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Veterans of Foreign Wars
OBJECTS TO BUDGET BUREAU PROPOSAL WITHOUT OPPORTUNITY FOR DETAILED
PUBLIC CONSIDERATION (1) Council of Veterans Auxiliaries
FOR BUDGET BUREAU PROPOSAL (3)
National Council of Jewish Women
League of Women Voters
Greater Washington Area Council, American Veterans Committee Commissioner DONOHUE. And may I repeat, sir, that with, shall I say, the very beneficent prodding of Senator Case, which stimulated the Board of Commissioners to action in this matter, and with the great skill and administrative ability of my partner on the Board of Commissioners, General Robinson, the Engineer Commissioner, we were fortunately able to present for the consideration of the President, which consideration ultimately resulted in the President's acceptance of the Commissioners' plan for the reorganization of the government of the District of Columbia—for this reason only were we prepared to present the plan which was presented, after preparation, and is now before this honorable committee for its consideration.
And if I may, I would like to ask the author of this plan, General Robinson, to present it in detail to the members of this committee.
The CHAIRMAN. We shall be glad to hear him in a moment, Mr. Commissioner.
Is this plan, as submitted by the President, the exact plan developed by the Board of Commissioners and submitted to the President?
Commissioner DONOHUE. In its basic philosophy and theory, there is no difference, sir.
With respect to some of the lesser details, it contains some slight modification. But it is essentially and wholly the plan as originally prepared.
The CHAIRMAN. We, of course, do not have before us the plan prepared by the Bureau of the Budget, and even if we had it before us, we could not do anything about it, in that we could not accept it or substitute it for the plan submitted. We have to either accept or reject this plan as is, without any amendment or substitution.
But regarding the present plan, of which I have not had the time to make a thorough study or analysis, it is a plan insofar as it is a plan, that delegates tremendous powers to the Board of Commissioners, does it not?
In other words, it is more of a delegation of power than it is a plan of reorganization. And I assume that there is actually a specific proposal that would give us some information as to what is going to happen under this delegation of power.
Commissioner DONOHUE. Yes, sir. The general will present you with an organizational chart, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, which will show in detail the purpose of the Board of Commissioners in carrying out this tremendous responsibility which is placed on us by the terms of this plan.
The CHAIRMAN. All right. Now, there is just one other question. You say you have such a plan prepared, that you are prepared to submit to this committee, showing the details of the reorganization that you will consummate under this delegation of authority.
May I ask why the details of the plan were not incorporated in the reorganization plan? What is the reason why they could not have been incorporated in the plan, so that if the Congress approves it, it would then become law, the equivalent of statute, directing that the plan be carried out and executed in that manner?
Commissioner DONOHUE. I would assume, Senator, that perhaps the best reason for not having done so is that it would freeze the reorganization according to the specific date as presented in the plan.
It might well be that time and events might indicate that a proposal specifically was an unwise one, and without the opportunity to correct or change it, freezing it according to an organizational chart, I think, would seriously handicap us in a new field in ultimately arriving at a form of government in the District of Columbia which will best suit our needs and will best provide for the people of Washington the municipal services which a government is purposed to perform.
The CHAIRMAN. I agree that in these reorganizations of the departments, and of the government of the District of Columbia, some latitude must be allowed to the administrative official in effecting coordinated and efficient reorganization. I am not passing judgment yet upon the plan, but I am not very much inclined to support these plans that simply abolish government functions or structures and then delegate almost unlimited power to an administrative head or a department head to just take over the Government and then do what they want to with it.
Commissioner DONOHUE. May I say, Senator, that I think there is one difference between a plan of the same type with respect to reorganization of the government of the District of Columbia and any other Federal agency.
That essential difference lies in the fact that this plan containing this broad grant of authority to the Board of Commissioners was submitted by the Board of Commissioners last fall to the people of Washington.
The support for that plan has been overwhelming. I think it is a tribute not so much to the integrity or ability of the present Board of Commissioners but goes to a historic recognition by the people of Washington that as far back as 1874, with respect to each succeeding Board of Commissioners—and I think this is about the thirty-sixth or thirty-seventh successive Board of Commissioners—there has never been a breath of scandal with respect to the functioning of the office of the Commissioner of the District of Columbia.
I think historically, therefore, the people have a confidence in the willingness of the Board of Commissioners, whoever may be its constituent members, to carry out the authority granted under this reor
ganization plan in cooperation with the people of Washington and in full accordance with the purposes of the plan.
I might say that one of our avowed purposes should we be given the authority to carry out this plan would be the appointment of a citizens advisory council, which is the very heart of this plan.
The CHAIRMAN. Who would appoint it?
Commissioner DONOHUE. The Board of Commissioners, sir. And with the aid of that representative group of oustanding Washington peope, we would then work out the details of this plan, and, by being given as wide latitude as we have been given, I think the end result would be better than if the plan were frozen and fixed in the Reorganization Act itself.
The CHAIRMAN. Do not misunderstand me. I am neither challenging the plan as presented and as now before us, nor am I challenging the actual reorganization plan which you contemplate placing into effect.
Commissioner Donohue. I understand that, sir.
The CHAIRMA. The only thing that gives me concern, and I would certainly defer to your judgment and the judgment of the Commissioners as to how the District could best be organized, is that there always is a fundamental principle regarding legislation and this delegation of authority and the abdication of our responsibilities that is involved in these things. I am reluctant to go too far in that direction. I do not think it is sound policy. It is not sound legislation. Yet we are confronted today with a government so complex that to follow minutely the democratic processes of legislation is almost an impossible task for the Congress to perform. And we do find it necessary therefore, from time to time, unavoidably so, to delegate some powers that the Congress should exercise itself. However, I would not like to go any further in that direction than is absolutely necessary.
