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Well Vic The 90 year Congress has a definite conservative hue especially when you compare it with the 80 90 Congress which really produced more legislation than possibly any Congress in history. So in contrast the ninetieth Congress with its 60 odd new Republicans elected in 1066 looks more conservative. But even so they they passed a lot of legislation last year which years ago would be considered quite forward looking and they brought. A voice you just heard was that of the executive editor of Congressional Quarterly Thomas wrote one of our guests on the NE our Washington forum a weekly program concerned with significant issues in the news m national educational radio public affairs director Vic Sussman this week a look at the workings of Congress what it's doing and what it can hope to get done. My guests are all editors of Congressional Quarterly a legislative News Service considered the authority on Capitol Hill activities. Congressional Quarterly
a syndicated to more than 400 newspapers broadcasting outlets journalists. It is also it is also subscribed to by several thousand researchers and libraries and members of Congress and concerned parties around the world. My guests are Thomas troth executive editor of Congressional Quarterly. Ed Shanahan senior writer specializing in urban affairs poverty and housing. And David Rosenbaum senior writer specializing in education and Urban Affairs. Gentlemen let's get back to my opening question how would you characterize the ninetieth Congress today. Well I think one of the key things is that there's a lack of leadership in the Democratic Party in both bodies in the Senate. The leader Mansfield is opposed to Johnson in Vietnam and this is kind of an overriding issue in the Senate. So it was of course Fulbright the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the House the Republicans have a quite strong leadership and they're quite quite well organized and whereas the Democrats are the leaders are all
and don't seem to command this leadership. And I think this is key and I think that much of the legislation in this session of the 90 of Congress will have a Republican tint to it because of this. Ed I think the the mood generally is one of frustration. Congress is frustrated that it is unable to do something about the war in Vietnam. That it is unable to stop the rioting to ease the problems of the cities. And the unable to. Keep a lid on the the budget and the possibility of inflation. Tom you want to add to your opening remarks. It is correct it is a mood of frustration but they Congress could help to ease some of these problems. It's not that they aren't able to but they're frustrated because the the available money is being soaked up by the Viet Nam war. And so the Congress is unwilling to use more money for the terrible
problems of the cities and poverty and it's a it's a more guns than butter Congress and I think that could be characterized as part of the mood. Well let's discuss some of the specific legislation and problems about the president's tax increase do you think you'll get that. Well that's anybody's guess. I think that you ought to take your microphone over to Chairman mills of the House Ways and Means Committee and ask him because I think he has the key to the answer. There is however considerable pressure in Congress to attack inflation by. Tax increase Senator Williams of Delaware plans I understand to add his 8 percent tax surcharge proposal to a bill which is is has to be passed by April 1st to continue certain excise taxes and maybe will have some success in the Senate there and keep the ball rolling. The president I'm sure would like that. But
the real the real key to this question is in the House Ways and Means Committee which originates tax legislation. And the key there is chairman Mills and he wants to see substantial. Savings in government spending before he's going to let any tax bill get out. And there of course is disagreement as to how much a tax bill is needed whether inflation really is a danger or whether we are perhaps in a period of growing softness in the economy and also what causes that. If there isn't inflation what the cause of the inflation. Yes exactly and where again Viet-Nam is the key factor. I was speaking of taxes the president recently handed down a package plan of travel taxes. What's the sense of Congress on this what's going to happen with those things. The travel and spending tax to keep people at home. My own guess is that it won't get very far. It's a very unpopular measure and fairly easy to get around. I would guess and I may be entirely
wrong here again it's anybody's guess but my personal feeling is that it won't get very far in Congress although chairman Mills has indicated that he's much more receptive to the idea of the travel tax than he is to the 10 percent surcharge. Yes that's true. Well is it possible for Congress or the president to really reduce spending now for instance we're going to build a supersonic airplane. I think that the first plane is going to cost the research and development is going to cost 40 billion dollars and the planes after that will cost a couple hundred million dollars apiece. Is it possible to really reduce this sort of spending. I think the president's 1969 proposed budget. Indicates that it isn't actually that he isn't actually able to reduce spending he is able to perhaps keep the percentage increase of spending at a slower rate. But I don't think that he's able to actually reduce spending in any of these programs.
