tremendously interested to hear the Senator from Idaho tell me how the minority party could combat anything under this program that was done.
Senator DWORSHAK. I am sure that the majority party would be just as responsible.
Senator RUSSELL. I would be very much interested to hear just how the minority party could do anything about it. I think that some of the things that would undoubtedly be done would be beneficial. Some of them might be harmful. I am not measuring them by that yardstick. I have tried as best I could to protect jealously the prerogatives of the Congress of the United States since I have been a member of this body, and I do not propose to deviate in the case of any individual—I do not care who he is or what political party or what his beliefs or views might be because that is not consistent with our form of government. Your theory depends on the man.
A man is here today and gone tomorrow. The Government and the law are supposed to exist and stay.
Senator DWORSHAK. Senator, do you think that the Congress through its Committees on Agriculture has been derelict in any manner in failing to propose and enact legislation which would effect some of these changes which you and I recognize are highly desirable so far as agriculture is concerned?
Senator RUSSELL. The Senator will have to excuse me from getting out and being critical of the committees of Congress. I am not going to invade that field. I have stated my views on some things that should and probably could be done. The Senator can draw any conclusion from that statement that he chooses. But I prefer not to get into personalities. I have refrained from it up until now.
Senator DWORSHAK. I can share your concern along that line. I was merely trying to ask a few questions which would indicate that Congress does have many ways of vetoing or trying to combat any unfavorable action within the Department of Agriculture. In other instances
Senator RUSSELL. The Senator was here in 1950, and he opposed the Reorganization Plan of 1950. Every argument that he is making today would have applied with much greater force in 1950, because at that time Secretary Brannan, if we much deal in personalities, his stock was selling pretty cheap, and the Congress would have had immediate recourse to change them if he had made any alterations that did not meet with the approval of Congress, whereas we have now a new administration, in all the blush of its initial popularity in power, and it might be much different.
But I am not measuring it by the yardsticks of individuals. I say that it is just an unconscionable grant of power by the Congress.