A Federal Case II; 5; How a Bill Becomes a Law
This is a federal case from Washington D.C. the National Educational radio network brings you want examination of current issues facing our nation and its capital city. Here is an E.R. I am correspondent. I am still. Here is a federal case about how a bill becomes a law or doesn't become one in the United States Congress. The chances are it's not like you think it doesn't happen neatly or simply. Yes there were did dishes and formulas in the Congress of such force that they boggle the mind. I don't know about you but when I was a little girl I had a notion as to how laws were made. That doesn't seem to fit at all with what I know today with the help of a seventh grade civics book. I used to imagine some member of Congress a senator perhaps on the floor of his chamber surrounded by 19th century school desks ink wells and even spittoons calling out some legislative proposal in a fine resonant voice to all the other senators on the floor.
The only thing that I was right about in that vision where this bit too. They're still present today. The whole process I used to think took only a few days a few weeks at most I thought laws were turned out all the time. The senator might call out say for a giant airplane to be build one that he would say would be bigger and better than anything built before the debate would be heated. A few of the senators who knew something about aircraft would retire to committee room and get some more information and expert advice and then they bring their information and a recommendation back to the larger chamber. The others would be informed. The debate would continue and soon the vote would come and the country would or would not have a giant airplane. The process would have been classic organized efficient. Quite according to our founding fathers visions. Anyway that's how I used to think and that was naive. Just look with me at a current bill before Congress that giant airplane or the supersonic transport as it's being called now
and see how much I was wrong. First let's explode a few myths. Quite often the chambers of the House and Senate do not contain more than a few members of Congress and these people are speaking about matters which will impress the folks back home far more than any legislation up for debate. Not all or even very many of these gentlemen are good speakers. The bills before Congress don't take days thereafter take months or even years to become laws. The committees are not filled with experts but rather more often by chance with the leadership positions going not to the most qualified but to the members of Congress who have been around the longest. That's custom or tradition and it's very strong. Some say it's also efficient but those are usually the people who think that Haste makes waste. The real work in developing a bill is done in the committees and the subcommittees in a huge network of operations behind the Capitol. In the two Senate and two House office buildings there are all kinds of staff people not just the congressman's but
staff of the committees and the subcommittees. Some who are permanent some who are political appointments. Some experts and some dummies. I talked with the permanent staff member who has been assigned to the subcommittee which is dealing with the supersonic transport. There are many surprises to come about these giant airplanes. But listen first to Mr. Whitty give his title professional staff assistant Subcommittee on Transportation related agencies. Senate committee on appropriations. And now Mr Winnick tells what he does. He served as the executive secretary of a subcommittee when the budget material comes up prepare digests and briefs. Contact the agencies to secure additional data to supply particulars or details beyond the barest outline of the budget. Prepare materials for the use of the subcommittee and examining the agency witnesses who also appear in support of the president's budget estimates. Schedule
hearings arrange for the appearances of the witnesses attend the hearings and brief and digest the materials presented. I arrange for the publication of the stenographic transcript of the hearings attending the meeting of the full committee with the subcommittee recommendations are reviewed. Amended revised or accepted without change. Then accompanying the chairman handling a bill to the floor of the Senate to prepare to present the committee recommendations. Following the action of the Senate preparing the committee materials. For the conference to be held with the House which will resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. And by this time usually the Senate the session and the bill are over. There are people like Mr Winnick throughout Congress doing the background work on every
bill that might become law. He's a career man not partisan professional. These are some of the facts he's concerned with in the issue of the supersonic transport. Well of course in our review over the years the. The various representation is made with regard to its effect on the balance of payments and. Course in facts the batterer of. The current design you know the number of people who will carry the maximum speed it will achieve. Those are pretty well-documented record by this time. You may think the supersonic transport the ss t is a new thing that maybe there's been some talk about it but this year's Congress is deciding whether or not to build them for the first time. That's not right. Well Mr Winnick was speaking the bill was in the Transportation Subcommittee of the Senate committee on appropriations. But here's a little more background.
