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PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO RULE XXII OF THE
STANDING RULES OF THE SENATE
TUESDAY, JULY 16, 1957
UNITED STATES SENATE,
SPECIAL SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to recess, at 9:35 a. m., in room 104-B, Senate Office Building, Senator Herman E. Talmadge (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Senators Talmadge (presiding) and Javits.
Also present: Langdon West, special counsel to the subcommittee; Darrell St. Claire, professional staff member; Robert S. McCain, professional staff member.
Senator TALMADGE. The subcommiteee will come to order.
The Chair desires to announce that in a very few minutes he must leave for other committee meetings, and at that time Senator Javits has agreed to continue the hearings.
At the conclusion of the testimony, I would like to insert in the record further statements that I have received, and two other statements that have been received by the subcommittee counsel. They will be inserted in the record at the appropriate place.
Do you have any insertions at this time, Senator Javits?
Senator Javits. I will have an insert that was sent to me. Clarence Mitchell, of the NAACP, sent me a table of populations and the Negro elements in populations in Southern States, and I will put that in the record.
(The table referred to may be found in Mr. Mitchell's testimony, on p. 255.)
Senator TALMADGE. The first witness is the distinguished Senator from Alabama, Mr. Hill. Senator Hill, we are pleased to have you with us this morning. You may proceed with your statement.
STATEMENT OF HON. LISTER HILL, A UNITED STATES SENATOR
FROM THE STATE OF ALABAMA
Senator HILL. Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I want to express to the committee my appreciation of this opportunity to be heard on proposals to change the rules of the Senate.
I recognize that the history of free and unlimited debate has been well threshed out before this committee in these hearings. I have noted the testimony, in brief, of the different witnesses, and I realize your record is pretty well complete with all the historical facts and, I imagine, most of the arguments in the matter.
We think of the Senate as a check, and we recall that Benjamin Franklin—and there was no wiser man than Franklin-spoke of the Senate as the saucer into which the hot coffee was to be poured to give it time and opportunity to cool. The House of Representatives, if at any time it took any hot action, if it acted with too much speed and did not thoroughly consider and thresh out the full significance and effect of that action, had always this saucer waiting for the measure to cool.
We recall, also, that Mr. Gladstone, in speaking of the Senate, said:
That remarkable body, the most remarkable of all the inventions of modern politics.
Now, Senators, what is it that makes the Senate remarkable ? Nothing more nor less than the free and unlimited debate in the Senate. If you take from the Senate this right of free and unlimited debate, if you
invoke cloture in the Senate, then your Senate will be no more than the House of Representatives or any other legislative body that we might consider. It is remarkable, as Mr. Gladstone said, only because of this free and unlimited debate.
The thing that I wish to emphasize to this committee with all the emphasis that I can bring to bear is that if you deny free and unlimited debate in the Senate of the United States you have changed the character of the Senate of the United States. You cannot change the character of the Senate of the United States without changing the Government of the United States.
So, you gentlemen in considering these resolutions here today are not considering some simple matter of procedure in the Senate, some simple change of its rule. You are considering a proposed change in the Senate that would mean a fundamental and basic change in the Government of the United States as we have known that Government from the beginning down to the present.
That is the question before this committee. Are you going to change our Government—this constitutional Republic that we have had all these years and under which we have grown to be the mightiest nation that the sun ever shown upon, and under which our people have enjoyed the greatest freedom ever known to mankind?
Mr. Chairman, the right of a Senator to get on the floor, to present all the facts in connection with an issue, to turn the light of truth and justice and fairness on that issue goes to the very heart of the freedoms of the people of the United States and to the protection not only of the freedom of the people and of the individual citizens but to the protection of the rights of the several States, but to the protection of the rights of minorities of all kinds.
Yet it is suggested here that this freedom of debate be cut off, be denied by less than a two-thirds vote of the full Senate.
Senators, as you recall, the Founding Fathers—men like James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, and George Washington—had a great fear when they brought this Government into being. That fear was the danger of what they termed party spirit—as George Washington expressed it in his Farewell Address, "the baneful effects of party spirit.”
Let me call to your attention an excerpt from his words. Now, weigh this well
, because, in my opinion, the thing that has averted this danger, the thing that has averted the baneful effects of party spirit that Washington feared, has been this very free and unlimited debate in the Senate of the United States. George Washington in his Farewell Address said to us:
I have already intimated to you, that is us, gentlemen; he is talking to us the danger of parties in the State with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discrimination. Let me now take a more comprehensive view and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed, but in those of the popular forum it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy. Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight, the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
As one who served in the House of Representatives for a good many years, I have seen this party government of which Washington spoke. We know that regardless of which party is in control, the Speaker and the party leader, the chairman of the Rules Committee, and perhaps 1 or 2 others get together in the Speaker's office, they determine what shall be done, and it generally is done the way they planned. There is no free and unlimited debate in the House of Representatives. Physically, there cannot be any, for the membership is too large.
However, we can observe in the House of Representatives the very thing that Washington warned about, and the thing that has saved us has been this free and unlimited debate in the Senate of the United States.
We have had a good deal of discussion of late about action by a two-thirds majority or some other majority. Let me remind you gentlemen of the time when the majority party, which happened to be the Democratic Party, had 76 out of the 96 votes. The Republican Party had only 16 votes. The other four votes were among other parties such as the Progressive Party and the Farmer-Labor Party.
Perhaps next time it will be the Republican Party that will have the 76 votes. We do not know. That is not what is important. What is important is that parties do control this body so far as numbers are concerned, and we must have the restraint to keep party spirit from running wild, that we may not suffer from the baneful effects of that party spirit.
