A Federal Case II; 26
This is a federal case from Washington D.C. the National Educational radio network brings you one examination of current issues facing our nation in its capital city. Here is NPR and correspondent Bill Moroney. The Honorable Carl Albert of Oklahoma 46 speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Well I view my job as speaker as being that of trying to lead the Congress and a legislative solution to problems which should be dealt with in the legislative problems that confront the nation. I think that's my primary job. I also think that it's my job to be the party leader and be the presiding officer of the house. Carl Albert is a small man in physical stature only he stands five feet four inches tall. But in Congress no one towers over him. If you equal the legislative heights he has achieved. He's a personable man whose style and manner echo his humble origins.
Carl Albert was born on the 10th of May in 1908 on a farm near McAllister Oklahoma the oldest of five children of Ernest Albert. A short fire in a local coal mine. Three years later the family moved to a small cotton farm near the town. He would later claim is his official home bug tussle Oklahoma. Albert attended the two room bug school and became its first high school graduate in 1923 the family moved back to McAllister. Ernest Albert went back to the coal mines and Carl to the McAllister high school. There he was president of the student body and share the national debating team championship. Albert went on to the University of Oklahoma his oratorical talents won him a three month trip to Europe with a speech on the Constitution and I'll ration on the World Peace paid off with a trip to Hawaii. An old friend of Albert's in the house is Representative Tom Steed from a neighboring district in Oklahoma state who in earlier years worked as a reporter for an Oklahoma newspaper observed some of Albertville relations and recalled that he was astonished at the volume that came out of that pea way. At the
University of Oklahoma Albert once again took up campus politics and was elected president of the student council to finance his education he worked as a waiter soda jerk drycleaning solicitor and tutor on his trip to England. He saw Oxford University and decided he wanted to go there. In 1931 when he graduated he would do so with grades that earned him a 5 Beta Kappa key. But to win the coveted Rhodes Scholarship it would send him to Oxford. He needed to excel in some sport too small for most athletics. Albert joined the wrestling team where he was pitted against opponents of the same weight. He won his Rhodes scholarship after his graduation the then president of the university the late Dr. William Buzzell said Carl Albert is probably the brightest mind ever to come to this university up to this time. At Oxford Albert earned two law degrees one of his classmates there was also won a Rhodes Scholarship. His name was Dean Rusk. He turned out to be secretary of state during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in 1034 Carl Albert returned to Oklahoma and was admitted to the state's bar while working as a clerk for the Federal Housing Administration. Between then
in 1941 when he joined millions of other Americans and enlisting for military service following Pearl Harbor Albert worked for several oil companies and briefly moved his private law practice to Illinois. He joined the Army as a private in the 3rd Armored Division but his two Lott agrees quickly found their way through the red tape and he became a legal officer the next year receiving a direct commission as a captain. He served briefly at several Air Corps bases in the Pacific but spent the remainder of the war on duty in the Judge Advocate General's office at the Pentagon in Washington. It was there that he met his future wife. One of the office clerks was a diminutive 20 year old named Mary Harmon. She's quoted as saying that when Carl walked in she told the other single girls in the office and you can just stand back and stop drooling because this one's mine. He's just my size. They were married in August of one thousand forty two. The Alberts now have two children Mary Frances 22 and David 16 and 1946 Carl Albert returned to his McAllister law practice within a few months began what would turn out to be the roughest political battle of his career. The 1946 Democratic primary election for the third Oklahoma congressional district he
ran second but in a runoff election defeated the front runner by 330 votes. He overwhelmed his Republican opponent in the November general election and has had a few electoral problems since then and 1962 in 1970 he had no opposition and never has a Republican ever amassed more than one third of the vote against him. An old and frequently told story relates how when I would first appeared on the House floor as short height in a blue suit caused him to be mistaken for one of the Capitol pages a veteran members said to have handed him a batch of papers and said Son take these over to my office. Legend has it that the 38 year old Albert perform the task dutifully return to the floor just in time to be sworn into the idea of Congress during the 12 congresses in which he has served. Carlisle But quietly with dedication and loyalty as worked his way up the leadership ladder becoming majority whip in 1054 majority leader in 1982 and then last May 20th. But then Speaker John McCormick of Massachusetts announced he was retiring. I will not seek re-election in the next Congress said representative from the Ninth
Congressional District of Massachusetts. This is not been a hasty decision on my part. As a matter of fact before the last election I missed the comic and I was looking forward to some period of rest and relaxation. And I had considered not running then but on account of it being a presidential election I decided to run because if I didn't write it and I had. To be considered adversely against my party. MCCORMICK bragged about his length of tenure as speaker. I MAY 29 thought there were Bobs I would be speak at the second longest in the history of the country. And next to my predecessor Sam Rayburn and I on the same day at that time I would have said the longest and continuous should speak of any history of our country.
