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PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO RULE XXII OF THE
STANDING RULES OF THE SENATE
MONDAY, JUNE 24, 1957
UNITED STATES SENATE,
SPECIAL SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE
Washington, D. C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to recess, at 10:05 a. m., in room 457, Senate Office Building, Senator Herman E. Talmadge (chairman of the subcommittee)
presiding. Present: Senators Talmadge and Javits.
Also present: Langdon West, special counsel to the subcommittee; Darrell St. Claire, professional staff member; Robert S. McCain, professional staff member; and Sidney Kelly, Jr., administrative assistant to Senator Javits.
Senator TALMADGE. The subcommittee will come to order.
. ator Case will be here tomorrow as, I believe, will Senator Stennis.
We have several statements from Senators and others which we will insert in the record at this time, without objection.
Senator JAVITS. Are there statements from Senator Anderson and Senator Clark?
Senator TALMADGE. We have statements from Senators Smith, Bush, and Payne. Those seem to be all the communications we have from Senators.
(The statements of Senators Smith of New Jersey, Bush, and Payne are as follows:) STATEMENT OF Hon. H. ALEXANDER SMITH, A UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM THE
STATE OF NEW JERSEY In supporting a revision of the present provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, I wish first to make two points clear.
I believe in the maximum freedom of speech in the Senate. I think it of utmost importance that the Senate discuss every question fully and completely without being limited by rules such as prevail in the House.
I also do not believe that we should adopt any rule under which a majority alone could control the debate. I think it is extremely important, when major issues arise, that we avoid any possibility of the majority being able abruptly to force a vote without allowing reasonable debate. There must be the opportunity for full debate.
However, I do believe that the present rule is too rigid to be of any practical value. I do not think that the Senate should operate under rules which virtually preclude a preponderant majority of the Senate from proceeding, after a reasonable period of debate, to bring a pending question to a vote. We should aot leare ourselves completely at the mercy of a determined minority.
The present rule provides that an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Senators duly chosen and sworn is necessary to apply cloture to debate, and that
cloture shall not lie against a motion to proceed to the consideration of a proposed change in the rules. I believe that the rule should provide for cloture by a vote of two-thirds of those Senators present and voting, and that cloture should lie against all motions, including those to bring up for consideration a proposed change in the rules.
I urge your committee to recommend revision in rule XXII which will accomplish such changes.
STATEMENT OF HON. PRESCOTT BUSH, A UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM THE
STATE OF CONNECTICUT
UNITED STATES SENATE,
June 19, 1957.
United States Senate, Washington, D. O. DEAR SENATOR TALMADGE: The need for an effective method of curbing filibusters in the Senate has been so amply demonstrated, and discussed at such length in the past, that it would seem that further testimony on the subject would be painting the lily.
On January 9 of the present session, I introduced Senate Resolution 32, which proposes to modify rule XXII as follows: (1) Lengthen the time limit between the filing of a cloture motion from 1 to 5 days (exclusive of Sundays and legal holidays); (2) permit cloture to be invoked by two-thirds of those Senators present and voting, instead of two-thirds of the Senators duly chosen and sworn; and (3) eliminate subsection (3) of the present rule which, in effect, prohibits limitation of debate on a proposal to amend the Standing Rules of the Senate.
These changes, in my judgment, are the minimum which should be made. While I believe that extended debate should be permitted in the Senate as a safeguard against overhasty action, it is intolerable that our prized freedom of speech should be perverted into a weapon to club down the rights of a majority.
I trust that your subcommittee will not permit its current hearings to be made the subject of a filibuster against proposals to curb the filibuster. It is essential, in my judgment, that this issue be brought to the floor as soon as possible in order that a decision can be made by the Senate.
It is respectfully requested that this letter be printed in the record of the hearings. Sincerely yours,
PRESCOTT BUSH, United States Senator.
STATEMENT OF Hon. FREDERICK G. PAYNE, A UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM
THE STATE OF MAINE
UNITED STATES SENATE,
June 17, 1957.