And it's also I think interesting that last year Congress passed a bill which along with appropriation bills was supposed to cut spending by 4.3 billion dollars. And in fact it did cut spending by in some places by 4.3 billion dollars over what was estimated in January of 1967. But when the when the final figures are all tallied up I think there's no question that the spending will be several billion dollars above that was tallied from January 1968 and there are certain areas in spending such an increased Social Security benefits that are. And interest on the national debt and pay it all up and have to be paid. But rather just the pay raise the Congress voted last year I said I considered uncontrollable meeting their needs amount to something on the order of 10 billion dollars that he had no control over what is ok to cut spending would be to do something about this war in Vietnam. That's where 25 billion dollars each year is going. Which is a third of the defense budget or more and it's also immediate spending too.
It's not it's not long range types and it's been it's actually cry 5 billion dollars that's being plunked down for what comments would you care to make a comment about the war as far as Congress is concerned we read a lot in the papers and magazines. As experts about Congress what do you think. Well I think frustration is a good one in characterizing how Congress views the war. Obviously nobody wants no one likes the war and there are more there is more and more frustration as we seem to be in a quagmire that that we can't get out of. It's it's tragic in the extreme because the war besides being intrinsically bad is frustrating programs domestic programs that are urgently needed to attack poverty and housing and urban problems and I think Congress is very upset about this. Indeed and as Ed said frustrated except on the I think you ought to say though that I don't think orders can do anything about it you know. No I mean it
is frustrating but there's really nothing they can do. Right not only that it's called upon from time to time to endorse the policies of the administration simply by providing additional funds to support the men that have been committed to Vietnam so that now we can a doing nothing about the war it often is is asked to to and willingly endorse the war. Let's talk about it with the critics of the war in Congress as well as outside of Congress. There are very few have come forth with suggestions on the alternatives. Let's talk about matters close to home now about the civil rights bill. The president has asked for bars on housing injury discrimination tougher penalties against racial violence and terror tactics. So what is the situation in Congress now with these measures and with civil rights measures. We're going to leave it there Dave. It's a very weak year for civil rights. There's no question about this. The mood of Congress is not one of broad civil rights programs. There's no
question but that there will be no open housing legislation. It's probable that the Senate I think will pass in some form of the bill that protects civil rights workers who are traveling between states. But this may well be passed along with any right Bill it may be some sort of combined legislation and bargaining maybe you give me this and I'll give you that. But other than that I can't see any other say no chance at the open housing legislation for example. No no that's what I said not a no chance at all for open housing legislation. He won't even come to the point of being filibustered. If we push hard right you know last year the const southern senators tried to tack the open housing legislation to the to a much weaker civil rights bill because the Southerners thought that with open housing legislation they could kill the entire civil rights bill. What about any riot legislation you said before we began the program you told me that you felt that the gun the gun controls would be tied in with the anti-riot while the president said his crime message that that he was going to tie the anti-riot bill
and the gun control bill together and at a press briefing after the editor after the message one of the Justice Department top officials said that this would be quote enhanced the chances of passage of both pieces of legislation unquote. And there's no question that if that is a political ploy and I think that the chances are probably they will get both of them. Video will get both of them. I think there's I mean there's no question but they took up the bill and the gun control bill I think has the best chance ever of passing now. I think that there is in spite of all the lobbying there's tremendous sentiment for this around the country I don't think there's much question about this for the gun can the gun control bill. I agree I think the National Rifle Association and other hobbies have about shot their wad. And not only that but the one of the main opposition came from the Western and Southern members of Congress who said that there was no place in their state where their people could buy guns. And as re written the administration bill provides that a state legislature can exempt itself from the provision outlawing mail order shipment of rifles.
