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“6. The present rules are not only a departure from the principles of our constitutional Government but from the rules of conduct consistent therewith which governed the United States Senate for the first 17 years of its existence and which provided for majority cloture.”
Mr. President, I devotedly believe in full and complete debate on every issue confronting the Senate and the American people. So, I feel assured, do all of us.
But that is a far different thing from a situation where Senators speak for long hours, and sometimes for long days and long weeks, not to argue the merits or demerits of a public question, but solely and only to waste and consume time, and thus to frustrate and prevent a final decision by the Senate on an issue before it. How can any reasonable person uphold such tactics as that which occurred some years ago when the Senate ludicrously debated for 2 weeks a motion to amend the Chaplain's prayer?
In my first year in the United States Senate I saw a filibuster. I saw the Senate sit for 24 hours a day, never stopping, in an attempt to wear down physically the filibustering Senators, so that through sheer physical exhaustion, and nothing else, the filibuster might be broken and a vote be taken on a bill, incidentally, which had the enthusiastic support of a great majority of us.
I decline to accept the parliamentary theory that a physically and mentally exhausted Senate should be a prerequisite to a vote being taken on any matter. Furthermore, I hardly think that an exhausted Senate can intelligently pass bills.
It is argued that the Senate is a continuing body, and therefore a motion such as has been made cannot be in order under the old rules. Certainly under the terms of the Constitution our motion is in order. What more authority do you need ?
I wish to refer to the distinguished late Vice President, Alben Barkley, who said, when he sat in the presiding officer's chair, and I read from page 10 of the proceedings of January 3, 1953:
“The organization of the Senate is an inherent right of the Senate, as it is of any sovereign body, and all that has taken place up to date has been under that inherent right."
Our motion is grounded upon the American Constitution, and it is upon that basis that I deny that this motion is out of order. Years ago I was a member of the California State Senate. That senate is composed of 40 members. The California constitution provides that each 2 years half of them, or 20 members, shall be elected. The rules of the Senate of the State of California, in which I sat for a few years, provided then, as they provide now, that at the beginning of each session of the legislature the senate shall adopt its rules of procedure.
Four years ago, when I was a new Member of the Senate, the same question was before us. I took the position then that I take today, and I believe sincerely that I do so completely in the public interest. Two of us who cast our vote then, in that fashion, here on the Republican side, are here today, the senior Senator from New York (Mr. Ives] and myself.
We will not be so lonely today. I am proud of the greatly increased support both sides of the aisle are showing for their cause now.
I am proud to say that I cast my vote according to my own conscience. No one intimidates me. No one bullies me into taking positions on public questions. I devoutly believe that the motion which some of us have made ought to be adopted, making the pending business the consideration of adoption of rules of the Senate of the 85th Congress.
Meanwhile, the distinguished majority leader [Mr. Johnson of Texas) has made a motion to lay our recommendation on the table. I vigorously object to that motion, and I hope that a majority of my brethren on this side of the aisle and the other side of the aisle will join in defeating the motion to lay on the table.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to conclude my comments by placing in the Record at this point several paragraphs by a distinguished Republican Senator, the late Henry Cabot Lodge, who sopke up vigorously against the filibuster.
There being no objection, the statement was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
“Of the two rights (of debating and of voting) that of voting is the higher and more important. We ought to have both and debate certainly in ample measure; but, if we are forced to choose between them, the right of action must prevail over the right of discussion. To vote without debating is perilous, but to debate and never vote is imbecile.
“As it is, there must be a change, for the delays which now take place are discrediting the Senate, and this is greatly to be deplored. The Senate was perhaps
the greatest single achievement of the makers of the Constitution, and anything which lowers it in the eyes of the people is a most serious matter. * * * A body which cannot govern itself will not long hold the respect of the people who have chosen it to govern the country.”
If the position we take in the debate is upheld by a majority of Senators, we can, I feel assured, look forward to full and complete debate on every issue, but without the evil of filibustering.
Senator TALMADGE. I have three other statements to be inserted at the conclusion of the testimony. They are not statements from Senators.
The next witness will be Mrs. Ray L. Erb.
