NER Washington forum; New role of freshmen Congressmen
The ninetieth club is composed of the new Republican members to Congress. They constitute 59 new Republican faces. Although this is only a 47 net gain of Republicans in the House of Representatives this new membership constitutes about one third of the Republican membership of the house and about 13 and a half percent of the total House membership. The voice you just heard was that of United States Representative Howard W. Pollak Republican of Alaska. One of our two guests this week on the NPR Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. Joining Congressman Pollack is U.S. representative Gerry L. patas Republican of California for a discussion on the new role of freshman congressman. This program was produced for the national educational radio network through the facilities of W am you FM American University Radio in Washington D.C. I many our public affairs director Bill Greenwood. Freshman members of the
90th Congress have recently flex their political muscles in a nearly unprecedented rebellion against the Capitol Hill adage that newly elected lawmakers should be seen and not heard. Representatives Pollack and Pettus are both members of that freshman class and both are playing key roles in the policymaking activities of their party. Gentleman just why do you think freshman congressmen are taking on such an unusually important role in key decision making representative. Pollack would you answer that please. Well I think that those of us who went to Congress for the first time this year talked in our respective districts we pleaded to the people to give us an opportunity to help formulate the laws under which they would live and under which we would live. We carried with us some meaningful decisions some ideas that we wanted to enact into law and to try to blend it into the Republican policy as a whole.
What is your opinion on that Representative patterns. Well I agree with Howard. I think that the 15 new faces of all were elected pretty much on the basis that the 9th Congress which preceded us had a. I've gone a little beyond what the American people considered the best legislation and this was in a number of areas and we talked about that during the campaign. And most of us came from predominantly Democrat districts and I don't see why a freshman congressman should remain silent any any more than I saw from or some other congressman in the Congress. Jerry don't you believe that the Republicans who are in the 80 90 Congress did a masterful job which in itself helped us as well as the many mistakes of the of the Democrats in the 1890 Congress. And I think they
led the way and we're very proud to be a part of that organization now. Right and the legislation which was proposed by the Republicans last year much of that legislation is now coming through and being enacted into law with the help of the 59 Republicans you know we don't control the House. That means that there were a lot of very practical realistic Democrats here in the united Congress. What forces did not that we represent did not prevail. And so with the help of the 59 of us much of the many of the proposals of the Republicans of two years ago is now prevailing. When I give mentioned Democratic mistakes in the eighty ninth Congress which you indicate led to the Republican gains in the last election. Briefly what were some of these mistakes Congressman plan as well.
Well I think that certainly the ADA night Congress should have had a an ethics program that was not a new problem. And yet the 89 Congress allowed it to die. And as a result of it dying we were able to bring it to life. And I think that the freshman in the House of Representatives to use that one point were an effective force with the leadership which had been here before us and getting it through the Congress. You know Jerry I'd like to add a comment it seems to me rather unusual that for 180 years the Congress has been meeting and did not formulate an ethics committee perhaps until recent years there was never a need for that. But it seems hard for me to believe. But I will add to what you have said in commenting that we came here almost to a man with a decision that there would be a
policy committee formed. We made our views known to the Republican leadership with with their help and our insistence. I think we made the Democrat majority realize that something must be done. And we're very proud of the fact that there has now been constituted a an ethics committee because of the legislation that we feel a prime responsibility in forcing through Congressman Pallone this session of the Congress of course we have seen the the hard work of the freshman congressman. Can you explain the relative absence of important legislative involvement freshmen in past Congresses. Well I suppose the answer is tradition. Generally the attitude is manifest that the longtime members are the senior members or those who have all the knowledge and it's a sort of children should be seen and not heard attitude and we don't happen to agree with that. Now I want to qualify that to say I don't think anyone who has come to Congress for the first time this year
feels that he knows it all because that certainly is not the truth as much for us to learn. But we do have and I think this is very important a national manifestation of some discontent with what was going on before and I think that we probably are closer to the to the feelings of the people than people who have been here for years because we're very sensitive to what we had to go out and talk with the people and mix with them get their vote of confidence in letting us come here for the first time to formulate some laws. Good idea. I can only speak for my own committee but wouldn't you say that even the Democrats on the committees recognize that there has been a change in public mood. And that certainly is reflected on the committee on which I serve. Well I think that's absolutely true I would like to comment that one of the distinguishing differences between this Congress and the last one I think that there were simply
too many Democrats in the Congress so that there was not the conventional checks and balances as we understand it which is a very necessary adjunct to help our government work. And as a consequence I think a lot of legislation was rammed through without adequate hearings without dissent without the opportunity of the minority being heard simply because they had the power on the Democratic side to push it through. And it wasn't a Republican majority. There were a lot of Democrats that would have liked to have debated some of the issues Congress and they didn't have a chance any more than the republicans that. Well I've heard the saying that the Republicans have saved the Democrats from being called a rubber stamp Congress and this is also been reflected in the actions of the freshman Republicans would you agree with that statement. Well I certainly think that the Congress as as an entity was a rubber stamp Congress I think the people of the United States thought this was true and I think they were correct.
