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AMENDING SENATE RULE RELATING TO CLOTURE

TUESDAY, JANUARY 28, 1947

UNITED STATES SENATE,
SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON
RULES AND ADMINISTRATION,

Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:30 p. m., in room 104B, Senate Office Building, Senator Kenneth S. Wherry (chairman) presiding.

Present: Senators Wherry (chairman), Ives, and Hayden. Also present: Senators Knowland, Saltonstall, Taylor, Pepper, and Holland.

Senator WHERRY. This is a meeting of the subcommittee of the Committee on Rules and Administration, to consider Senate Resolutions 25, 30, 32, and 39, introduced by Senators Saltonstall, Knowland, Morse, and Fepper, respectively. The resolutions will be incorporated in the record at this point.

(S. Res. 25, S. Res. 30, S. Res. 32, and S. Res. 39 are as follows:)

[S. Res. 25, 80th Cong., 1st sess.)

RESOLUTION Resolved, That subdivision 2 of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, relating to cloture, be, and the same is hereby, amended as follows:

In the first sentence of said subdivision, after the words “If at any time”, insert a comma and the words “notwithstanding the provisions of rule III or rule VI or any other rule of the Senate,"; and, in the next line, strike out the words “pending measure” and in lieu thereof insert : "measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business".

In the third sentence of said subdivision strike out the word "two-thirds" and insert in place thereof the word “majority" and in the same line strike out the word “measure” and insert in lieu thereof the words “measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business”.

In the second line of the fourth sentence, strike out the words “pending measure" and in lieu thereof insert “measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business”, so that as amended subdivision 2 of rule XXII will read: “If at any time, notwithstanding the provisions of rule III or rule VI or any other rule of the Senate, a motion signed by sixteen Senators, to bring to a close the debate upon any measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business is presented to the Senate, the Presiding Officer shall at once state the motion to the Senate, and one hour after the Senate meets on the following calendar day but one, he shall lay the motion before the Senate and direct that the Secretary call the roll, and, upon the ascertainment that a quorum is present, the Presiding Officer shall, without debate, submit to the Senate by a yea-and-nay vote the question :

“ 'Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?'

“And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by a majority vote of those voting, then said measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate,

or the unfinished business, shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of.

“Thereafter no Senator shall be entitled to speak in all more than one hour on the measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, the amendments thereto, and motions affecting the same, and it shall be the duty of the Presiding Officer to keep the time of each Senator who speaks. Except by unanimous consent, no amendment shall be in order after the vote to bring the debate to a close, unless the same has been presented and read prior to that time. No dilatory motion, or dilatory amendment, or amendment not germane shall be in order. Points of order, including questions of relevancy, and appeals from the decision of the Presiding Officer, shall be decided without debate."

[S. Res. 30, 80th Cong., 1st sess.)

RESOLUTION Resolved, That the second, third, and fourth paragraphs of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate are amended to read as follows:

"If at any time a motion to bring to a close the debate upon any pending measure or motion is signed by sixteen Senators, any Senator signing such motion shall upon a request for recognition be recognized by the Chair for the purpose of presenting such motion to the Senate, and when such motion is so presented to the Senate, the Presiding Officer shall at once state the motion to the Senate, and one hour after the Senate meets on the following calendar day but one, he shall lay the motion before the Senate and direct that the Secretary call the roll, and, upon the ascertainment that a quorum is present, the Presiding Officer shall, without debate, submit to the Senate by an ayeand-nay vote the question :

“ 'Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close ?'

"And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by a majority vote of the entire membership of the Senate, then said measure or motion shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of."

[S. Res. 32, 80th Cong., 1st sess.)

RESOLUTION Resolved, That rule III of the Standing Rules of the Senate is amended to read as follows:

“RULE III

"COMMENCEMENT OF DAILY SESSIONS "1. The Presiding Officer having taken the Chair, and a quorum being present, the Journal of the preceding day shall be read, and any mistake made in the entries corrected. The reading of the Journal shall not be suspended unless by unanimous consent; and when any motion shall be made to amend or correct the same, it shall be deemed a privileged question, and proceeded with until disposed of, except that it shall be displaced by the action of the Presiding Officer in submitting to the Senate for an aye-and-nay vote any question under rule XXII. If the question submitted under rule XXII is decided in the affirmative by a majority vote of those voting, the motion to amend or correct the Journal shall remain displaced until the measure which becomes the unfinished business under rule XXII is disposed of.