Sam Rayburn had open service. I would see Henry Clay and but I'd have the. At that time I had the longest continuous service a speaker in the history of the country was eulogized from all quarters. Friends like Lawrence O'Brien a fellow Bostonian and chairman of the Democratic Party John McCormick has been in the forefront of American politics and the Democratic Party for 42 years as Congressman. As House Democratic leader and as speaker. As a resident of Massachusetts I have known him for most of my adult life. And I was an employee associated with him throughout my eight years as the representative of two presidents and their dealings with Congress. During those eight years. Congress wrote the most constructive legislative record in the history of the nation. For the benefit of millions of Americans. And the role of John McCormick was critical to the passage of that legislation. With his colleagues and all Americans. I will miss him. I join
them all in my wishes for a rapid return to how I as devoted wife came from the man Democratic majorities I get from the Speaker's chair. House minority leader Gerald Ford I was surprised that speaker Mike carmaker announced that he was not going to be a candidate again for Congress. I'm sure his announcement surprised a great many Democrats. I park as a Republican leader I have had nothing but fine personal relationships with. Become a karmic head of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives. Thank you yes. Than an outstanding legislator a fine leader of the Democratic Party. And an individual who has been totally devoted to. A strong national security program. The strength of America. Both at home and abroad. And of course praise came from his dedicated majority leader Carl Albert. I was saddened this after noon to learn that Speaker John McCormick had
decided to retire. It is difficult for me to contemplate the House of Representatives without the wise counsel and outstanding leadership of this great legislator John McCormick is without question the preeminent legislator of the world today. McCormack concluded his farewell news conference on May 20th by anointing the man he hoped would become his successor. If I were not seeking re-election remember the next Congress not shaking. Speakership there was no in that I would more quickly spontaneously in a more pleasantly vote for the speaker than call out Karl über threw his hat into the ring that very same day a number of my colleagues of the House have already asked me if I will be a candidate for election as speaker in the 90 second Congress. The answer
is yes I will be. They have urged me to make the announcement and I am grateful for their support. Our campaign is already underway. Opposition to Albert's candidate he was expected from Arizona Democrat Morris Udall. You don't successfully tried to unseat Speaker McCormack at the beginning of a session citing that younger more liberal leadership was needed but he too joined the ranks of the others and decided to take second best that he could get it. While I had my differences with Speaker McCormack I don't think there's anyone in the house or in the country who doesn't feel a great bond of sympathy for this great man and a great deal of appreciation for the tremendous service he's rendered his party and his country and his state. Secondly I want to assert my support for Congressman Albert of Oklahoma to succeed speaker McCormick when the House convenes next January. Third after talking to some of my colleagues here in the house I'm announcing today that I want my
name considered as a candidate for majority leader. The Democratic Party when we convene here next January. But he didn't relent in his quest for better leadership for the Democratic Party to offer alternatives. I think we all need leadership which is younger can identify with young people and talk to them leadership which can assert some fresh initiatives and alternatives to the programs of President Nixon and the Republicans. I rather imagine that there will be a number of candidates and fortunately this very crucial decision which will affect our party nationally in the in the years ahead will be made calmly deliberately with a chance for the house to look at the qualifications of all the fine men who will want to be considered. But I'm throwing my hat into the ring and will ask my colleagues in messages that I'm going to send out tonight. To withhold any decision on a final choice in this race until we all have had a chance to talk and to make our case. Carl Alberts election to the speakership hinged on one important event. Democratic retention of their
majority in the house after the November 1990 elections. The GOP wasn't seriously expected to tip the balance and they didn't. So when the 90 second Congress came back to Washington in January Carl Albert stood unopposed until the Democratic caucus on January 18th three days before the formal speakership election process in the house was the Democratic caucuses job to select that day from their membership their nominee for speaker. And then when Congress opened vote as a bloc a majority and officially elect him it was there that Carl Albert was presented with a token opposition like representative from the troika. John Conyers complained bitterly about the need for new reform minded leadership. There ought to be at least one candidate who is going to try to unify the party and try to move the Democratic Party into the 1970s. It's been a great deal of talk about. Before but I can tell you that the reform can get nowhere if we don't have the leadership backing the reform and so far it's still business as usual as
far as the leadership is concerned. Congressman Conyers told his fellow Democrats that he too was a candidate for the Speaker's chair. And I do it out of a necessity to make certain that there is an alternative between for sitting in the same fashion that this Democratic Congress has since I arrived in 1965 on whether or not we're going to really strike out and try to make some substantive change in the way that Congress operates. And in the way that we legislate here in the United States House of Representatives Conyers was brushed aside and Albert emerged the Democrat's choice when it came time for the official vote on the House vote the Gerald Ford still GOP leader and Albert left the chambers while fellow members placed their names in nomination. Neither were surprised at the outcome. The clerk of the House read the results. The tellers agree on their time the total number of votes. Four hundred twenty six of which the honorable Carr Albert of
