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Nearly two centuries ago the new constitution of a new nation was read and proclaimed in the Town Halls of America. Legislative powers here and granted shall be bested and I Congress of the United States. Which all consist of my Senate Down House of Representatives. The House of Representatives shall be composed. These were the words that gave birth to one of the three branches of our government the legislative director the needs as own nation has grown what has become of this branch of the governmental tree branch of what is the status of your Congress today. Your Congress today is produced and recorded by the university radio and television
service under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Here is your narrator. The Liberty Bell has lost its resonance and the many town hall bells ringing out the message of government have ceased to toll a new bell rings for America. Listen. This is the bell any tourist to our nation's capital can hear resound ing through the corridors of our Capitol building. This is the bell which summons your congressman to his voting chamber when he arrives there why does he vote the way he does. To him of what importance are you the voting constituency whom he represents. What importance are his party the special interest groups the president the Supreme Court and the administrative agencies of government. On today's program we consider the second of these six potential influences on his legislative behavior. That is the political party to which he
belongs. To get a glimpse of the relationship between members of Congress and their party I talked with two congressional leaders Congressman Charles a holic of Indiana and Senator Frank she of Ohio. My first interview was with Congressman colic. With. Congressman how look how long have you been a member of the House of Representatives. Well I've been here 23 years I'm starting on my twenty fourth year which is of course a pretty considerable amount of time. There's been consecutive service. Yes I was elected the first in a special election January 29 1935 and I have been re-elected every two years since. Have you held any important positions in the Congress during this long period of service.
Well I served on the interstate and foreign commerce committee first and then on the rules committee of both of those committees at the same time I got up to the second position on the Republican side. Then in the 80th Republican Congress I was elected majority leader and then also was elected majority leader again in the eighty third Republican Congress when President Eisenhower came into office as president. So not only a long period of time but quite a diversity of experience and well it's been a very interesting experience I certainly would agree to that during your political career here and possibly before you were elected to Congress Have you always been a member of the Republican Party. Yes I am one of those who was born in the party and have never seen any reason to leave it. My dad was a great Republican in Indiana ahead of me and I have pretty much followed his butt steps. So you believe in the party system in America. Oh I certainly do I think it's the only way that a republic can function efficiently and well it is under a two party system.
You think you know much more efficiently than under a one party system or a multi-party system either way. Well of Certainly if you have a one party system that government couldn't be responsive to the will of the people. If you've got a model of a party system that is more than two you break up into minorities and often minorities that control the government. And we have a chaotic condition like we have in France. You have a two party system. And the difference is generally speaking through the history of our country have been between the two parties are broadly speaking between what we call the right and the left. Conservative or liberal or sometimes we say radical how. But it's been the swing back and forth between those two parties that has given the country stability with progress and certainly that is a desirable thing. Just how does a member of Congress given this conviction that party position is important. I was a member of Congress determine party policy on legislative matters. Well I suppose first of all pretty much of the policy is set. When are
you in so far as the national government is concerned when the platforms are adopted at the national convention. Those are supposed to state the position of the party and of course them after that platform is adopted there we go along in the enactment of legislation and meeting the problems that come up and those that are that are meeting up those problems in that fashion involves a policy committee action and frequently a conference action of all of the members to determine just what course of action should be pursued but always I think in the light of an implementation of the platform as the basic state. Party policy no great deviation as far as you can tell from the platform position. Well I must say in my own personal experience sometimes I wonder why the people that write the platforms write some of the stuff in there that they do and sometimes it becomes pretty difficult to implement all of it. But there are deviations of
course on occasion that result from deep conviction or maybe change conviction conditions but so that it isn't an absolute guide it isn't an absolute requirement but certainly it is something that having been elected on that platform and we ought to give it more than lip service. I see you mention the party conference a moment ago. Could you explain a little more about that when it is held how often and who attends and what type of legislative matters normally given the greatest attention at these conferences of course as you understand I'm not invited into the Democrat conference as I know only have my experience out of the Republican conferences although I know by hearsay of course of what goes on in the other conferences but I think the pattern is pretty much the same. All of the members are supposed to attend the conference that generally is opened by the leader after the determination that a quorum is present and then generally speaking the conference is called to consider specific
propositions maybe it's taxes maybe it's appropriations maybe it can deal with any of the problems that come before us and we generally operate under the so-called five minute rule a man gets five minutes to talk in the conference he's recognized by the chairman of the conference. Sometimes those conferences result in definite resolutions that are adopted. Sometimes I just get them and you have them as an expression of opinion. Are you on our side we don't bind anybody in the conference or caucus that is a man is still free to exercise his own judgment and determination as to how he ought to vote. But of course as one of the leaders on the Republican side I'm always hopeful that the that our members on our side will see the rightness of the position that has been formulated and will support that position but they're not bound to do that. Is this different than the Democratic Party. I don't think they have a binding caucus either I think in years past possibly they have. But I don't believe they have now.
