« PreviousContinue »
The present rule was adopted by the Senate on March 8, 1917, by a vote of 76 to 3. Senator Oscar Underwood, of Alabama, thought the rule did not go far enough. He persuaded the Committee on Rules to recommend that during the period of the war no Senator should occupy more than 1 hour in debating any bill or resolution, or more than 20 minutes in debating an amendment. He pointed out that the then recently adopted rule was ineffective except for the one purpose of meeting a deliberate, systematic filibuster, and that it did not bring the main question to an issue with fair and just considerations of the questions involved. The Underwood proposal, far more drastic than I propose, had 34 votes in favor to 41 against.
It is my sincere belief that there is no threat to legitimate debate and discussion under the amendment I propose. In the first place, Senators will not be inclined to sign a cloture petition until debate has gone on for some time and has crossed the line from informative discussion to obstructionist time-consuming talk. Secondly, it will take a majority of the whole membership of the Senate, or 49 affirmative votes, to adopt it. Every absent vote is, ipso facto, a "No" vote. Even
“” after the rule is adopted each Senator has 1 hour of debate which could carry the discussion on for 96 additional hours if each Senator used his time. No one can call this a gag rule.
Senator WHERRY. Of course, that is in the provisions now.
Senator WHERRY. All you are doing is amending the vote to a majority, and also adding “or motion”?
Senator KNOWLAND. Yes.
In the 30 years the present rule has been in force it has only been invoked four times.
Article I, section 5 of the Constitution states:
Section 8 of the same article states the powers that Congress shall have. It is inconceivable to me that it was ever contemplated by the founders of the Republic that any single Senator or small group of Senators, by the use of the filibuster, should exercise a veto over the ability of the Senate to perform its joint responsibility in the exercise of congressional powers. The use of the filibuster or the threat to use it can be as effective in blocking Senate action as is the Russian use of the veto in the Security Council.
At times the filibuster has been used to bludgeon some local appropriation out of a reluctant Senate. When used in this way it is little more than legtslative blackmail.
Time is priceless. In the atomic age the use we make of it may well determine the future not only of our own country but of civilization itself.
Need I remind you that Holland was overrun by Germany in just 5 days, Yugoslavia in 12 days, Belgium in 19 days, and Poland in 28 days.
We have had filibusters last longer than it took nations to lose their independence and people their liberties. One of the longest filibusters in the United States Senate took place in 1893 over the repeal of the
purchase clause of the Sherman silver law. The filibuster consumed 42 days. In 1846, the Oregon bill was filibustered for 2 months.
This is not a new question. In 1604 the practice of limiting debate in some form was introduced in the British Parliament by Sir Henry
ane. became known in parliamentary procedure as the “previous question,” and is described in section 34 of Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice, as follows:
When any question is before the House, any Member may move a previous question, whether that question (called the main question) shall now be put. If it pass in the affirmative, then the main question is to be put immediately, and no man may speak anything further to it, either to add or alter.
In 1778, the Journals of the Continental Congress also show that the previous question was used. The previous question was provided in the first Senate rules found in the annals of the First Congress, from 1789 to 1791.
On March 26, 1806, when the Senate rules were revised, the reference to the previous question was omitted.
During the Civil War Senator Wade, on January 21, 1862, introduced a resolution stating:
In consideration in secret session of subjects relating to the rebellion, debate should be confined to the subject matter and limited to 5 minutes, except that 5 minutes be allowed any Member to explain or oppose a pertinent amendment.
On January 29, 1862, the resolution was debated and adopted. So far as I can find, this was the most restrictive proposal to be suggested during the entire history of the Senate.
On April 19, 1872, a resolution was introduced reading as follows: That during the remainder of the session it should be in order, in the consideration of appropriation bills, to move to confine debate by any Senator, on the pending motion to 5 minutes.
On April 29, 1872, this resolution was finally adopted by a vote of 33 yeas to 13 nays.