“2. A quorum shall consist of a majority of the Senators duly chosen and sworn."

SEC. 2. That part of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate relating to cloture (as shown on page 28 of the Senate Manual, 1945) is amended to read as follows:

"If at any time a motion to bring to a close the debate upon any pending measure is signed by sixteen Senators, any Senator signing such motion shall upon a request for recognition be recognized by the Chair for the purpose of presenting such motion to the Senate, and when such motion is so presented to the Senate, the Presiding Officer shall at once state the motion to the Senate, and one hour after the Senate meets on the following calendar day but one, he shall lay the motion before the Senate and direct that the Secretary call the roll, and, upon the ascertainment that a quorum is present, the Presiding Officer shall, without debate, submit to the Senate by a yea-and-nay vote the question :

“ 'Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close ?'

“And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by a majority vote of those voting, then said measure shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of.

"Thereafter each Senator shall be entitled to speak in his own right on the pending measure, the amendments thereto, and motions affecting the same for an aggregate period of not more than three hours. Any Senator may yield to any other Senator the unexpired portion, or any part thereof, of the aggregate period of time which he is entitled to speak; and the Senator to whom he so yields may speak for the time so yielded, in addition to any period of time in which he is entitled to speak in his own right. It shall be the duty of the Presiding Officer to keep the time of each Senator who speaks. Except by unanimous consent, no amendment shall be in order after the vote to bring the debate to a close, unless the same has been presented and read prior to that time. No dilatory motion, or dilatory amendment, or amendment not germane shall be in order. Points of order, including questions of relevancy, and appeals from the decision of the Presiding Officer, shall be decided without debate. Notwithstanding the provisions of rule III, the reading of the Journal of the preceding day shall be dispensed with on days when the Senate is proceeding under the provisions of this paragraph.

"In any case in which a motion is filed under the provisions of this paragraph while a motion is pending under rule III to amend or correct the Journal of a preceding day, the term 'pending measure,' as used in the foregoing provisions of this paragraph, shall mean the measure which would be the pending measure if the Journal of all preceding days were approved."

(S. Res. 39, 80th Cong., 1st sess.)

RESOLUTION Resolved, That that part of Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate relating to cloture (as shown on page 28 of the Senate Manual) is amended to read as follows:

If a motion, signed by sixteen Senators, to bring to a close the debate (1) upon a motion to take up a measure, together with any and all points of order against such measure, or (2) upon any pending question, is presented to the Senate at any time after ten calendar days have elapsed since such debate has begun, the Presiding Officer shall at once state the motion to the Senate, and one hour after the Senate meets on the following calendar day but one, he shall lay the motion before the Senate and direct that the Secretary call the roll, and, upon the ascertainment that a quorum is present, the Presiding Officer shall, without debate, submit to the Senate by an aye-and-nay vote the question :

“'Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?'

"If such question shall be decided in the affirmative by a majority vote of those voting in the case of any such motion to take up a measure, together with any and all points of order against such measure, then such measure shall be deemed to be the unfinished business.

“If such question shall be decided in the affirmative by a majority vote of those voting in the case of any such motion to bring to a close the debate upon any pending measure, then such measure shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of. Thereafter no Senator shall be entitled to speak in all more than one hour on the pending measure, the amendments thereto, and motions affecting the same and it shall be the duty of the Presiding Officer to keep the time of each Senator who speaks. Except by unanimous consent, no amendment shall be in order after the vote to bring the debate to a close, unless the same has been presented and read prior to that time. No dilatory motion, or dilatory amendment, or amendment not germane shall be in order. Points of order, including questions of relevancy, and appeals from the decision of the Presiding Officer, shall be decided without debate.”

Senator WHERRY. By agreement, we will first hear from Senator Knowland, who will speak on Senate Resolution 30. Senator Knowland.

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STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM F. KNOWLAND, UNITED STATES

SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA Senator KNOWLAND. Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee on Rules of the Committee on Rules and Administration.

Senate Resolution 30 makes only two changes in rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate. The present rule applies to any pending measure.” This amendment adds the words "or motion. It is

" possible at the present time to circumvent the existing cloture rule by having a filibuster develop on a “motion” to approve the Journal or to carry on a full filibuster on some other “motion,” in which case there is doubt that even two-thirds of the Senate could protect itself.