How does this work of the party conference integrate with the work of committees and then. Work on the House chamber itself. Well of course the legislative committees have the first responsibility for the hearings and the writing of the legislation that is to come to the floor. Now other members of course finally have to vote on that legislation. So they want to know what's in it and why it is fixed in the way that it is and frequently from the standpoint of the legislative committee. They want to get their views across because they hate having reported the bill and being responsible for it. Then of course they want the votes on the floor to bring their bill to an accident. And of course that the party conference gives them an opportunity of course we have some pretty hot conferences sometimes we do have some subjects about which there's a great diversity of opinion about we never undertake to shut anybody off we let them have it out and try to reach the right answer.
Giving an example of a conference meeting after the bill has been reported on the floor and the members of the party have time to get further information about it is it possible for the conference to meet before a bill is. Yes sometimes the conferences are held in order to furnish some sort of guidance to the committee. You understand that many of these are matters that come before committees are not of extreme party consequence. Many others are when you get into the field of the kind of attacks that you're going to write. Many of those really important things why the a conference performs a very valuable service and in aiding the legislative committee in determining just what the party policy should be. Once you understand clearly what the party policy is by reason of being a very important member in these conferences and perhaps by attending party conferences even at the White House you generally guided by this
position when you're faced with making legislative decisions. Well of course as a leader I participate in the meetings at the White House as the leader in the 80th Congress I went down to the White House when Mr. Truman was president. Of course I didn't feel the same responsibility to him that I feel to President Eisenhower who is the president of course of my party. But generally speaking it's been my policy as an individual when I am in the leadership position to have my say in the party counsels. Now sometimes I win and sometimes I don't but generally speaking except for a very deep conviction. Yes. Why I feel bound and to maintain the party position. Now that of course is there that can be applied in a lesser degree to the members who are not in the leadership position. They are free of course if they have made a commitment or they have deep convictions or they are sometimes at once in a while you know they may even be risking political suicide and once in a while a respite and some
of them perish. But. But divine larger that is the way it operates. Do you feel Congressman how like that that your attitude towards allegiance to party position is stronger today as a result of your work as majority leader in the 80th and eighty third Congresses than it would have been if you had never been in this position of leadership. What I'm trying to get at with the ordinary congressman who is not majority leader and has never been the old do you think this allegiance to party position. Well of course you know all of these members are different one from the other. Some of them I suspect recognize about as much a party allegiance as I do their records would indicate as much. Many of them of course do not. I haven't in my time here I have seen great members of the house in the Senate who refused to take a leadership position because they didn't want to be bound by any of the. Requirements of that responsibility which would necessitate their supporting the party position. They wanted to be completely free
agents. Now I can see much to recommend that and some of my constituents seem to think that's the way we should all operate. But I again get back to the proposition that we run on a party ticket. Yes and we have certain party responsibilities and I think it is only in that way that the American people can have a responsible responsive government here in Washington. We not only run when you say the first time but for every time thereafter when a congressman is re-elected he should feel this obligation or this sense of responsibility to the party is that correct. I think that's right and I think probably that sense of responsibility. A grows with the service here although on occasion goes the other way on occasion and it goes the other way because while you couldn't like on the Republican side we had to have many members who served here in a minority for a long long time. They have voting records they have they have a positions that they have taken through the years and and so sometimes when they when they move over on the other side
in on the other side into the majority position the more you have to put your program through. Yes it's a little more difficult for them to adjust so that it is for some of the new boys who come in for the first time. In conclusion then would you say that although no mention is made of political parties in our Constitution that parties give life and health to our idea of representative government. Well Mr O'Connor I am very sure of that. I just can't conceive of any method or manner under which our type of government could function nearly as efficiently as it does under the party system and so I have always said to people that while I love independence particularly if they vote the Republican take I think that everybody ought to affiliate with one party or the other pick the one who's principles and policies are the same best to suit you. Yes. And then make your influence felt in that party. Yes well thank you very very much Congressman Charles I hella commend me and I know you're a very busy person I appreciate your parents on this program. Thank you.