And I feel that there's been a very substantial change because now not only on the floor when bills are finally passed through committee but in the committees themselves there is considerable discussion and alternatives are presented and as a consequence there are modifications to bills as they have been originally submitted. And this is something that was lacking before. I mean a lot of the congressmen who were elected in 89 of Congress felt very much obligated to the administration and felt that they had no alternative but to go completely along with the administration on this subject of involvement with freshman congressman there have been charges that many are just seeking publisher the for themselves would you feel this is true Congressman Pallone. Well I suppose if we would be honest to any person who is in public life is going to number one try to do a good job and number two try to let his constituents know that he's doing a good job. I don't think that any man experienced in politics or any any mature individual is going
to seek publicity all the time with with nothing to back it up. I personally feel that if there is something meaningful for my constituents which I introduce or some discussion or debate that I get into on the floor that is meaningful to them. I think it is part of my duty part of my job to make sure they know about it. And you allude to higher aspirations on the part of newly elected officials. How do you feel Congressman Pedes about political novices seeking a place on the presidential ticket next go round. Well I talk about the Republican. Yeah I think that we have a very fine have been talking about a senator from New York. Yes. Yeah. I think we are in very good shape as far as a stable of candidates and just who the best candidate will be a year from now it will be very difficult for me to say and I don't think you would get very much of a con sensus
out of the freshman congressman. On that subject this is something hard you don't have any a feeling about that. Well I think you stated very well we have a we have some real quality in depth in the Republican Party now and and I think incidentally there are many people still out in the field who will join us next year. People who are good solid citizens who are Republicans and who will be running for office I visualised again and Republicans in the next in the 90 first Congress. That's correct. And I believe that whereas we might not be able to take take over the Senate. I think there's a very distinct possibility that the Republicans will control the House of Representatives in the next Congress. I would concur that's quite a challenge but I think it's within the realm of possibility and as a matter of fact we're hopeful that this will come to be a bill.
What do you think is going to lead to this swaying in the political balance toward the Republican side next year. Are the 90 first Congress wrong. Well. I suppose the kind of job we do now the degree of success with which we can can project our image can project our programs and can present meaningful constructive alternatives to legislation which is proposed by the Democratic Party. To that extent I think the people will grow in their confidence in the in the Republicans. I don't think any American unless he is totally partisan would like to see either the Democrats in total control of the Republicans and total control I talked before about the traditional checks and balances and it's been a long time since we've really had that and I think it I think the general public feels that it is a much more healthy situation if there is something of a balance and therefore. I think that there
will be a next time a greater number of Republicans and there will be much more of a balance I hope that we have the majority. It's very important because then we will chair each of the committees. We will have a majority on each of the committees to determine the direction and flow of legislation. And of course then we would have the speaker we would have control of the floor of the house also. And of course you do not have that now I do not know. But interesting Lee even though we do not have that. Many of the things which we would do if we did have control are slowly beginning to be done because I think that the Democrats themselves see in our mood and in our proposals the right answers to the problems of our society and the willingness of the Democrats to eliminate some of the wasteful spending on the domestic scene. Why would they do that if this were not it and mention that the 89 Congress had
made some very grave mistakes. But you're certainly not implying that the Democratic Party is all wrong or you know no no and not at all but what I am saying is that what the people our fellows were saying in the 89 Congress was right and that the Great Society went overboard. And there has to be a corrective action to that. I think that corrective action has not been completely taken. As of today I think in the ninety first Congress we will find the corrective action probably and fulfillment. Jerry wouldn't you say. Perhaps another way of stating the same thing is that in the 1890 Congress the Republicans were so outnumbered that their views really weren't considered and didn't have to be considered because they could be run over and they can't be now. That's right and many of the bills are many. Much of the legislation hit the floor without any prior knowledge of these bills on the part of the members of the Congress generally and
so the men and women in the Congress had no choice but to vote for these Administration bills as they came popping out of the committee at the complete whim and caprice of the administration. I understand a lot of the activity is coming from the so-called ninetieth club. Congressman Pence would you tell me just what that is please. Well the idea club is a an organization. Composed of all of those persons in the on the Republican side who were elected in 1956 November who had not been elected and who are not in the 80 90 were not in the night. In other words this is a group of freshman Republicans. In other words it was an 89 club there was an 8 club there was an 87 club. But we do have several retreads in other words people who were here before and were not elected to the 89 Congress and then came back and some very outstanding men by the way. What exactly does this group do. Is it just a mere status.