The first appropriations for the supersonic transport were made in fiscal 62. And have been appropriations made for each of the years back to each of the years from 62 through 70 appropriations through 1970. Amount to approximately seven hundred eight million dollars. The budget request for the current year is approximately 290 million and a bond has been approved by the house. Any appropriation bill that they passed on May twenty seventh. Now the current funding is to provide for the construction of two prototype aircraft and 100 hours of flight testing. It is expected that a budget estimate of substantially the same size as the current request of 290 million will be made for fiscal 72. Total of approximately one billion three hundred million. Is estimated to be required
for the completion of the prototype phase of the. Manufacture of 2 prototype aircraft and 100 hours of flight testing. Furthermore the supersonic transport bill doesn't stand alone. It's part of a much larger transportation appropriations bill involving seven billion dollars. The SS key request is for 290 million dollars this year. Here's some of the other parts of the bill under consideration. Our DSS t is only one of many items. There are approximately 440 items of appropriation in a bill approximately four and a half billion for the highway pro federal aid highway programs which includes the interstate and what are known as the ABC system highways. The interstate being the program in which the federal government takes 90 percent of the cost in the state's 10 percent. And the ABC system is sometimes called a 50/50 program. Funding for the aviation
activities of the federal government the operation of the federal Airways. Funds for the operation and activities of the U.S. Coast Guard. As well as funding for urban mass transportation activities. And Mr. WOOD It hasn't referred to all the items within those divisions like the Transportation Research and Development the National Highway Safety Bureau the Civil Aeronautics Board the Interstate Commerce Commission and more. This enormous appropriations bill was passed by the House of Representatives last May. But the Senate has yet to act on it. Mr Wittekind give you an idea what happens to bills sometimes he explains what has been happening to this bill and the bill was received in the Senate on May 23 for the committee on appropriations. Hearings were opened in the subcommittee on July 23rd. And continued intermittently interrupted by various other proceedings of the Senate and other committee business. And the hearings were concluded.
In September. With the S.A.T. hearings taking place. For morning and afternoon sessions on Aug. 27 Aug. 28 and then why is it taken from last spring until practically the end of the year. Is that a bit unusual. It would be hard to characterize it. As normal abnormal usual run usual. Probably the best answer the question would be to look at what was going on in the Senate at the time and I believe we will probably find that during that period of time it was quite a bit of activity in connection with the debate on the ABM and other important legislative matters that the state of the calendar would indicate. You know what. What are the prospects for a bill receiving quick consideration or to what extent would be slightly delayed later on he mentioned that he had been sick in June. It's not unheard of he told me for Bill to be held up until the permanent staff member gets
well. Of course he wouldn't swear that that was the reason in this case. In contrast to whatever most of us thought was the issue at hand this year in the SSD debate the problem is essentially whether to vote more money for research onto supersonic transport prototypes. The interesting thing is that the senators who are most outspoken in either their support or criticism aren't on the subcommittee at all but rather on the larger committee on appropriations. Senator Proxmire is on that committee and he is a leading critic. In fact he has filed two amendments one last May and a new one this fall in which he was joined by Senators Byrd and Percy and cook. Mr Winnick describes this assuming. That the committee recommends the item favorably and you know in either the amount allowed by the House or some some other amount. The Proxmire Amendment. Would strike from the bill all funds for the SSD and obviously I would assume he will call for that as a roll call vote.
As you know that everybody be recorded on it. Here is Senator Proxmire himself talking a little bit more about the background of the ss t. First he tells us how long ago he took a stand against it. Oh dear it's hard to remember a number of years ago it must have been four five or six years ago a long time ago. The SSD has never been authorized. Strangely enough there is a provision in the in the law permitting the Federal Aviation Agency to engage in research and on the basis of this very very broad authority. They've gone ahead with this fantastically expensive investment highly speculative investment in which we could lose a great deal of money with the SSD is going to be one billion dollars if we go ahead with this appropriation this year. But the public is overwhelmingly against the access to every survey every poll I've seen is indicated about anything from 8 to 1 to 10 or 15 to 1 opposition to it. I've
conducted a number of polls in my state at least a dozen other members of the House or Senate have conducted polls and uniformly the opposition is just overwhelming. In fact one interesting poll conducted by educational television in all of 50 states indicated that even the state of Washington Seattle where the city would be built. The votes were strongly against the SSD. I asked if he had ever been lobbied by anybody who wanted him to vote for the airplane. The only people directly approached me because I've been a conspicuous opponent of the SSD has been the machinists union and some of their leaders in Wisconsin to talk to me about it and said that they favor the SS tea and feel that it would be very helpful in providing jobs in their industry. I think they felt that this might temper my enthusiasm for it not change my vote perhaps but but modified my efforts. It hasn't done that I feel very strongly the SSD would be a disastrous mistake not only from the standpoint of being a waste of money but more importantly from the standpoint of polluting our environment. We're his side when it's