Senator HAYDEN. The Senator from California will understand that the necessity for drastic action of that kind was due to the fact that Congress was compelled to adjourn at that time on the 4th of March. All the appropriation bills had to pass between the first Monday in December and the 4th of March. Any dilatory action might result, as the Senator stated, in forcing into an appropriation bill some item that was not approved by a majority of the Senate. But now that the Norris amendment to the Constitution has been adopted and we do not have a short session of Congress, the necessity for the enactment of legislation under a time limit no longer exists.
Senator KNOWLAND. No, except in the case of a special session that might be called, that would terminate as of January 3, as an example. There would still be a time limit up against which you might conduct a successful filibuster.
Senator HAYDEN. I do not remember any special sessions being called with a time limit.
Senator KNOWLAND. No, but your January 3 date when your new Senators come in to take over would act as a time limit against which a filibuster could be operated. Supposing that had been a special ses
sion called December 1st which would have lasted up until this Janu
Senator HLAYDEN. Then there would be a new Congress on the 3d of January to take up the unfinished legislation.
Senator KNOWLAND. Nevertheless, there would still be a time limit against which you could run a successful filibuster.
On March 7, 1917, Senator Walsh, Democrat, of Montana, introduced a cloture resolution authorizing a committee to draft a substitute for rule XXII, limiting debate. Senator Martin also introduced a resolution amending rule XXII. The Martin resolution was debated at length and adopted March 8, 1917, by a vote of 76 yeas to 3 nays. It is the present rule.
Senator WHERRY. Where did it amend the old rule?
Senator WHERRY. What did it do when it was adopted, in what way did it change the old rule?
Senator KNOWLAND. They did not have that provision for the cloture even under the two-thirds vote prior to that time. It grew out of the armed neutral bill when Wilson had asked for permission to arm the ships.
Senator WHERRY. Oh, that is right.
Senator KNOWLAND. Except for the ratification of treaties and impeachment convictions by the Senate, or for Congress to expel a Member, to pass a bill over a Presidential veto, and to propose amendments
a to the Constitution, it was provided that a majority of the two Houses could legislate for the Nation. The Senate by sanctioning unlimited debate and by requiring a two-thirds vote to limit it has in effect so amended the Constitution as to give veto rights to individual Senators and to make it possible for one over one-third of the Senate to confirm such a veto. On such a basis it takes the same two-thirds vote to override a Senator bent on a filibuster veto that it does to override a Presidential veto.
The time to take up and discuss a change in the cloture rule in early in the session before we are involved in highly controversial legislation. Otherwise either the proponents or opponents of particular legislation may think that the change in the rules is aimed at their particular measure. Such is not the case. The rule is proposed on its own merits.
Since it will no doubt be subject to considerable discussion on the floor of the Senate, I respectfully request that hearings be expedited and the resolution reported. I have no personal pride of authorship. If there is any other amendment that will better do the job in the judgment of the Rules Committee, I stand ready to give it my unqualified support.
Senator HAYDEN. Mr. Chairman, I would like to point out to the Senator from California that the demand for cloture comes as a rule because of some particular measure and that we should be very careful indeed about limiting debate in the Senate. I can illustrate my view by a filibuster I myself once conducted. The Senate had under consideration a bill which it was expected would be debated during the entire day. Senator MeNary, of Oregon, the majority leader, had that expectation.
Unexpectedly there was very little debate, the bill was promptly considered and passed, so that there was no business before the Senate. A motion was made to proceed to the consideration of a bill to prohibit the temporary admission of agricultural laborers from Mexico. Senator McNary came to me and said, “We have been caught napping. You are the only one here who is familiar with the subject. Talk until I can find some way to determine what we are going to do about it."
So I sent to my office for my files, and I took up the rest of the afternoon in discussing the measure, pointing out that Mexico was our neighbor to the south, and Canada to the north, that we had to treat neighboring countries alike. I demonstrated that the bill was directed against one neighbor and not against the other, and that Congress should not discriminate between them. Senator McNary was unable to make any arrangements that afternoon, so I proceeded the next day with some additional information I obtained from the State Department, and carried on the discussion for the remainder of the following afternoon.