No we do. We do a number of things. We band together to formally organize those that were formally organized with officers and we receive briefings from top government officials. We talk over legislation that is pending before the Congress. We may even have a party or two this summer. Well I think I think also it's important to state that we do meet regularly. Congressman Pettus here and I are the representatives of this 90th group on the Policy Committee of the of the Republican Party in Congress and as such we are a conduit flow back and forth between the ninetieth club and they and the Policy Committee and the other way around too in the Policy Committee formulates a position which we feel is generally a consensus of opinion among the Republican members of Congress. Then we in turn convey this to the new members and we have adequate
discussion on this. Congressman Pollack would you explain just what the Republican Policy Committee is now this of course is different from the 90 of clubs you've already sent. Well yes the Republican Policy Committee is actually an advisory committee to the membership of the House Republicans or the Republican conference as we term the members of Congress and the policy committee meets to discuss issues on a day to day basis we meet regularly every week and discuss various items of legislation which are pending or or current world affairs. We discussed these things that in some depth we have some really outstanding experts in various fields on our committees and these people who are the experts come before the policy committee and they discuss this expertise in various fields and we get some very meaningful decisions out of this and incidentally it's not all one way. We have a good
healthy discussion and we get many many views and then I generally arrive at a position. And I might add bill that the way this works as far as the ninetieth club is concerned. After the meeting the Policy Committee Howard and I get together and we draw a position paper for our membership club and that is the excuse me that I and that is distributed within a couple of hours of the time of the closing of the policy committee that means that our 59 members get the thinking the policy committee within a couple of hours after that. You Democratic Party members have a similar organization in the House Congressman Paul.
It's my understanding that they do not. They are much more informally organized and again perhaps I think we have an advantage in doing something like this to get a very real feel of all the membership or the key the elected representatives of the Republicans. There are some informal organizations within the Democratic Party as I understand that meet to formulate some positions. However I think I don't I don't want to get into their side and pretend to be an expert there because I certainly have not but the Ways and Means Committee members the majority membership the Democrats in other words really are the leaders of the Democrat Party in the House of Representatives as I understand it they form their they form the committee on committees for the Democrats and deciding who will be assigned to various committees of the house. And I think that they do pretty much constitute the leadership of the Democrat party to arrive at decisions or positions which that party will take.
Of course the the house downtown the White House influences their decisions quite a bit. And our comment about rubberstamp really for the eighty ninth Congress was that we felt that. The legislation mostly emanated from the White House and some people who worked for the president who never have to be answerable to the people at all appointed experts for the administration would formulate legislation which then would be rubber stamped into law by the members of the Congress and I think we've put a stop to that to a great extent. I think Democrats have a problem because they don't have a policy committee like ours because they have set themselves up for what I call rump organizations like the study club which is composed of the extremely liberal membership of the Democrat Party which sometimes takes potshots at the
decisions and the opinions of the majority members of the Ways and Means Committee. Now we avoid that by having a policy committee which represents the broad spectrum of the Republican Party. So there are no rump groups in the Republican Party around. Criticizing or shooting down the leadership of our party Kerry I think it might be meaningful to add that part of our policy committee comes from all sections of the country and and represents I think probably as you indicated a good cross-section of the total political spectrum so that we do have so-called liberals and moderates from conservatives all embodied there so that we do come out with one unified idea. I think we would be remiss if we didn't mention that some of the dissident group groupings in the Democrat Party also would involve the people from the south. They very often have a difference of opinion from the the so-called official
Democratic Party. Congressman Paris is the policy committee which the Republicans have a relatively new concept in partisan politics. The policy committee write your policy committee. No this is not no this is a committee that is very old and as form this function for as long as I get it I'm really not sure Jerry how long but I know that it's been a very active thing since Jerry Ford became the minority leader and the group of Republicans who are with him have been very effective and in giving some meaning to the Republican conference so-called And the policy committee and other organizations which are part of that but even the man that Gerry Ford succeeded is on the policy that I just showed you. Across broad spectrum of the old timers the
youngsters moderates the conservatives. We have all of these people represented in the Policy Committee of our party. It's very interesting to see a decision hammered out incidentally. What are some of the decisions what are some of the areas which have been considered by the committee Congressman Pollack I'll start with No I'm not I'm not sure offhand I could I could indicate specifics but certainly the the matter of the Ethics Committee and the establishment of it was one of the things that that was brought forth very meaningfully recently. I would say generally that we establish positions oftentimes predicated upon legislation which is forthcoming almost immediately on the floor of the of the house sometimes we're talking about whether or not to increase the the budget or whether whether we're talking about. Deficit spending and whether this should and should be done or not. There are
a number of things Gerri Perhaps you could have one or two other points. Well I know that this program will be heard at various times in the future but I might make mention that as of today we will be taking up on the floor of the house raising the debt ceiling. Now we met yesterday to discuss that piece of legislation. And after an hour and a half of discussing this and the problems in the Near East we hammered out a position on this and this was circulated to the entire Republican membership last night. And so they have the benefit of our thinking on that particular issue. For example the ninetieth Congress has also been working very hard on congressional reorganization. Has the policy committee taken a stand on that.
