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ORGANIZATION OF CONGRESS
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 1945
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES,
JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE ORGANIZATION OF CONGRESS,
Washington, D. C.
The joint committee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10 a. m., in the committee room of the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia, United States Capitol, Senator Robert M. La Follette, Jr. (chairman), presiding.
Present: Senators La Follette (chairman), and Pepper; Representatives Cox, Lane, and Michener.
Also present: George B. Galloway, staff director.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will please come to order.
you please proceed in your own way to make any suggestions, or to discuss the general subject which the committee has under consideration?
STATEMENT OF HON. BROOKS HAYS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
Mr. HAYS. Thank you, Senator. I have three things that I wish to bring up in the way of specific suggestions to the committee, some of which will probably be repetitious, but for the sake of emphasis, I would at least like to introduce all three of them and give you a brief opinion about them.
The CHAIRMAN. Please do so.
Mr. HAYS. First, as an introduction, I want to say I am highly in favor of some of the proposals that have received the greatest prominence, such as consolidation of committees, a reduction in their number, and adequate staffing. I think it is impossible to overemphasize the importance of all of those points.
I feel that ultimately we should consolidate all of the committees related to national defense. The Naval Affairs Committee, Military Affairs Committee, and committees of that kind dealing with the national defense, should be consolidated into one committee. I am not fearful of the thing that sometimes we hear expressed, that we would have a supercommittee with too much power and too many duties.
It seems to me the value of the coordination of those important matters would outweigh any other considerations.
I will leave that to consider some specific things that others may not have presented. First, the committee might well give consideration to systematizing our recesses so we could spend in our districts not less than one-fourth of the time. I doubt that Congress, in recent
years, has been able to give the personal time to contact with constituents that the present requirements of legislative service justify, and I would urge upon the committee some study on that, such as perhaps giving us two or three fixed recess periods.
Now, it would have to retain a certain flexibility, but if we could have, say, two recesses, or even three, it would help us a great deal. The recess periods that we sort of automatically fall into now in this unplanned way are appropriate for the thing I have in mind, which is a continuous and personal contact with our constituents.
While the middle of summer is often good for picnics in our area, certainly the other period of midwinter is a tough time for contacting them. So I should think a spring recess and fall recess, or perhaps have three recesses of 30 days each, could be planned.
But at least a systematic approach to this problem of recesses should be made so that we could have a minimum of 25 percent of the time in our districts.
Now, I realize that the legislative demands are so heavy that 9 months of the year might not appear to be adequate, and yet we are losing so much in the other services that we are required to render, that some changes ought to be made. There is the job of interpreting the things that we are doing and to get from our constituents the observations that they alone can make regarding the impact of the legislation that we produce upon life as it is lived out in the States. So I would ask that the committee give consideration to a systematic planning of the recess periods.
An obligation rests on the Member of Congress to maintain close contact with his constituents. This cannot be done effectively if the Member remains virtually the whole year in Washington; nor will spasmodic visits home, when occasional opportunity permits, produce the desired results.
For every constituent thoughtful or interested enough, or with time to write a letter to his Congressman, there are thousands who do not take the time or who do not realize how much their representatives welcome their expressions.
I hope that ultimately it will be possible for the work of Congress to be arranged in such a way that Members can make definite plans for remaining in their districts at specified intervals. Frequently large segments of the public do not have access to information available to a Member of Congress which may have been a determining factor in how his vote was cast on an important issue. Thus unfortunate misunderstandings arise; confidence in the judgment, perhaps even the integrity, of the legislative branch is impaired, simply because of lack of information that could easily be conveyed to a constituency if the Congressman were in constant touch with those whom he represents.
Such a sojourn in the district as I have in mind would not be primarily devoted to speech-making before civic clubs and other groups, nor to sometimes necessary political discussions; rather it would be utilized in receiving callers during publicly announced office hours and to public meetings at strategic points when general discussion would be encouraged and when the Congressman would answer his constituents' questions.
I would like to suggest, in the second place, that this committee, in planning for the rearrangement of the standing committees, consider
a committee to be called the Committee on Public Welfare. What I have in mind is something that the chairman himself has given some thought to.
I believe at one time Senator La Follette proposed that a Committee on Public Welfare be established, and at that time the committees as you have them constituted in the Senate, the Committee on Civil Service and the Committee on Education and Labor, were to be consolidated into a Committee on Welfare.