Commissioner DONOHUF. Senator, there is one other consideration which I should not overlook, and that is the fact that no matter what form of organization the District of Columbia government may take, regardless of how much of a grant of authority may be given to the Board of Commissioners by such a reorganization plan as this, the fact remains that the city council for the city of Washington, regardless of its form, continues to be the Congress of the United States.
The CHAIRMAN. That is true. We still have statutory control over the District of Columbia. We still have control over a Government department, too; if we delegate power to the head of a department to reorganize, we can still pass legislation controlling his actions. But the truth is that this volume of legislation has increased to where it is becoming increasingly difficult to give the proper consideration to the enactment of vital legislation, much less to legislation to correct or control the actions of the District of Columbia commissioners taken under a reorganization plan such as this. So we need to take as much precaution as possible in order not to have to apply so much prevention later.
Commissioner DONOHUE. Of course, while the Congress, Senator, has to take up as much of its time as it does in legislating on such rather trivial matters as the type of a dog tag in the District of Columbia, it detracts from the time that you might use otherwise, and there is an indication that there hasn't been too much grant of authority
given to the Commissioners at any time, or we might take that power ourselves.
The CHAIRMAN. The power of taxation is still retained in the Congress, of course?
Commissioner DONOHUE. Yes, sir. This reorganization plan does. not increase the present power of the Board of Commissioners except insofar as it would give us the authority to reorganize the government of the District of Columbia.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you tell me this, or I assume General Robinson will be able to explain it. It appears there are about 95 present agencies, bureaus of the District, that are abolished by the plan. Commissioner DONOHUE. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. And there are several others in the District, I am advised, without naming them, that are not abolished. In other words, they would be retained.
Can you enlighten us as to why they were not included in the plan?
Commissioner DONOHUE. Well, I think perhaps I could, Senator. I think it might be better if I might be able to let the brain that. conceived this plan make the explanation to this committee. · The CHAIRMAN. All right. We will hear General Robinson on that. - (See statement of General Robinson, p. 71, May 20 hearing.)
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Commissioner, we thank you, and I may assure you that so far as the Chair is concerned, I have an absolutely open: mind on this matter.
Commissioner DONOHUE. Thank you, Senator.
The CHAIRMAN. I hope I can consider it favorably; but I do not know. As I said, I would not want to undertake to tell you how to reorganize the government of the District of Columbia. I would defer to your knowledge and judgment upon the mechanics of that.
But I am always concerned about this broad delegation of power. It distresses me and sometimes alarms me, and presents a problem which I must try to satisfy myself upon: That the existing situation in the District of Columbia requires such a broad grant of power.
Thank you very much, Mr. Commissioner.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. Have a seat, Colonel Hayes, please. We are glad to have you.
Senator Case, I beg your pardon. I intended certainly to offer you the privilege of asking any questions, and if you have any questions of Commissioner Donohue, I will ask him to return.
Senator CASE. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate that. There are a couple of questions I want to ask one of the Commissioners, and if it will not interrupt the procedure, perhaps I could ask them of Mr. Donohue.
The CHAIRMAN. Certainly; I sincerely beg your pardon, Senator.
Senator CASE. That is perfectly all right. I would have brought the matter out later.
I think for the record it would be a good thing to have a statement on certain things by the Commissioner.
Commissioner Donohue, in section 3, the reorganization plan proposes that the Board of Commissioners is authorized to make from time to time such provisions as it deems appropriate to authorize
the performance of any of its functions, including any function transferred to or otherwise vested in the Board of Commissioners, by any other officer, employee, or agency of the government of the District of Columbia, except the courts thereof.
A great many functions are placed on the Commissioners by acts of Congress.
Is the omission of the phrase "by the Congress” intentionally put in there to prevent transfer of functions which may be vested in the Commissioners after this date? Or is it accidental ?
Commissioner DONOHUE. It certainly was not by intent or design, Senator. I do not think the point was in our mind at all.
(See statement by General Robinson, p. 72, May 20 hearing.)
Senator CASE. That is, it occurs to me there may be functions placed on the Commissioners after the effective date of this reorganization plan.
Do you understand that those functions might be transferred or delegated by the Commissioners to some agency or employee of the District ?
Commissioner DONOHUE. Yes, sir; unless, of course, the act of Congress specifically indicated that they were to be functions which were to be performed by the Board of Commissioners and not subject to delegation.
Senator CASE. That has a relationship to section 4 also, which I think should be pointed out. In section 4, the plan says:
There are hereby established in the government of the District of Columbia so many agencies and offices and with such names or titles, as the Board of Commissioners shall from time to time determine.
That is, apparently, after wiping out these existing agencies and putting them in the Commissioners, then it says to the Commissioners: “You may recreate such offices and agencies with such names and titles as from time to time you may determine."
Now, it might be assumed at that point that there is no limitation on those agencies or offices.
But the next sentence goes on to say:
The said offices shall be filled by appointment by, or under the authority of, the Board of Commissioners. And then the following sentence is particularly important:
Each officer so appointed shall perform the functions delegated to him in accordance with this reorganization planand so forth.
Now, under the first sentence it would appear that the Commissioners are without limitation on the agencies or offices that they may from time to time determine to create. I am making a statement of my interpretation, and I would like you to correct me if it is not the Commissioners' interpretation and I think it should be part of the record, Mr. Chairman, that there is a limitation on the agencies or offices that might be created, to wit, agencies or offices to perform the functions that could be delegated in accordance with this reorganization plan. That is you could not create agencies or offices to perform the functions which are not covered by the delegation to you.
Commissioner DONOHUE. We wholly agree with your concept, Senator.