After talking with Congressman how like a veteran on Capitol Hill I made arrangements to interview a relative newcomer to the Washington scene Senator Frank De Blasio of Ohio the former governor of that state. Senator Lott you were very active in politics on the state level before being elected to the Senate were you not. Well I was active. I ran six times in the sixth Bayani and. I was elected five times to the governorship and defeated once. That was my only experience in politics on a state level. I see in your political career to date have you always been a member of the Democratic Party as governor and so on. I've been a member of the Democratic Party ever since I cast my first vote. And before that. How long have you been a member of the United States Senate.
I've been here now for 14 and one half months. Well I've heard it said that party ties are often strong around the state local levels and on the national plane. Have you found this to be the case in your own experience as one of the last you. My own belief is that we are all divided either into the class of conservatives or liberals and between those two there may be varying shades. I belong to the Democratic Party because I do not believe in a status quo. And yet I do not feel that we ought to run wildly ahead trying to do everything in one day which by the very nature of things can't be done. Now with respect to party ties. While I'm a member of the Democratic Party and I was elected on that ticket I reserved for myself at all times the right to cast my votes
and oppose and pro posed causes which are in conformity with my thinking of what is best for the country regardless of what my party think. Well given any regard that you may have for the importance of the party and function of government how do you learn of the party position on legislative matters and into lasting. Well it is rather difficult to answer that question. I frequently have said to myself who constitutes the party to determine what the position should be. Why should any other senator or a group of senators here in the United States Congress determine for me what should be the policy of the party. Their views of what is good may be conspicuously in conflict with what I think is good. There are things
happening right now which I know that the propellants feel that they're doing good but in my judgment without knowing it they're advocating causes that are bad. And to that extent I will not join or subscribe to what they're doing saying during a presidential year one party platform as determined at a national convention is rather clearly stated. Do you think that that this is a kind of party guide to even the members of the legislative. I've been through that frequently while I was a candidate for governor in the state of Ohio in my own judgment too frequently for the good of the nation in party conventions aiming solely at the attraction of different segments of our society to the candidate declarations are made in
the platform frequently not intended to be fulfilled. And when that is done I do not believe that even though a man is a candidate that he is bound to those declarations. What should he have any party leanings a tall then after he's elected. And should he cast off. Possibly. I think basically you should try to follow the party declaration except when they are legitimately in conflict with your own judgement of what ought to be done and then I do not feel they ought to be followed. You put your own personal judgement above any other feeling of Allegiance allegiance to the party or that of the special interest groups or whatever it is that safe to say. From my own standpoint I would have to stultify my own conscience. I would have to abandon my own self-respect to advocate advocate a cause in which I didn't believe
subtly to follow what others have declared should be the course. Could you explain some want Senate allowed what the Democratic caucus is and how often it is called together and so on. In the 14 and a half months that I've been here I attended one caucus. I believe I'm correct when I say that two of more hell. Now I do think a caucus operate helpfully to the society and to the nation. If they were conducted the purpose of exchanging views and trying to evolve programs that would be the product of a sort of a composite thinking. I do not believe though that in those caucuses where some self constituted persons declare what should be done and then they issue the
order that all others shall follow. Is there any opportunity for such an order to be issued our members who attend the caucus bound to the decision of this party. No. Being at present at a caucus doesn't mean that you're bound to whatever conclusions are reached. The little that I know about a caucus and I've only attended one in my whole life. Yes it is that they could serve a useful purpose. I do know however that too frequently while I was a governor of Ohio and while I was mayor of Cleveland legislative caucuses were hallowed to beat into submission. Legislators who were honestly and conscientiously in discord with what those in control wanted done. Well you haven't been in the office of the United States Senate perhaps long enough to answer this
question as far as it applies to yourself. Do you feel that a congressman's idea of party obligation changes with his length of time in office. Have you observed any such change in other people and not in yourself. I don't see why it should change. I don't think there would be any reason for a man once he has become elected to office to feel either great or party allegiance or a less amount of party allegiance after he's been in office say for 5 10 to 15 years with me that it has made no no difference. I have developed one principle in these years that I've been in politics and nevers opposes a cause that is good even though it's sponsored by the opposing political party. Nor are some part which is a cause which is bad though it is supported by your own political party. In the final analysis