I would think in some measure we have we haven't discussed the whole reorganization as a package. Part of the criticism incidentally that we've been making of the majority leadership in the House is that they have been doing things piecemeal. That we feel a lot to be done all as a package. The Senate as you know sent over a reorganization bill to the house and so far the rules committee has not chosen to bring this thing up for discussion. I'm sure that this will be one of the items for discussion in the Policy Committee. And I'm not sure that we'll ever cover that one meeting because it's quite involved. May I make this observation that as a businessman and before I came to Congress one of the things that I felt very strongly was needed in the Congress was a modernization across the board. For example I couldn't exist in private business three months doing business the way they do business here on the Hill.
I mean it was so many things are just old fashioned and out of date. We don't use computers and in modern technology the way we should. These are things that can't be put off forever. The United States government at the congressional level ought to do things. Any corporation in America. Yes I might add that sometimes the answers aren't as simple as they appear at first blush. As an example I wondered before I came to Congress why we didn't use an electronic system for voting in the House and for quorum calls for roll calls and it became apparent to me very shortly that there was a very good reason for having a name by name roll call because some time is obviously required from a physical standpoint to allow the members who are working in committees or who are in their offices doing work to get to the floor. If there's a piece
of legislation coming up for a vote or a quorum call. And I think the audience might say well why aren't they on the floor all the time and why do they have to be called and have to be given time to get there. I think the answer is that many times there are proceedings going on on the floor that do not involve the discussion of a bill. It might be. A speech given by someone which has a significance which is not broad and may be of no interest to a particular locality and a congressman may then very rightfully be visiting with some of his constituents or he may be doing some work in preparation for a bill which he will be introducing. And then if there is a quorum call because there is not a sufficient number of members on the floor perhaps when the president sends a message over or the Senate sends a bill over it then someone will note the absence of a quorum and there will be a call of the house and all the members will have to come from their respective offices or from the various committee rooms where they are in order to be on the floor and this this does take some time.
I don't think there's any real quarrel between what I said originally and what I've already said because what I was thinking about particularly was that. Such things as information accumulation and data processing which we don't really have. Is that what you're saying Congressman Pedes is Congress should be modernized but without throwing away all of the traditions. That's why I think there are so many many areas and I don't think we have time to get into specifics but I know recently a number of us from a personal point of view have committed two to writing for presentation to other members. A number of things that we thought would be good to help us do our jobs better and to in effect modernize Congress. Congressman Pollack I wish we had more time to talk about that but I time is. Thank you both very much for being with us. It's our pleasure. Thank you. You've been listening to a discussion on the new role of freshman congressman featuring United States representatives Gerry Pettus of California
and Howard Pollack of Alaska. This program was produced for the national educational radio network through the facilities of W am you FM American University Radio in Washington DC. This is Bill Greenwood inviting you to listen again next week for another edition of the Emmy our Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This is the national educational radio network.
- NER Washington forum
- New role of freshmen Congressmen
- Producing Organization
- WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- The New Role of Freshmen Congressmen, in the 90th Congress. Guests: United States Representative Howard W. Pollock, R-Alaska; United States Representative Jerry L. Pettis, R-California.
- Series Description
- Discussion series featuring a prominent figure affecting federal government policy.
- Public Affairs
- Media type
Host: Greenwood, Bill
Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Speaker: Pollock, Howard W., 1920-2011
Speaker: Pettis, Jerry L., 1916-1975
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-24-21 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “NER Washington forum; New role of freshmen Congressmen.” 1967-08-10. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 23, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-s756jw66>.
- APA: NER Washington forum; New role of freshmen Congressmen. 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-s756jw66