Also the rioting has changed the whole character of the debate over gun control it was a question of the people sent away from mail order guns and committing some kind of. Crime individual crime but the the. Possibility in the probability of the large numbers of people getting a hold of weapons and rioting. I think has has changed the emphasis five and one for on the roof. I think one interesting thing is that just recently all crimes are being lumped together and when people talk about the Safe Streets Bill this is also connected with rioting and really burglaries and rapes and muggings and things like this don't have anything to do with with riots and yet I think that the thinking of people in the president also tend to lump these things together if you think and this is strange because it's well it's good to give more support for base anti riot position if you view this as some kind of a broad criminal or anti crime package we have a good many
listeners all around the country for instance as far away as Alaska as far as distance from Washington so a lot of people aren't familiar with. And we talk about a lobbying How is it possible. Can you explain how it's possible that a law that was called for it seems by as much of the public especially after the assassination of President Kennedy as a gun control law kind of could have been stalled for so many years how does it work how does a lobby work. This is the National Rifle Association is a tremendously powerful organization. A lot of members has had in the past considerable support from the federal government many of its programs. They get the members get discounts on guns and the military establishment supports them the American Legion supports them the Grange supports them and all these are part pretty powerful organizations and can muster a lot of support and have a lot of influence over members of Congress from the rural areas. And it's also a very emotional thing. The idea of being able to keep a gun by your bedside to protect you from intruders is very emotional and the National Rifle Association particularly has
reinforced this over and over again with its statements and in its magazine The American Rifleman. They have had they I think Star they've stirred up enough emotions so that letters letters to members of Congress for instance of are just overwhelming on this and I think that even though probably the majority of the people would support gun legislation. I did in the past I don't believe that the letters to the congressman have shown this because I think that the National Rifle Association and its magazine has been able to mobilize lots and lots of minders behind their position and they've used the constitutional provision that every citizen has the right to bear arms to drum up this emotional tone. Day an hour how can I protect in South Africa thing you know that this is the same kind of thing that the people who wanted to restore prayers in the schools used and mobilizing public opinion in an emotional basis rather than. On the facts
of the matter. Ed you are a special field of interest as poverty how do we stand with poverty legislation this year. Well the to the surprise I think of the administration the poverty program was not only continued for one year but for two years in legislation in 1967. So the issue this year will be providing funds for the program through fiscal 916 and it won't be over whether the program is good bad or indifferent or should be continued or abandoned. So the administration can claim victory in this and certain concessions were made. The control of the local Community Action Program which is considered the heart of the poverty program the involvement of the poor and in the program development has been turned over really to public officials and will be run more or less as a as
a governmental program. And there is a fear that the poor may not be included as as fully as completely as they had been in the past. But this was a concession that. Clearly had to be made by the administration to get the program authorized again. Is it also likely to be I'm not sure about that isn't there likely to be some sort of a fight in Congress about Sargent Shriver successor since it seems pretty obvious that certain trouble will not last out this year. Yeah I'm not sure what kind of a fight that would involve. It will bring the poverty program back to the floor of Congress again though when history I mean the Senate has to confirm his successor. I'm sure that's true but that the sort of that has been always been much more receptive to the idea of a poverty program. What about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. his march on Washington this is supposed to be a poor people's march on Washington and it's specifically being staged to affect Congress. What's going to happen with this.