Oklahoma received two hundred and fifty and the honorable Gerald R. Ford received one hundred seventy six. I refer the honorable Carr Albert of Oklahoma is the duly elected speaker of the House of Representatives. But are not of the first Congress. Not a second Congress. Second Congress having received the majority of the votes cast. Curtis Goodell But back to the cheering chamber at the rostrum the Michigan Republican spoke of nonpartisanship which was to be forgotten in the weeks to come. And then observed with some humor that I what was the first speaker ever elected from Bug tussle Oklahoma. I'm assuming the speaker's chair Albert promised referring to presidential proposals that there would be no opposition for simply opposition sake the new speaker then spoke of the role of the House of Representatives as he envisioned it. We must move. Cautiously of course but we must
also with us. And the disposition of the public business that I read as to how much should be done. To delay. In the performance of our duties. This here's a man must always remain. A viable. Working institution. As responsive to the needs of America and 971. As it was when Frederick Nunberg. First picked up the gavel in seventeen hundred and eighty nine. And I pledge to you as your new speaker with your hand. To this house representative enters into rightful place. Why are you going to play among the branches of the national
government. Albert's nature is a personal one. His great success in the house is attributed to his detailed knowledge of all the members and their particular interests and pressures and the local politics of practically every one of the 435 congressional districts. He's never been known to pressure a member by saying you owe us this one. The approach is usually more along the lines of We Need You. We have to have you. Carl Albert has long held the high reputation as being one of the best nose counters in Congress. He's rarely been more than five or six votes off. Now what works best behind the scenes prodding rather than pressuring committee chairman to move needed legislation. He really introduces bills of his own but prefers to support the work of others. He believes that a bill with his name on it would hinder the delicate relationship he has with a chairman who would handle it. One of his aides says about the only thing the boss ever puts in is a private bill. Albert first came before the national line to any considerable degree as chairman of the nine thousand sixty eight Democratic National Convention in Chicago despite his booming voice which fought with a loud but miserable public address system and allowed an unruly crowd
of delegates. He had difficulty keeping order. The situation in the mood are more to blame than the man. I would as always enjoy his privacy and really appears before microphones. The only interview he's granted since assuming the speakership was that very week on NBC Meet the Press program he was questioned by a longtime panel member Lawrence Spivak on the traditional role of the House of Representatives in today's modern world. Well I. I always. See room for reform in nearly everything that comes along. I think on the whole the House has done a very good job. I think we were expeditious last year for instance much more so than then. Then the country realized we have enacted important reform bills last year and the caucus has stood up to certain areas which I think required reforms are I might understand what you say that you have. You have no special reform that you now think is important to make the house more
responsive to the needs of this country at the present time. Well I have certain ideas but I want to approach them after consultation with a lot a lot of members I do think we can speed the tempo of the house for instance. Now do you with speaker now have all the power you need to do the best possible job or do you think that you need some more powers. Well I I don't think I need any more powers. I of course supported the 21 day rule which the House rejected that would have given me power but I didn't want to sit on it for the sake of power. I wanted it because I wanted to be sure that the Congress could meet its responsibilities. The House can meet its responsibilities at all times. Well now do you think now that you failed to get that that Congress may not be able to meet all its responsibilities. No I think we will. We will be able to do that. You don't think it's that
important. You don't believe that it's a serious handicap to the operation of the house. No not a major Andy Capp. I don't think so misspeak but I have one more question in a recent Gallup poll 79 percent of American college students and 63 percent of the general public said that our political system doesn't respond quickly enough to meet the needs of the people while you seem to be quite satisfied with the way the House of Representatives responds. I'm not I'm never fully satisfied that I think the House does a better job than most people think it is and I think it's going to do a better job we've got a new Congress we've got a new day and I believe the House of Representatives will live up to its responsibilities but only time can tell and I'm sure that I for one will be measured by the extent to which it does live up to its responsibilities. And what do you see as the most serious and immediate problem facing Congress. Well I think that it depends on what angle you look at it. I