Let us remember that we never know what is going to happen. The gentlemen of the minority certainly did not think the other party would be in the majority today. Nobody knows what will be the story 2 years from now, and I say this to you: That some of those who now press hardest, some of those who insist most determinedly for changes in the Senate rules and denial of this free and unlimited debate, may be the very ones who tomorrow will find that this free and unlimited debate is needed for the protection of their rights.
Let us never forget that under the free and unlimited debate of the Senate we went through all the terrible War Between the States. We fought that war with free and unlimited debate. We fought World War I which, up to that time, was the greatest war in the history of the World. Then, we fought World War II. Nothing in the history of the world has been comparable to our deeds and accomplishments in that war. We fought the war against the most terrible depression ever dreamed of back in the early thirties. We didn't have to invoke any cloture to win these great wars. We won these wars with a free and unlimited debate.
We know the conscientiousness, the sense of responsibility, the devotion to duty that always triumphs among the membership of the Senate of the United States. Our country is great not only because of a particular array of laws and prohibitions. Our country is great also because of the character of its people and the character of the men who represent those people in its Government.
If you put an end to this free and unlimited debate, you not only open wide the door but you extend the invitation for men to depart from that high sense of responsibility and that devotion which every Senator carries now in his heart. We will slip back into this very
of the party spirit. How often in the House of Representatives have we heard the appeal, “We must go along with the party.” This occurs because party government is the means and the way of the House of Representatives.
I am pleading today that we not retreat to this position of party government, that we let the Senate of the United States remain as the great forum of the American people and of the constitutional American Republic.
Has anyone in all these hearings been able to suggest a single important or beneficent measure that has been killed because we had free and unlimited debate in the Senate of the United States?
What reason have we today, what arguments have been presented to this committe, that would justify us in changing the character of the Senate, in changing this American constitutional republic as we have known it?
I have heard of no bill, no measure, that has gone down that should have been passed. To be sure, our rules have brought about some delays, and I would be the last to deny that there have been some abuses. But, as long as human nature is human nature and is not perfect, we shall have abuses. However, I wish to emphasize that the benefits from free and unlimited debate far outweigh the abuses that may have occurred under it.
The most famous measure to my section of the country that has ever been defeated by free and unlimited debate was the Force bill of 1890, a bill somewhat in the same category as the civil-rights bill that is now before the Senate.
While I advert to civil-rights bills, I do not care at this time to go into a discussion of them. But every Senator must surely know that there has never been a debate on civil-rights bills in which Senators who are far removed from any sectional thought in the matter--Senators who considered the bill only on the basis of its constitutionality and what it might mean for the welfare of the whole country-have not proclaimed with great emphasis the evils of the bill.
One of the greatest constitutional speeches ever made in the Senate of the United States was the speech made by the late Senator from Idaho, William E. Borah, on the unconstitutionality of the antilynching bill. No one could accuse the Senator from Idaho, Mr. Borah, of having any prejudices or any preconceived notions in the matter. He simply weighed the bill on the scales of constitutionality, and he was so shocked by the unconstitutionality of the bill, its contravention of the spirit and the letter of the Constitution, that he was moved to make this great and powerful speech on the floor of the Senate showing the unconstitutionality of the bill.
Another of the great speeches made on the floor of the Senate was the speech of the senior Senator from Wyoming, Mr. O'Mahoney, on the unconstitutionality of the anti-poll-tax bill. When we reflect upon all the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights we recall that other bills that have been blocked in recent years by the rule in favor of unlimited debate, such as the last FEPC bill, which the Senate debated, served to deny our people such basic rights as the right to trial by jury, the right to confront one's accusers, and the right to be indicted by a grand jury.
As I have said, the most famous bill ever defeated by the free and unlimited debate was the Force bill introduced in the House of Representatives and valiantly fought for by the late Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., of Massachusetts. He fought for the bill in the House of Representatives. When he came over to the Senate, he was very much opposed to free and unlimited debate and favored cloture.
After he had served in the Senate a while, after he had had the experience of that service, after he had grown in wisdom and knowledge and experience—and as we know he was one of the most erudite men ever to sit in the Senate of the United States, a great student not only of our own Government but of all of the governments of the world-he gave to us and to our country the benefit of his ripened and seasoned and mature judgment.
Let us consider a few excerpts from what Senator Lodge said:
It is not necessary to trace the long struggle between these opposing forces which ended in the most famous compromise of the Constitution of which the Senate was the vital element and which finally enabled the Convention to bring its work to a successful conclusion. It is sufficient here to point out that, as the Constitution was necessarily made by the States alone, they yielded with the utmost reluctance to the grants of power to the people of the United States as a whole and sought in every way to protect the rights of the several States against invasion by the national authority. The States, it must be remembered, as they then stood, were all sovereign States. Each one possessed all the rights and attributes of sovereignty, and the Constitution could only be made by surrendering to the General Government a portion of these sovereign powers. In the Senate, accordingly, the States endeavored to secure every possible power which would protect them and their rights. They ordained that each State should have two Senators without reference to population, thus securing equality of representation among the States. They then provided in article V of the Constitution that "No State without its consent should be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate."
What I am pleading for today is that the State of New York or Georgia, or Arizona, or California or any other States shall not be denied its right to be heard in the United States Senate.
Then Senator Lodge went on: Except on some rare occasions, the Senate has been the conservative part of the legislative branch of the Government. The cloture and other drastic rules for preventing delay and compelling action which it has been found necessary to adopt and apply in the House of Representatives have never, except in a most restricted form, been admitted in the Senate. Debate in the Senate has remained practically unlimited, and despite the impatience which unrestricted debate often creates, there can be no doubt that in the long run it has been