hard to say. I think it's a very of it could be a very close vote. Could be. We've been disappointed before how are we going to feed it very decisively in our past efforts to stop the SSP because the first time we've had the kind of lineup we have now I think the big factor or the big change is been the recognition of the impact of the SSTO on the environment the fact that a number of outstanding highly respected scientists have said this does represent a serious threat of increasing ultraviolet radiation. And of course the noise prospect not only the sonic boom which can be devastating. But also the so-called sideline noise. The fact is last March a highly respected sonar engineer from MIT has said within 15 miles of the ken of the airport the noise exposure quotient for homes within that area would be so high that would be unbearable these people would have to insulate their homes from sound. This kind of sound at a cost of $6000 apiece. And this is hundreds of thousands in fact millions of homes
involved in New York Los Angeles San Francisco Chicago and all the other big city metropolitan areas wherever there are large international airports. The environmentally she was one of the senators who favor the supersonic transport touch upon a great deal since the Boeing Company is scheduled to build these prototypes in Seattle Washington. It is not too surprising that both senators from that state strongly support the bill. Both Senator Magnussen who is chairman of the Commerce Committee along with being on the Appropriations Committee and Senator Jackson who chairs of all things the Interior Committee. Here is how he answers the environment criticism. Senator Jackson special council on the environment to his Interior Committee. Mr. Van Ness speaks well in response to the recent charges that a number of. People in a few organizations have made concerning the environmental impact VSS t asked me as counsel to the Senate Interior Committee and as a person who has worked with environmental
legislation over the past four years for the committee to look at the substance to the charges that have been made to look at the research that has been done in the environmental area and to report back to him with my judgment as to whether any of the charges allegations made concerning the aircraft do have any substance. Well I found that since the inception of the program some 11 years ago that the Boeing Aircraft Company and the General Electric Company makes the engines. The Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense who have been flying supersonic aircraft for the past 21 years have done a great deal of study with respect to environmental problems. We're hearing so much about that in recent months. These studies have been ongoing for many many years relate to the impact on the atmosphere and they relate to the discharge of pollutants and water vapor
into the atmosphere they relate to noise. All of these factors was my judgment based on the research I did in the area talking to competent scientific people that in many respects the federal civil supersonic transport program which is now underway to construct two prototypes and to fly those prototypes by one thousand seventy four really was a model in environmental decision making that was a departure from the past where new technology has been developed and has become commercial commercial and has become readily available in many cases we haven't looked at the problems in this case the problems have been studied from the inception and studied very very carefully. We deal of money has been put into these studies and in my view a very very careful job has been done by the United States in this area. So the people in favor of the SSD are saying the research being done is taking into
consideration the environmental factors. When Mr. Venice was pressed about the noise question he suggested that these noise levels will be reduced eventually by good old American technological ingenuity in there are going to have to be new technological developments new scientific developments especially in the area of noise suppression but this is an area where tremendous strides have been made just since the development of say the 7 0 7 aircraft noise has been substantially cut down. Since the time the introduction of those aircraft and the present time is a result of technological innovation there's no reason to believe that the noise of the engines used on supersonic transport cannot similarly be reduced with time and with careful engineering and careful studies of the nature of these problems. Furthermore this man went on to argue that many of the problems Senator Proxmire and the lobbyists cite against the SSP don't really exist anyway. This is the
way Mr Venice explains it in many areas. There really are no problems the question is what would be the impact of flying a commercial fleet of 500 to 800 supersonic transport in the upper atmosphere I think that most areas. Proper science or accredited scientists have studied these matters have credentials near you do have the answers in great number studies have been made and I think there are clear answers available. There have been several active lobbying groups for the supersonic transport in addition to Senator Magnussen who reportedly has been promising senator's help with their projects if they'll support him on this. There are a number of other groups. Boeing Company G.E. the machinists union if avails CIO leaders and from the Department of Transportation itself the undersecretary James Beggs and William Magruder who was head of this department's SSD development office. These two have been meeting with senators to explain how desirable the