think I think the most immediate to propose a legislative problem is not just one problem it's several problems dealing with the economy. I think there's another problem and you touched on it a while ago and that is trying to give the House and the Senate. And I'm interested of course primarily on the House and image before the country. That will cause the country to respect it respect its judgments and its attitudes and its work. I think that's very important. I think this is so basic This institution is so basic to our country that it that the people need to understand it and to respect it and of course members of Congress need to help give it to me why do you again. Why do you think Congress has lost the respect of the people what it what has it done has been to done I don't know whether it's lost the respect I'm not sure that in all the history of democratic political institutions that people don't generally question their elected officials. I think that's
probably been true through most of the years of the country's history. It probably probably was one or two try when the legislative branch was preeminent over the executive branch. That's difficult to do in this day and age because the president is that one chosen individual OF THE NATION. Well Mr. Speaker I think the big criticism that is being made against Congress is that it isn't responsive. Now I'd like to take up a very specific thing on the issue of responsiveness. According to a recent Gallup poll 77 percent of the American people are in favor of having the federal government collect taxes and return a percentage to the states without strings. I was on a standard you were against that. Now why I am not against that. If there are proper limitations but I am not going to endorse that proposal and a lot saw it spelled out because I am not in favor of the federal government becoming only a tax collecting agency for the states
and municipalities without any conditions turning money over to incompetent administrations if there are some and I'm sure there are some. I think we should. I think we're morally obligated if we send a tax collector to somebody to see that the money is properly spent. Well you've given the locality Congress has voted to localities something like 27 billion dollars with all sorts of strings attached to him and hasn't done much good don't you think it's time to give some thought to changing that system. I think it's time to give some thought to changing the system but I think this thing needs to be studied in much greater depth than any study I've seen up to now how long how long must be I think. I think it should be studied just as long as necessary to get the job done for instance. I think that Congress is entitled to know. How all of the communities in the states are spending their own funds how far they're going in meeting their own responsibilities to tax their own constituencies. All of these are
relevant to this issue. Mr. Speaker one more question the president has proposed a revolutionary reorganization of government how much chance is there that Congress will pass that. What do you think the House will do. I don't know but I told the president that I would go to the appropriate committees and ask them to give it full consideration and that I will do. It will be difficult to pass I am sure the president is under no illusions about that because various groups are represented in the cabinet as we have it constituted now you have a Department of Agriculture you have a Department of Labor you have a department of health education welfare and these are of wide areas of interest in the United States and you're going to have a lot of groups lobbying if you go too far in varying these major interests of America into cabinet positions that don't. Record I don't seem to represent them but I do think there's a lot of merit in the president's
proposal in general. But I want to see the specifics. Mr. Speaker you were recently quoted as predicting that there will be sharp clashes between the Nixon administration and the Democratic leadership on domestic policy. Why do you expect sharp clashes. Well I I expect just on the basis of the record that we will disagree but I am repeating that I have said over and over again we're not going to disagree for the sake of disagreement. It is difficult to gauge at this early date what kind of a speaker Carl Albert will be to determine what kind of a record he will compile. It's fairly certain he will not establish a lengthy tenure. He's already in his early 60s and said he will retire in about eight years when he nears the 70 mark his leadership style is one that escapes hides even from the scrutiny he can be expected to exert a greater a firmer leadership role than his predecessor. He has pledged himself to reestablishing a strong legislative position for the House of Representatives. Carl Albert is criticized for his tolerance of established ways of doing things his old friend and
colleague Tom steed says this is no sign of weakness. Steed says Karl can cut somebody down to size and he'll do it in a minute if he's given no other choice. But still he adds he'd rather reason with you. The greatest need of a speaker is votes votes to pass crucial legislation. His personal relationship with so many of the members and his basic honesty will surely see him rarely lacking for those extra votes when he needs them. Carl Albert is speaker of the house and will probably be so until he retires in him is seen the firmness necessary to lead a democratic congress down a progressive road in conjunction with an opposition party in the White House. The little man from Bug Council has made it to the top. I view my job as speaker as being that of trying to lead the Congress and a legislative solution to problems which should be dealt with in the legislative failed problems that confront the nation. I think that's my primary job. I also think that it's my job to be the party leader and be the presiding officer of the
- A Federal Case II
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- "A Federal Case II" is a weekly program produced by the National Educational Radio Network which examines current political topics in the United States and Washington, D.C. Each episode features interviews with experts, members of the public, and lawmakers concerning a specific issue of government.
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- APA: A Federal Case II; 26. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-td9n7b9n