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HOUSE RESOLUTION 209, TO TRANSFER THE
OFFICE OF THE HISTORIAN OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TO THE CLERK; AND TO CONDUCT OVERSIGHT OF HOUSE RULE
XVI, PRESERVATION AND AVAILABILITY OF NONCURRENT RECORDS OF THE HOUSE
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 1989
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON RULES,
Washington, DC. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:05 a.m., in room H-313, the Capitol, Hon. John Joseph Moakley (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Moakley, Bonior, Slaughter, and Solomon.
Mr. MOAKLEY. The Subcommittee on Rules of the House will now come to order.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN JOSEPH MOAKLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON RULES OF THE HOUSE
Mr. MOAKLEY. This morning, the Subcommittee on Rules of the House will consider House Resolution 209, to amend Rules 1 and 3 of the House of Representatives, to transfer the Office of the Historian to the Clerk of the House.
As you know, on December 17, 1982, the House established a special, temporary Office for the Bicentennial of the House of Representatives to create and oversee the many activities planned to commemorate this very important anniversary of our legislative branch of Government.
Throughout this period, it became apparent that the bicentennial office was necessary, not only for its original purpose, but also to fill a void that has existed in the House of Representatives since its inception:
The need for an office whose primary purpose is to manage and preserve the papers of the House as well as to document the events and policies of the House in an historical perspective, with particular attention given to the role of the House of Representatives and its individual members in our Nation's growth and development. The Senate, since 1975, has had in place a permanent Historian as well as a full-time archivist for this purpose.
The Members of the 101st Congress recognized this need, and sought successfully in H. Res. 5 to amend the Rules of the House and make permanent the Office of the Bicentennial under a new Office of the Historian. We were very fortunate to be able to retain for this office the excellent staff of professional historians and others who so successfully coordinated the activities, special projects and exhibits of the Bicentennial celebration of the House.
While this office's primary responsibilities were to oversee the events of the House Bicentennial, it was appropriate for the office to remain under the auspices of the Speaker. However, the change and expansion in the role of the Historian's Office, under H. Res. 5, led the Speaker and other House leaders to seek a more appropri ate, permanent placement for this very important office.
The Historian of the Senate is under the Secretary of the Senate, the counterpart to the Clerk, an arrangement which has proved to be very successful. Similarly, the Clerk of the House has continuing responsibility for House records and papers, and certainly appears to be the most suitable location for the Historian.
In addition, the Clerk is currently assuming a larger role, as mandated by the House last year, in the inventory of House art and antiquities, a project which is very likely to involve the expertise of the Historian.
I would also like to use this hearing as an opportunity to review another change implemented in January of this year under H. Res. 5, the rule which reduced public access to papers of the House from a minimum 50-year time period to a 30-year rule.
This change also implemented guidelines for determining which papers are to be considered restricted and classified materials and, therefore, are to remain under the 50-year limit. The implementation of this policy came about as a result of extensive hearings and research in this committee in the 100th Congress, and I am very interested in hearing how this process is progressing.
I look forward to hearing from the most distinguished group of witnesses here today.
STATEMENT OF HON. LINDY BOGGS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF LOUISIANA Mrs. Boggs. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This is a day to which I have looked forward with great anticipation.
Mr. MOAKLEY. And I commend the Congresswoman from Louisiana for her work on this. I know how intense you have been over the years in making sure that this thing stays on track, and how you have spent a lot of your time making this day possible.
Mrs. Boggs. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. I really appreciate the opportunity to appear before your committee, and thank you very much for the opportunity to discuss the future of the Office of the Historian of the House of Representatives and House Resolution 209, a bill to transfer administrative responsibility for the Office of the Historian to the Office of the Clerk of the House.
Like several of the members of this committee, I have an abiding interest in the preservation of the history of this institution and
the enhancement of understanding of the House. In 1982, I was part of a bipartisan group assembled by then-Chairman Dick Bolling to work on the establishment of an Historian's Office.
Because of political considerations at the time, the House ultimately agreed to a proposal by our colleague, Newt Gingrich, an historian by training, to establish an office to oversee preparations for the 200th anniversary of the House of Representatives.
I served on a task force, chaired by your former Chairman, the late Claude Pepper, which selected the current Historian, Dr. Raymond Smock and, for the past several years, I have worked very closely with Dr. Smock and his staff—as Chairman of the Commission on the Bicentenary of the U.S. House of Representatives. Two of the professional members of that staff are with us today: Cynthia Miller, Assistant Historian and Bruce Ragsdale, Associate Historian.
Every Member of the House should be justifiably proud of the fine, highly professional work produced by the Office of the Bicentennial over the past 6 years. The publications, resource materials, ceremonies and events under the direction of the Office have contributed to the memorable bicentenary year that is now concluding.
Publications such as "The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress," "A Guide to Research Collection of Former Members,” and the “Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives” have been well received. We have four additional publications, Mr. Chairman, forthcoming later this year.
The Office has also sponsored or facilitated, as you mentioned, several fine exhibits and conferences, including the "First Congress” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, "To Make All Laws,” “The Tides of Party Politics,” and “Understanding Congress” exhibits and a research conference at the Library of Congress, as well as the Ken Burns film, “The Congress,” which was shown on PBS earlier this year, and which had a gala premiere for the Members of Congress in March.
Dr. Smock and his staff have also helped organize several ceremonial events, including the 1987 Philadelphia ceremony to commemorate the "Great Compromise” at the Constitutional Convention, the First Day of Issue ceremony for the House Bicentennial postage stamp, and the First Strike ceremony for the Congressional Bicentennial coins.