planes would be from an economic point of view. UNDER SECRETARY bags explained his economic argument to me in a telephone conversation he'd tell senators that building the giant plane will help our balance of payments abroad. Other countries who want to buy a series of airplanes aren't going to be interested in the fleet which can't offer the largest and classiest he pointed out. If we have it to offer we stand to make money. That line of reasoning is disputed by a lobbying group called simply The coalition against the SSP. Here's the way Joyce tights the executive director of this group sees that argument. I think the people that are promoting this are people who believe that you gain respect by being biggest fastest and loudest instead of being the country that does the most to protect its environment. The coalition is one of many lobbyist groups involved in this bill actively seeking to win members of Congress over to their side. Joyce Ty's lists the groups Her organization represents the Sierra Club
friends of the earth the Wilderness Society the National Wildlife Federation environmental action the Citizens League against society the Federation of American Scientists Consumer Federation of America. Oil chemical and atomic workers American Public Health Association. A lot of local environmental groups. Rhode Island Ecology Action Tennessee wilderness action committee Alabama Conservancy Idaho environmental council groups like that. There are about 20 she takes off some of the converts and then some are undecided. It's the first convert was Charles Percy. And we don't know whether our Illinois people had anything to do with that. But that was very heartening because he's nationally known and respected because he's Republican. This is being pushed by the administration. Let's see another very important convert was
Senator Griffin of Michigan who is the minority whip. Very important because he's the because he's the Republican whip. Now he before he became with he had consistently voted against the SSTV. He's only had one process and that was last year. But he was sending out a letter to his constituents saying that he was going to support the assistive for various reasons which some Michigan people didn't think were particularly valid. And so they asked for an opportunity to discuss it with him and they went in a group of somewhere between 10 and 20 young Michigan people. They spent a little over an hour with him and. After a few weeks he had changed his position which some took as an indication that the administration was pushing this program as hard as some of us thought. After Griffin came over
Sen. Prouty changed his position and announced he was coming with us. Senator Hansen did the same although we now understand that he could still go the other way. The Senator came over. And then a recent convert. A fairly impressive convert was Senator Joe or the Taxpayers Union which works with the coalition. I had spent a little bit of time with him. He's a very respected conservative concerned that we be as fiscally responsible as possible. And if he's an important ally because that's. That's an issue on which we ought to be bringing many more people around. There are a number of senators who are very sorry not to get senators whose principals seem to us to dictate that they come with us
among Schweiker and Packwood and Hatfield. Javits and the thoughts that matter. And on another issue we'd like to be getting some of the conservatives who states using a lot of money on this some of the Southern senators only Joyce tide's talks about their chances of defeating the supersonic transport. And what has been helpful it's helpful that this is the year of the environment. People are very concerned about the degeneration of. Of our environment. And they're interested in in helping personally to maintain the air and water as it is you know or to improve the situation and that's helping. You know it's just fortunate time it's been successful in making some of the issues fairly familiar to people all around the
country who didn't who cared about the environment but didn't realize what the SSP would do to the environment as of March this year. I have a feeling that people around the country are very well informed now who weren't before. So we've been successful that way we've brought around some people that even we were fairly surprised to bring around but we're going to have to see to it that our people are on the floor voting on the day when this comes up. And also there are rumors going around now that. The other side is going to try to keep some of our people away. I mean it's fairly easy for a senator can have it both ways if he goes home and makes a speech opposing the s s t and telling his constituents in letters that he's very opposed to the ss t. And even you know receiving pro ss t the pro ss t faction very critically when it talk comes to talk to him and then conveniently being away on the day of the vote for some very pressing engagement back in the state.
Or accepting a pair being present for the vote letting his vote be neutralized by pairing and constituents. In the past haven't really understood how that works and they'll see that the senator the senator can write home truthfully and say he voted against it in fact his vote was neutralized because he prepared an absent senator voted for the SSP who couldn't have otherwise and we're going to see to it after this is over the people know exactly what their senators did and what it meant. And if they're away we're going to find out exactly why they were away and let their constituents know what happened. And I don't think people are going to forget very easily. How their senators voted on this thing is this is the most important environmental issue of this year probably everyone I talked to about the supersonic transport those who were for it and those against it and those officially nonpartisan were reluctant to predict the outcome. I don't know. Mr. Whitty sums up what everyone said. Indeed it was one item they all agreed
- A Federal Case II
- Episode Number
- How a Bill Becomes a Law
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- National Educational Radio Network
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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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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Producing Organization: National Educational Radio Network
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