I am not prepared, Mr. Chairman, to bring any special information to the committee on this, except to suggest that now services of that kind are assigned to so many diverse committees that it is impossible to achieve coordination under the present arrangement that we have in the House. We have, for example, the Commerce Committee considering such matters as health, and the Ways and Means Committee considering such matters as social security, and I should think that almost every committee we have touches this problem of welfare at some point.
This might appear to contradict what I suggested at first about the reduction of the number of committees, except I think it is possible to combine several committees as now constituted to create a welfare committee, with the understanding that the functions of these other committees, the major committees I have mentioned, could be assigned to the new Committee on Welfare.
The third point I would like to discuss with the committee, waiving any pretentions to expert knowledge, is our relations with other parliamentary bodies in the world.
It is a matter of great importance and something that not many Members of Congress were able to give consideration to. I had opportunity last summer, on an unofficial trip to England, to see how important it is that our relations with the British Parliament be strengthened, and from the standpoint of strengthening the legislative branch of the Government in our country we need, now that international relations have become more important, to secure independent sources of information, information that comes to us through contacts either with other parliamentary bodies or sources to be established by us; but at any rate sources of information that are distinctly ours as legislators and not dependent upon the executive branch of the Government.
We are entitled to have our own sources of information about the world and our ramified interests in it. So I suggest that the committee could render a great service by exploring that and bringing in some specific recommendations as to just what trends in international legislative relations should be encouraged.
I favor the suggestion of Representatives Jarman and Chiperfield, submitted to the House when they came back with a report of their trip to South America, namely, the establishment of a pan American association of representative bodies, and I believe it was suggested at the time this was debated on the floor of the House that Canada should be a member of it, although Canada, of course, is a member of the Empire Parliamentary Association.
You have these two associations paralleling each other. The Empire Association, which was established about 1911, is composed of the 33 Dominions and bodies that are related to the British Commonwealth. It is an independent association of the Dominions and is
doing a good service, according to my information. Now, the older body, the Interparliamentary Union, established in 1889, has never quite established the pattern that I have in mind because, as I understand it, it has been more of a peace-promotion society and has never emphasized the parliamentary idea. If it has, then it was certainly inconsistent for Japan to be a member of it, and they were paying dues right up to the time of the war, long after the parliamentary idea had collapsed in Japan. So just to have an international body is not quite enough. I am conceiving an international group that will emphasize the idea of representative government.
Mr. Chairman, I believe that is all I have. In the way of summary, the things that have taken my interest in the studies you are making are these: (1) To help us give more time to our districts, to plan our legislative schedule with that in mind; (2) to give more attention to committee organization for the public welfare; and, (3) finally to start strengthening our ties in the world, to preserve and protect this idea that has been cherished in a peculiar way in the Westarn Hemisphere, the idea of representative government.
I wish to say in closing that I feel the Congress is under great debt to you who are making this study, in giving your time to one of the most important subjects before the American people today.
The CHAIRMAN. We very much appreciate your statement. would like to ask if there are any questions that the members of the committee would like to ask. If not, we thank you very much, Representative Hays, for your appearance here.
Mr. HAYS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Wherry, we are very glad to have you here. Please proceed in your own way.
STATEMENT OF HON. KENNETH S. WHERRY, A SENATOR IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEBRASKA
Senator WHERRY. I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. I would like to submit for your consideration probably a different angle than most of the testimony that will be adduced.
It has to do with the provisions of the bill. But I want to premise my remarks by stating I am totally in sympathy with the provisions of the legislation that is proposed here.
I recall very distinctly the fine speech made by the chairman of the committee, when I came to the Senate, relative to streamlining Congress and relative to increasing the efficiency of committee work. Approximately a year ago I ran into difficulty on one of the committees to which I have been assigned, the Committee on Small Business. The difficulty arose because of borrowed help of the different standing and special committees that have been set up in the Senate. It is unnecessary to go into details but as a result a resolution was passed by the Senate requiring all standing and special committees that borrowed help should be required to make a report monthly in the Congressional Record.
I would like to introduce at this time, either along with the record or in the body of it, whichever you choose, the remarks I made as reported in the Congressional Record on January 29, starting on page 544 and running through with the published report of these different standing committees that had to do with borrowed help to page 549.