The high point of the year was the Joint Meeting of the House and Senate on March 2 to commemorate 200 years of our representative form of government. It was a very memorable ceremony, one which Chief Justice Warren Burger, Chairman of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, called “the most moving event” of its type during the bicentennial.
I am proud to have had the opportunity to be associated with this effort. It would be tragic if progress in efforts to foster greater understanding of the House of Representatives were to slow or falter.
Last year, after discussions with several members of the Bicentenary Commission, which as you know are made up of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats and of the Majority and Minori
ty Leaders and two former Members of Congress, I approached Members of the House leadership and raised the issue of making the Office permanent, since it was scheduled to expire at the end of September of this year.
It was suggested that this be brought before the Caucus Committee on Organization, Study and Review, which was charged with evaluating modifications in the House Rules to be submitted at the beginning of the 101st Congress. After discussions with Martin Frost, who chaired that, and other members of the committee, a provision establishing a permanent Historian was included in the Rules adopted by the House in January.
In conjunction with the adoption of this provision and on other occasions, the question of changes in administrative oversight of the Historian's Office was raised by Bob Michel, the Minority Leader, Bill Frenzel and others. They suggested making the Historian's Office, which is currently part of the Speaker's Office, a part of the Clerk's Office. I expressed a willingness to work with them to make whatever organizational changes might be appropriate.
I have discussed this proposed change with Dr. Smock, the Clerk, and others. There are benefits that accrue to the Historian's Office as a result of such a change. For example, the Clerk is the custodian, as you have said, Mr. Chairman, of the records of the House. These papers are an essential element of history.
Further, the Clerk has curatorial authority under Public Law 100-696 for works of art, documents and other historical objects under the jurisdiction of the recent-established Fine Arts Board. In addition, the incumbent Clerk is quite a student of the House.
I am not proposing that the Historian's Office mirror the Historian's Office established by the Senate a decade ago. However, I would note that Dr. Richard Baker and the staff of the Senate Historian's Office have been highly acclaimed for their work and that the Office has grown and prospered under the supervision of the Secretary of the Senate.
In sum, Mr. Chairman, if there is to be a change in the organization placement of the Historian's Office, as has been suggested by several Members, then it would seem the appropriate place for it to be as part of the Clerk's Office.
I know that Dr. Smock and Dr. Baker are planning several important new projects. One, “The Encyclopedia of Congress,” is well on its way to becoming a reality as a result of the cooperative efforts of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, the Library of Congress and the Lyndon B. Johnson Library. Another project still in the development stage is an historical series on the institutional development of the House and Senate.
These projects, and others to come, merit our support and encouragement. They illustrate why it is essential for the House to continue to have the services of an historical office. The history of the House is important, of course, to the Nation and to the House itself. Regular, systematic, ongoing research is essential to achieving a better understanding of this institution.
The public at large and the Members themselves will profit from this understanding and knowledge.
Mr. Chairman, I would be remiss if I did not tell you some of the extra work that the Historian has done for the House of Represent
atives. I sit as a Member of the House on the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives, and Dr. Smock has been there as my backup.
As you know, one Member of the House and one Member of the Senate sit there, and often those members are not able to participate in the 2-day-long sessions that are held frequently throughout the year, and Dr. Smock has been there as a backup for the House the entire time.
In addition to that, I have been the Speaker's representative on the U.S. Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution. Dr. Smock has been there as a backup for the House of Representatives in all of those considerations as well. He and his excellent staff deserve certainly our gratitude, but also we need their continued services, and I think we would be very well served by them and by future historians whom they will train and make available to this institution, which I love so very much. Mr. MOAKLEY. Thank you, Mrs. Boggs.
I don't know of any other Member of the House that has worked so hard, so diligently on this project. You are to be commended, because I know it is a labor of love, and many times, your work goes unheralded, because it is done in such a small group.
I am just very thankful that we have a Lindy Boggs in the Congress who spearheaded this drive to bring us where we are today.
Do you think that the Historian's Office, when it becomes part of the Clerk's Office will be in the best location to serve the House of Representatives, as you have attended?
Mrs. Boggs. I do, Mr. Chairman. I think for all the reasons which I have stated, that although I am not suggesting it be identical to the Senate Historian's Office, we can take examples from it. Under the supervision of the Secretary of the Senate, that office has been able to operate very well. Of course, the fact that the Clerk is charged with the keeping of the documents and the new responsibility on the Fine Arts Commission for documenting the fine arts and establishing standards, and, for future acquisitions, the Historian's Office is well placed under those auspices.
In addition to that, the bipartisan leadership felt that this was the proper home for the Historian's Office. This all makes me feel very confident that that is the correct place. Mr. MOAKLEY. Thank you. Any questions? Mr. Solomon?
Mr. SOLOMON. Mr. Chairman, let me first of all concur in all of your remarks, especially the praise for Lindy Boggs. She is certainly one of the most respected Members of this body, and we really appreciate all the work she has done on this particular issue.
Mr. Chairman, we also appreciate your work in bringing the bill to us. Certainly the Clerk is the custodian of all the institutional records, and we have a history of fine Clerks throughout the life of this Congress. The present Clerk is no exception to that, and so, I would just thank you, Mr. Chairman, for bringing this bill to us. I want to apologize for having to leave early. Roh Tae Woo, the President of Korea, is a long-time personal friend of mine, and I am a part of the escort committee to bring him into the House Chambers; so I have to leave.