Dr. King says that he's going to through civil disobedience try to disrupt the operation of government. And from everything we hear the federal government is going to do everything to keep the machinery of government going. So this civil disobedience could turn violent if enough people come and if they're determined enough to sit on the steps of Congress or clothes stay in doorways going into the various departments because the government won't tolerate it. On the other hand I think the April of March is going to be watched carefully for signs of what the summer is going to be like. It might set a pattern. Gift time and song. Well I I my I must say I think that. Dr. King misread the mood of of Congress and I think that Congress is perhaps waiting for this
kind of a confrontation. And I think that that I think that he's going to. Exercise and agitate Congress more in the Senate. And there may be a toughening that maybe no the maybe a cutback in funds for poverty programs or maybe a cutback in housing programs a reduction in funds for job programs. I'm not saying that that that what he's proposing to do isn't isn't the logical and proper thing to do but it might. He might find that he gets a much different response than than the one he's seeking. Witness the fact that in the middle of the riots last summer when Congress passed the Iraq bill and when the House refused to consider the rock and roll bill so it may backfire. Exactly. Let's talk about something else close to home to Dave Rosenbaum your your field is education. There's been a lot of congressional criticism recently especially I know
Representative Peter Green has been at the forefront of this criticism of the of the draft. The criticism says that the way the draft is set up now taking the oldest man first that it's wrecking the graduate schools and may deprive the country of of the teachers that it needs. What's your feeling about the draft act in Congress. Well Mrs. Green's absolutely right about that. If something isn't changed in no there's no question but that it will wreck graduate schools and teachers. Commissioner Howard testified before Mrs. Green's Committee last week that there is something I think the figures may be wrong but I think there are four hundred twenty five thousand prospective graduate students next year and something like a third or even a half of these will be drafted under the new law. Now the National Security Council which means the president of the United States because he's the he's chairs that in the National Security Council does what the president wants it to do it has been instructed to
by Congress to come up with critical area deferments in other words they would defer to people who are in critical areas of the country. And there's a great fear among educators Nathan pusing of Harvard was here last week and he said he has this terrific fear that mathematicians and scientists will be deferred and students in the humanities who are many of whom who are prospective teachers will not be deferred. Isn't this really happening now though as far as local boards are concerned I know that as far as what's happening now is that you can stay in graduate school until you're 26 years old and not be drafted. But the new law change this because it provided that anybody who ever has an undergraduate deferment becomes maximum Lisa thought a bill to the draft with all his other deferments in a and b eliminated graduate deferments except for certain things that might be subsequently prescribed. One of the strange things is is that it's been. Or eight or nine months now since Congress passed the draft bill and the National Security Council still hasn't made these
recommendations and so graduate schools are having a terrible time planning for next year. Students who are now seniors in college and who are planning to go on to graduate school or who want to go on to graduate school don't know what the guidelines are going to be and don't know whether they can go on to graduate school. You think Congress will change this. Well something's going to have to be done I don't think I'm not sure the Congress will change it but I think that one possible thing is is the job right now there's a moratorium on drafting graduate students and there's a rumor kicking around and I don't know whether it's true or not. There's a rumor that Johnson will extend this moratorium for another year which would be it would be an easy way out it would satisfy the graduate student. It would not it wouldn't be equitable because the way it stands now is that there's no question but that poor people are not getting drafted in that poor people are getting drafted in rich people who can afford to stay in graduate school or not. One of the new areas of interest on Capitol Hill in fact it has been called a glittering area of interest because it's attracting a lot of attention it seems to be a very safe
way of attracting attention for Congress. Is consumer safety consumer legislation we've seen in a meat bill go through in this sort of thing. And we have Betty fairness as the president's special adviser on consumer affairs. So what can we see in this in this new surge of concern about the consumer what new bills as far as fish drugs gas pipelines that sort of thing. ED Well I think those are the the the major bills still the House and the Senate have to work out some kind of a final truth in lending bill which really will be the keystone of any consumer program that might emerge from the Congress this year. The other major bills are gas pipeline safety and a program of fire safety and research. Johnson also proposed a consumer counsel in the. Justice Department apparently a. A strong voice for the consumer in the Justice Department and also he
proposed certain changes which he hasn't spelled out yet in the operations of the Federal Trade Commission aimed at protecting the consumer. But again I think the truth in lending bill would have to be the major consumer bill that will will emerge the others are our kind of adornments and other comments either. But I think that with the actions of the the bills that Congress passed last year such as the meat inspection and fabrics Bill it's a fabulous bill and the Truth in Lending which will I believe passed this year will justify the president in characterizing the ninetieth Congress as a consumer Congress which he did I think when he was thanking them for their session last year and the president is very enthusiastic about these consumer bills and they're for it and write it and they don't do terrible things to the national budget. So I