United States Senate, Washington, D. C. DEAR SENATORS: Many thanks for your letter of June 14 inviting me to appear before your special subcommittee of the Committee on Rules and Adminis tration. Since my doctors are still holding my activities to a minimum, it will be impossible for me to appear much as I should like to do so. However, I want to take this opportunity to briefly set forth my views on the questions raised by Senate rule XXII.
When we consider democracy in its purest form, unlimited debate is usually included among its primary tenets. However, democracy, with unlimited de bate on all issues is liable to many abuses not the least of which is obstructionism. If some means could be devised whereby the obstructionist could be prevented from using unlimited debate for his own purposes, then the probem would be solved, but experience indicates that this is a practical impos
sibility. Here in the Senate the abuse of unlimited debate by small but vocal minorities has in many cases blocked the will of the majority. It is not the function of a self-designated minority to hold the majority perpetually at bay through the use of the filibuster, no matter how repugnant the will of the majority may be to this minority.
I would appreciate having these comments included as part of the record of the hearings which your subcommittee is conducting and you may be certain that I shall be deeply interested in your findings on this vital matter. With very best regards, Sincerely yours,
FREDERICK G. PAYNE,
United States Senator. Senator TALMADGE. I also have a communication from Mr. Kenneth M. Birkhead, executive director, American Veterans Committee; a statement from Mr. Eustace Mullins, director, Realpolitical Institute, Chicago, Ill.; a letter from Mrs. Á. R. Lowdon, secretary, Fort Worth chapter of Pro America; and a petition from the Florida States Rights, Inc., group.
Without objection, we will insert all of those in the record.
(The statements and petition referred to may be found in the appendix, in exhibits 2 and 4, respectively.)
Senator JAVITS. Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent that the statements of Senators, of which there will probably be quite a number, be included in the body rather than the appendix of the record.
Senator TALMADGE. Yes; I agree that all statements from Senators should be included in the body of the record.
Senator Douglas, we are very happy to have you here before us, and we will be delighted to have you make a statement to us.
STATEMENT OF HON. PAUL H. DOUGLAS, A UNITED STATES
SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
Senator DOUGLAS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the special subcommittee of the Senate Rules Committee in support of Senate Resolution 17, which I introduced in behalf of myself and 13 other Senators—Mr. Ives, Mr. Murray, Mr. Humphrey, Mr. Morse, Mr. Hennings, Mr. Chavez, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Potter, Mr. McNamara, Mr. Case, Mr. Neuberger, Mr. Carroll, and Mr. Clark—to amend Senate rule XXII to provide a workable method of limiting debate after opportunity is given for full consideration of any measure pending before the Senate.
I also welcomed the willingness of the Senator from New York, Mr. Javits, to join us as a sponsor of this proposal shortly after he was sworn in, a few days after the introduction of the resolution.
I deeply believe that this change in the Rules of the Senate, which have in the past permitted unlimited debate, or a filibuster, to defeat majority rule and prevent the Senate even from voting on essential legislation, is one of the most urgently needed measures before the Senate today.
Briefly, Senate Resolution 17 provides first that limitation of debate may be effected by a vote of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting 2 calendar days after a petition signed by 16 Senators has been presented to the Senate.
It further provides that debate may be limited by a majority vote of those Senators “duly chosen and sworn," namely, by 49 of the 96 Senators, 15 calendar days—excluding Sundays and legal holidaysafter a petition is presented by 16 Senators.
Senate Resolution 17 retains the provision of the present rule allowing each Senator 1 hour for further debate after the limitation is voted.
Senate Resolution 17 repeals section 3 of present rule 22 which provides that there may be no limitation at all on a motion to proceed to the consideration of a change in the rules of the Senate.
In effect, then, since limitation would not be invoked until after several weeks of debate, except in a national emergency, Senate Resolution 17 would permit limitation by a two-thirds vote after 2 to 3 weeks of consideration, and limitation by 49 votes after about 4 to 5 weeks of debate.