I have to be the judge of what I believe will be best for my country and it is that course that I ought to follow. And I guess then you would say in conclusion that. The party can be an intricate and healthy aspect of representative government America so long as it does not encumber one's own individual representative vote is that correct. I believe implicitly in our two party system. I think the operation of the two parties has demonstrated that the good that comes to the country. I am vigorously opposed about three or four or a five party system when that happens you have minority government within the two party system. Regardless of the shades of conservatism or liberalism. There can be a migration from one to the other. Still basically subscribing to the philosophy of the party to which one
belongs. When I returned to the campus of Indiana University I asked Professor P. Alan Dionne a simple us of the department of government to listen to the tape recorded interviews for a brief sum ation of this topic. The congressman and his party. I wanted the views of a specialist in the field. Well Alan after talking with these two gentlemen Congressman holic from Indiana and Senator lassi from Ohio I definitely got the impression that they both agreed that the party was here to stay. What would you say about that. I agree with you the points discussed by these two legislators illustrate the importance of the system of political parties. In fact each is making the point that in effect of political system demands parties. I might point specifically to certain things that they had said for example Congressman Howard kid stated.
I just can't conceive of any method or manner under which our type of government could function nearly as a fish and Lee as it does under the party says Jim. And by the same token Senator Lott had rejected the multi-party system in saying I believe implicitly in our two party system. I think that the operation of the two parties has demonstrated that good comes to the country. Are there any ways in which they seem to depart in their degree of allegiance to the party or their concept of the importance of the party. Well here again I believe that the listening audience through the differences in attitudes between these two men when it came to such things as party responsibility because their attitudes are markedly different. You know for example the statements regarding the platform and the party conference or party caucus. Senator Lott had stated that a platform is something devised to reach a great number of people and to reach the widest
possible range of people. But he certainly rejects the idea that he is going to be bound by any part of the platform. He might if he agrees with that specific plank that he would accept at certain more a matter of coincidence than a definite conscious affiliation or allegiance to the platform. Now you notice that Congressman Halleck ad indicated that he didn't know how some of these things got into platforms which did get in. But he goes more down the line in terms of supporting the statement of principles which we would assume a platform is. I think if I recall correctly he brought us back to that. Support of the party platform twice during the course of the interview and indicated that this was in a sense our obligation once we had been elected or once a man had been elected on a party platform. What about the matter of party conferences or caucuses I think the word conference applies to the Republican Party and caucus to the Democratic Party do they same to
a great completely or disagree slightly there is a great disagreement here as well. A party caucus is for the purpose of taking a stand on a major policy issue and the assumption being that the members of the party will then go down the line accepting the stand which has been taken. And you notice that here again and that Senator Lott had rejected the idea of being bound by any decision of the party any decision by a group within the confines of the congressional party. Yes and the went on to say that he only attended one caucus I think in his 14 and a half months of service in the Senate he didn't state explicitly that he deliberately stayed away from the caucus but apparently he stays away for some reason or another he finds his. Evidence for vote in a particular legislative direction from other sources well would notice one thing and I think we could make this assumption that Halleck as a minority leader looks on party responsibility in somewhat a different fashion than
Your Congress today
Congressman's party
Producing Organization
Indiana University
WFIU (Radio station : Bloomington, Ind.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Sen. Frank Lausche ("Never oppose a cause that is good even though it is sponsored by the opposing political party...) and Rep. Charles Halleck
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This series explores the relationships between the Congress and the Supreme Court and the Presidency.
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Politics and Government
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Guest: Lausche, Frank John, 1895-1990
Guest: Halleck, Charles A. (Charles Abraham), 1900-1986
Host: O'Connor, Daniel
Producing Organization: Indiana University
Producing Organization: WFIU (Radio station : Bloomington, Ind.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-10-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:50
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Chicago: “Your Congress today; Congressman's party,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 12, 2022,
MLA: “Your Congress today; Congressman's party.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 12, 2022. <>.
APA: Your Congress today; Congressman's party. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from