think maybe one of the things and ideas Congress will be remembered for the most will be consumer legislation. Also to kill it isn't it isn't all bad to campaign as a friend of the consumer because it's a safe area for voters or consumers. Now here's a question of special interest to us is the national educational radio network. Maybe it comes out of left field because nobody talks about it much these days. That's the Public Broadcasting Act. What's the situation with that. Has this been stalled because of the war another one of the things that has to be shelved. I think possibly I think because the crucial key issue is a long range financing type of proposal for it. Johnson hasn't come up with one yet. The money that he's asking for this year which is four million dollars in a supplemental bill and another 20 million dollars may or may not get through Congress and tax some money probably will get through. But this is really a piddling amount and this will be the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will
not be on its feet at the end of this year. There's no question about that because there will be no long range from getting proposals. The Republicans in Congress are concerned primarily Republicans but other people others in Congress are concerned about the propriety of having the government subsidize broadcasting public information public information type organization. I think that there's a fear in this country of among many people that this could somehow turn into a government public information network. Now this hasn't happened in Britain that hasn't happened counted and there but for some reason the fear still exists. Well could I add to that the Public Broadcast Corporation that was passed by Congress created by Congress last year is without financing and the big question now is that if we're going to have a fourth network shows speak of public broadcasting and a really important public broadcasting system in this country the question is how to
finance it to immunize it against government interference or the interference of the say a large foundation. And so that the big question now is the various proposals to finance public broadcasting in a big way. You know we talk about 100 million dollars a year with public funds. Among the suggestions has been an excise tax on television or radio sets or the soaking the three commercial networks and let them pay for it or possibly putting up a satellite that would rent space for the commercial network works and other electronic outfits. But once this is. When once a way is decided on the finances public radio and television then some sort of a system of putting a screen a committee or some some group Public Service Group between government and the network at the radio and television stations so that they
can be accused to be influenced or controlled by government. But this is off several years away and this is right in the meantime. You find people have a need t and PBL in a network capacity and poor stations all around the country struggling along and getting funds from the Ford Foundation and other private groups and individuals and some federal money of the last few years is about on the scale of the requested 9 million dollars that hasn't been passed yet for this year. We have about a minute left and as a last question I wanted you to possibly discuss briefly the question of third and fourth party politics we've seen George Wallace announce as a as a as of a third party candidate and we have your Gene McCarthy why. What's the situation with third and fourth party politics how will that affect our election year especially as regards the possibility of it being thrown into the House of Representatives to break that law. Well the McCarthy candidacy isn't really a third party it's
and. An attack on the president in his own party to try to get the nomination but the. WALLACE George Wallace is a third party movement and could be very important this year. If it's a close election. WALLACE Who will be on the ballot in at least 49 of the states may be able to get enough electoral votes to prevent either of the major candidates major party candidates from getting a majority of the votes. And if that happens the election for the presidency is thrown into the house where each state has one vote and the election for the vice president is summoned to the Senate where as if I suppose you could be chosen by majority vote and that would be a very interesting situation giving us a bargaining position in helping to select the president. We're out of time. Thank you. You've been listening to a discussion of the workings of Congress what it's doing what it can hope to get done. My guests are all editors of Congressional Quarterly the leading authority on the activities of Congress. Our thanks to Tom a Shrove think executive editor of
Congressional Quarterly and senior writers Ed Shanahan and Dave Rosenbaum. This is Vic Sussman inviting you to listen again next week for another edition of NE our Washington forum a weekly program concerned with significant issues in the news. This program was produced for the national educational radio network through the facilities of W am USM American University Radio in Washington D.C. technical direction by David Eccleston. This is the national educational radio network.
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NER Washington forum
Congressional Quarterly editors
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National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
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Editors from Congressional Quarterly assess the 90th Congress of the United States.
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Discussion series featuring a prominent figure affecting federal government policy.
Public Affairs
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Host: Sussman, Vic S.
Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
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