Senator KNOWLAND. If the Senator will permit me to interrupt, you understand that this change in the rules that I propose would not have prevented you from doing the same thing, because until a cloture petition had been filed, signed by 16 Senators, and until the thing had laid over 1 day, it would not come up for a vote. And then on the following day it would be acted upon. So the type of a situation that you call attention to would not have been adversely affected by the adoption of this rule.
Senator HAYDEN. I know, but I am talking about the advantages of freedom of discussion in the Senate. Now that bill, if it had been brought to a vote, would have passed the Senate. It had behind it racial and religious prejudice. Mexicans, most of them, are of American Indian blood; they are not white folks. Most of them belong to the Catholic Church. And there were then in the Senate, as there may be at any time, those who talk loudly about America first. When there is a question which involves racial and religious prejudice, peopeople do not stop to reason very much. It is easier for a Senator to vote for a bill of that kind and have less explaining to do at home, than it is to vote against it. I was well satisfied that if the bill came to a vote it would
The Senator knows as well as I do how important it is, in this particular instance, that we do have an opportunity for Mexican labor to come into the United States seasonally to help gather cotton in the Southwest, to handle the sugar beets in the Northwest, and to gather the fruit and vegetable crops in Arizona and California. If that bill had passed, the movement of seasonal labor from Mexico would have been entirely stopped
During the late war, without the help of Mexican agricultural labor we simply could not have produced the crops that the Nation needed.
I was able, under the rules of the Senate, to talk long enough until Senator McNary could make arrangements whereby he was assured of enough votes to substitute another bill for the one before the Senate.
Now the point I am trying to make is that it is important to be able to defend sound principles, it is important to be able to oppose intolerance and racial prejudice, where a majority, by a quick decision, can
Senator KNOWLAND. I think we have, Senator, ample sa feguards. I frankly tell you that I would be opposed to the use of the previous question as it is used in many legislative bodies, where somebody could have gotten up right after you had first spoken, and moved the previous question and brought the debate to a halt, without advance notice on the situation, and forced a vote. But we don't do that here. We set up ample safeguards that would require, as I say, the signature of 16 Senators, the matter laying over, the vote being taken with a clear majority of the entire membership of the Senate. Even after cloture is adopted each Senator still has 1 hour for debate. It can't be done with a mere quorum there and getting a majority of the quorum. And I think we have ample safeguards to protect all legitimate free discussion, which we all want to protect, without at the same time permitting any group of men or small group of men to completely hamstring the Senate of the United States and prevent it from carrying out its constitutional functions.
Senator HAYDEN. I am very glad that the Senator does realize that the Senate is a place for freedom of debate.
Senator KNOWLAND. I do appreciate that.
Senator HAYDEN. And so far as the Senate of the United States is concerned, it is the only forum in the world where that privilege has not been curtailed. Those who control a ruthless majority in other legislative bodies have done incalculable wrongs to their country and to the world in many instances. I am glad to note the moderation with which you are proceeding,
Mr. Chairman, I am compelled to leave because I have another committee meeting.
Senator Ives. I want to ask Senator Hayden a question along the lines he was just talking on.
As a matter of fact, there are some other amendments to rules in the Senate that might have taken care of the situation of which you spoke. I mean if you could have put your bill over for a day or to a given time, that would have taken care of it and you wouldn't have been stuck. Wouldn't that be true?
Senator HAYDEN. It might have been handled in some other way, but I was faced with a situation
Senator Ives. It wasn't just because of this filibuster business that you were faced with that, but because of lack of other rules, perhaps.
Senator HAYDEN. It was lack of an anticipation by the majority leader that there would be any other business that day. He came to me and stated that he was taken by surprise
Senator KNOWLAND. Of course, you could have adjourned, which would have given him a breathing space.
Senator WHERRY. Before Senator Hayden leaves, are there any opponents to this measure in the room this afternoon ?