Mrs. Erb is the national defense chairman of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
STATEMENT OF MRS. RAY L. ERB, NATIONAL CHAIRMAN, NA
TIONAL DEFENSE COMMITTEE, DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Mrs. ERB. My statement is very brief, and, in contrast to the previous speaker, exceedingly brief.
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I am Mrs. Ray L. Erb.
I wish to express my gratitude for the privilege of presenting my statement relative to proposed changes in Senate rule XXII before the subcommittee of the Committee on Rules and Administration.
I am chairman of the national defense committee, National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.
Every member of the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, has taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States of America; therefore, has assumed a solemn obligation to work for the protection and preservation of this superb body of laws.
The first amendment guarantees freedom of speech.
Unlimited debate in the Senate is an expression of free speech and should not be curtailed or denied.
The Constitution guarantees to every State in this Union a republican form of government. Therefore, every State, as a political unit, is entitled to a full representation in Congress.
It follows, that in justice to their constituents, every Senator should have the privilege of unlimited analysis of all issues presented, and the opportunity for discussion of the effect such issues might have upon fundamentals of our Government as translated into action, and the possible results of such action in each and every section of our country.
The Senate has the responsibility of educating, informing, and protecting the American people. The rule of unrestricted debate is an important aid in the carrying out of these duties. Is it not possible that there is more danger than merit in restriction of free speech, as indulged in by filibustering, for, could not such a decision result in justification for further free-speech limitations? Would this be wise?
Unlimited debate could prevent decisions which in reality were the results of emotion or pressure by a majority.
Prolonged debate would not prevent the eventual passage of good legislation, and undoubtedly might prevent some bad legislation.
In an address given on February 22, 1832, in Washington, Daniel Webster said:
As men may be protected against murder but cannot be guarded against suicide, no government may be shielded from the assaults of external foes, but nothing can save it when it chooses to lay violent hand on itself.
The limiting of debate in the Senate would be the laying on of violent hands.
The National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, disapproves of any change whatsoever in Senate rule XXII relating to cloture, and we request the Rules Committee of the Senate, when acting upon pending proposals relative to a change in Senate rule XXII, to protect the Constitution and constitutional
rights of free speech as established by the first amendment.
Senator JAVITS. I have just one question, Mrs. Erb.
Has any resolution been adopted by the Daughters of the American Revolution on this subject !
Mrs. ERB. No, it has not, Senator.
Mrs. ERB. The authority is the executive committee which functions between our national conferences.
Senator JAVITS. Have they adopted a resolution?
Senator TALMADGE. Thank you very much, Mrs. Erb, for your appearance and
your fine statement. The next witness will be Prof. James Burns, professor of political science, Williams College, Williamstown, Mass.
STATEMENT OF JAMES M. BURNS, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL
SCIENCE, WILLIAMS COLLEGE, WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. Mr. BURNS. Mr. Chairman, my name is James Burns; my residence is at 115 Park Street, Williamstown, Mass. I am professor of political science at Williams College.
I am appearing at the invitation of a member of the subcommittee and I am not appearing on behalf of any organization.
My statement is in favor of Senate Resolution 17, or of any equally effective or more effective means of strengthening the procedures of the United States Senate.
Mr. Chairman, I do not wish to repeat the many arguments that have been presented in past hearings before the Senate Rules Committee or in Senate debate in favor of enabling the Senate to act as well as to deliberate.
I wish only to add a hearty amen to those who have contended so eloquently that the present arrangements violate the fundamental principle of majority rule, that they bring the Senate into disrepute, that they are a weak spot in our democratic system, and that they violate the spirit of our Constitution.
What I do wish to do is to present two ideas that I believe have been ignored or underemphasized in previous debate, and then to ad
dress myself to the urgent and difficult question of how to get rid of these undemocratic arrangements.
Senator JAVITS. Would you yield for a minute? I apologize for not having welcomed you. We invited you, that is, my office did, to appear here and testify; and I am very glad to see you here.
I am very grateful to you for the trouble you have taken.
Mr. BURNS. The first of these ideas relates to the role and place of the United States Senate. Americans and especially Americans from our Southland-like to think of the Senate as "the greatest deliberative body in the world.” But we must remember that debate is not an end in itself. Its purpose is to serve as a means of reaching rationally agreed-on ends.