The present rule states that after 16 Senators have signed a petition for cloture and the matter has gone over 1 full day, then on the following day, 1 hour after the Senate meets, the question shall be put: "Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close ?” If that question shall be decided in the affirmative by a two-thirds vote of those voting, then said measure shall be the unfinished business until disposed of and no Senator may speak for more than 1 hour. This proposed amendment changes the language “by a two-thirds vote of those voting” to "by a majority vote of the entire membership of the Senate.” Other than these changes the rule remains as is.

Senator WHERRY. May I ask you a question? Is that the only change the resolution provides that is an amendment to the present rules?

Senator KNOWLAND. Those two changes. It adds to "any pending measure," the words "or motion," and it also changes the vote from a two-thirds vote to a majority of the entire membership, not a majority of those present, but of the entire membership of the Senate. Senator WHERRY. Have you seen these other resolutions? Senator KNOWLAND. Yes.

Senator WHERRY. Is this the only one of the resolutions that does that, or are some others duplicates of yours?

Senator KNOWLAND. I believe Senator Saltonstall's is different from mine, and also the one introduced by Senator Morse, which as I recall provides for a majority vote of those present.

Senator WHERRY. Yours provides for a majority of the Senate. That is, it takes 49 Senators to invoke cloture?

Senator KNOWLAND. Yes.

Senator WHERRY. I was just trying to get these different resolutions in my mind.

Senator KNOWLAND. The filibuster is the negation of the legislative process. It places in the hand of one man or a small

group the power to strangle the operations of the Senate of the United

of men

States. That is too much power for any responsible man to want and it is far too much power for any irresponsible man to have.

We are now living in the atomic age. All over the world men are questioning the ability of representative constitutional government to meet and solve the problems of our generation. Most of the world has abandoned our way of life, economic and political.

I firmly believe that representative government can better meet the problems we face than any other form yet devised by man. But we must not undermine our legislative process or destroy the public's confidence in it by the use of the filibuster.

This is not a partisan issue. It was President Woodrow Wilson in 1917 who said:

The Senate of the United States is the only legislative body in the world which cannot act when its majority is ready for action. A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible.

Senator WHERRY. Of course in your case it takes 49 votes?
Senator KNOWLAND. Yes; that is right.
Senator WHERRY. Of the membership.
Senator KNOWLAND. Yes.

I have been pleased to note the considerable number of newspapers in the South that recognize the evil of the filibuster. On December 10, 1947, the Asheville Citizen, Asheville, N. C., had this to say:

No fair-minded legislator can offer a sincere defense of the filibuster. It has been abused time and again. It has been abused even by a minority of one, as, for example, when Huey Long filibustered to death the appropriation for the Social Security Act of 1935. To be sure, the majority may abuse the power of numbers, but we think that the good sense of the whole Congress may be depended upon to assure justice. The Senate of the United States is the only legislative body we know of which can engage in endless debate without ever coming to the point or to a decision. This unique power makes for irresponsibility in representative government. It should be abolished or curtailed.

On January 14, 1947, the Virginia-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., had this to say:

Senator Knowland proposes a more direct attack. He would alter the rules to permit a Senate majority to apply any limitation it wishes to debate on any measure at any time. The present requirement is a two-thirds vote. He would drop it to a majority.

Why not? Unlimited debate has lost most of its meaning except as an obstacle to majority action usually invoked by a small group representing some special interest. Now is a good time when no deliberate talkfest is on the immediate horizon and the proposal can be considered quietly on its merits, to make such a change in the rules. To wait until another filibuster is launched would be to wait until tempers were again frayed and emotions aroused over the extraneous issue of the point currently in dispute. It is better to repair the roof while the sun is shining than to wait until a storm has broken out.

Senator George W. Norris who led the “don't arm our ships” filibuster in 1917 declared in his autobiography, as follows:

Filibustering is made possible under the rules of the Senate and not under any law.

It could be prevented largely by a simple rule, but the jealous pride with which the Senate guards its traditions of open, unlimited debate makes the adoption of the rule difficult, if not impossible. This often puts the Senate in a very ridiculous and sometimes, I think, un patriotic position.

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