I think perhaps I should emphasize that point: that unless we had a grave situation like that of 1917, with the international situation in a highly critical condition where delay might be fatal to national security, and unless there were a small group of Senators nevertheless determined to hold out against a policy which the vast majority of the country believed to be wise, that except in a situation such as that, no one, I am sure, would dream of presenting a cloture petition until after the debate had gone on for a considerable period of time. And assuredly the required 16 Senators could not be found to sign such a petition short of that reasonable period.
In other words, the debate would be allowed to proceed for at least 2 or 3 weeks, I think, under the general rule and practice of the Senate, before the cloture petition was even started; and then, according to Senate Resolution 17, it would require a vote of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting, 2 days after the presentation of the petition, to limit the debate. In essence, this is the original 1917 cloture rule.
Thus in practical terms you would still require a two-thirds vote after 2 to 3 weeks of consideration. Then 15 days would have to elapse after the filing of the petition before cloture could be invoked by a majority, and that would provide 4 or 5 weeks of debate, I would say, at a niinimum. Then the required majority would not be a majority of those voting, but a majority of those duly chosen and sworn, or you would need 49 affirmative votes.
In other words, our purpose is to permit full discussion, which we believe to be essential, and prolonged debate, but not to permit a relatively small minority to prevent a vote from occurring.
Senator Javits. Would the Senator yield at that point ?
Senator DOUGLAS. That is absolutely true. It would be at the very least 17 days, 212 weeks, and might be more.
Senator JAVITS. Well, the Senator's views are very well known, and the Senator has been one of the most stalwart advocates of some revision in the Senate rules, and I would like to ask the Senator this question.
I am relatively new here, and I have been told that this effort is not a very popular one among Members of the Senate, and that it is with considerable temerity that any new Senator would undertake to deal with such a long-established practice of the Senate.
Now, the Senator has been here for a considerable number of years. Would the Senator care to make any comment upon that question as to
Senator Douglas. Yes.
It will be noticed that there are 15 of us, including yourself, who are sponsors of Senate Resolution 17. Now, I understand that there are some 39 other Senators who are sponsors of other proposals to lessen the severity of rule 22. So that I would say that a majority of the Senate, so far as the sponsorship of bills is concerned, have already gone on record in support of some lightening of the present very severe restrictions on limiting debate.
Senator Javits. Does the Senator regard, or does not the Senator agree with me, that there is considerable imminency in this matter now. With the civil rights bill on the calendar, we are looking right into the teeth of the filibuster?
Senator Douglas. Oh, yes. This is not an academic question, and never has been an academic question, and it is a very practical question now, after Senator Ellender's statement on the radio this weekend, as reported in this morning's press.
I would like also to point out that under this proposal, Senate Resolution 17, even after cloture is invoked, each Senator is allowed an additional hour, so that we could have an additional 24 hours of debate if each Senator utilized his allowed time.
Senator JAVITS. Ninety-six hours.
Senator Douglas. Ninety-six hours, or 24 hours a day for 4 days if
Senate Resolution 17 would thus guard the rights of minorities to full discussion. But it would make it possible after a reasonable time for the Senate to reach a vote. And the handcuffs on any future rule changes, in section 3 of present rule 22, would be stricken off. The proposal does not go as far as some advocates of majority rule have proposed. But I believe it presents a workable compromise which we should adopt.
Some people have advocated a majority cloture rule by a majority of those present and voting. We provide, even in the ultimate, for å majority of those chosen and sworn, or for a so-called constitutional majority of at least 49.
Some have thought that the majority principle should be invoked at an earlier stage in the discussion. We put it off for a longer period of time. So that I think that our proposal represents a workable compromise which the Senate should adopt.
This winter I was invited to deliver an address at Ohio State University, and I took the opportunity to prepare that address on the subject of the filibuster, in which I went into this subject at some length.