When deliberation is used not to reach rational ends, but as a means of thwarting rational action, the whole meaning of deliberation becomes distorted and the description of the Senate as the greatest deliberative body becomes a mockery.
If we want really to have pride in the Senate, we must permit the majority to act without violating the proper rights of the minority. What are the proper rights of the minority? It is at this point that past debate, it seems to me, has failed to develop the real protection for the minority.
The real right of the minority is the prevention of some action by the majority that the minority feels is too outrageously unjust and iniquitous to be borne.
The real question is, What is the test of a position that is flagrantly unjust? Because the minority says it is so?
Of course not—the minority naturally says that the majority is being unjust.
The only possible test in a democracy as to whether the majority is treating a minority unjustly is the opinion of the people as a whole once the minority has had full opportunity to state its case before the people. Time and time again we have seen minorities in this country- even minorities of one-take their case before the people and win it; this right of appeal to public opinion is, indeed, the basic safeguard of individual liberty.
The practical implication of this situation is quite simple: The minority must have full right to take its case before the people as a whole, but if it is unable to rally significant support to its cause, if it is unable to weaken the public opinion behind the position of the majority, then the minority has no right to resort to sheer obstruction.
This argument brings me to the second of the two main points I wish to make. We hear much talk about how a majority of the Senate or a majority of the American people may become tyrannical and despotic and mercilessly override the rights of the minority; this contention is the fundamental argument used to support the right to filibuster bills to death.
I think that it is about time someone rose to defend the majority rule principle against such accusations.
The person who holds that majorities tend to become tyrannical simply does not understand American society, does not have faith in the American people. If we were some class-bound society, divided
into a radical working class element and a small class of capitalists, like some unfortunate societies we can think of, then the antimajority position might have some merit. But we are not.
We are, in great degree, an open society composed of many classes that shade into one another, composed of a tremendous diversity of viewpoints, regions, sections, races, religions, social groupings and the like.
The practical implication of this argument is also simple. If I am right in my picture of America as a highly diverse and fluid society, then by definition it follows that any idea or policy that can win majority support in such a society can hardly be tyrannical or despotic. It may, of course, be wrong; but that is a different story.
No, it is not the majority that is likely to be despotic or cruelly unjust in our society, it is the minority that may be unjust because it often does represent only 1 region or 1 narrow class attitude.
Senate debate on this issue, in my judgment, would be elevated if we heard much less of majority tyranny and much more of minority tyranny, when some minority can balk the wishes of the great majority of people.
I turn now to the toughest question of all-What can be done about the present rules that allow dangerous and undemocratic filibusters?
I hope very much that the Senate will adopt Senate Resolution 17, and that such arguments as I have presented may have some small part in that development. But if those Senators now favoring the almost unlimited right to filibuster cannot be won over by reason, then I suggest it is high time that the Senate majority favoring niajority rule proceed to effective action.
What effective action do I mean? There have been many suggestions that the only hope is to change the rules by out-filibustering the filibusterers.
The majority, it has been said, might simply win the battle through the exhaustion of the minority. I am doubtful of this possibility. Such an attempt to overcome the filibusterers would, I think, make such heroes and martyrs of the filibusterers in their home States that it would simply strengthen their hand, politically.
Such a battle would deeply exacerbate the already strong feelings between northerners and southerners, both inside and outside the Senate.
Such a battle would require proper timing-but what is the proper time?
It would be difficult at the start of a session, and virtually impossible at the conclusion, when there is a press of business. In short, a direct assault on the present rules would probably fail, and, in any event, it might produce dangerous and unpredictable side effects.
There is, I think, a simpler method, provided that the necessary number of Senators possess the necessary resolution. The events of last January make it seem likely that at the beginning of a new Congress a point of order can be made, and upheld by the presiding officer or by a majority vote of the Senators present, that the former rules of the Senate expired with the previous Congress, and that new rules must be voted.
This point of order would be both debatable and debated, of course, and the crucial problem of this approach is whether the presiding officer holds that during discussion of this matter the Senate is oper