Research Interview Notes of Richard F. Fenno, Jr. with Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1959-1965
Interview Notes Index
Access to this interview is subject to the deed of
gift of December 14, 1993.
Interview with Rep. Glenard P. Lipscomb (R-CA)
June 3, 1959
General remarks: A very talkative person--full of beans--very pleasant and extremely earnest--very critical.
Why get on the Committee? He was an accountant by trade--in the California State Legislature he was on the Ways and Means Committee, which is equivalent to the Appropriations Committee--he was on the Committee on the Legislative Budget--he worked on fiscal procedures in the California State Legislature--he tried to get on the Appropriations Committee from the beginning--people who were bumped off had priority the first time he tried--then he made it on the next try--John Phillips, (R-CA, 1943-1957) was on Appropriations, "a respected member of the committee with seniority and privilege"--"I ran errands for him"--"became a protege of his"--read a book by him entitled Hadocal of the Budget, and used to go to him and get information on Appropriations, or he would go to him when in trouble--the point is that he had his eye on the job for a long time--when Phillips retired in 1957 the California delegation backed him, unanimously, though there were others senior to him who wanted it--the member from California on the Ways and Means Committee fought for him--"finally I got on the list" (what list?--of possibles, I guess)--"Mr. [John] Taber [R-NY, the ranking minority member on Appropriations] finally gave me his support--"referring to his long fight he said, "I kept pretty close to it for a long time, I'll say that"--he tried for five years.
His problems as a young man on the committee were very vividly and very forcefully stated--"the appropriations system is lousy, inadequate, and old fashioned."
In full committee: "You get gaveled down when you want to speak. I have to rescind a motion in order to get to speak."
In the subcommittee: "The chairman runs the show. He decides what he wants, and he gets it through. In the markup they skip along so fast that you have to really be on your toes to follow . . . if I say, did we delete such and such or are there funds in here for such and such, the chairman may say, yes, and move right on."
Mr. John J. Rooney (D-NY) is fair, he says--regarding the State and Justice Subcommittee--"I attended all the hearings and studied and collected information that I can use next year. I'm just marking time, now"--regarding his other subcommittee he said, as a result, I don't know too much about defense--the point is he spent all his time on State and Justice Subcommittee hearings.
Regarding State and Justice: "The hearings lasted three months, and the markup was over in less than two hours. That was the first time, at the markup, that the whole committee showed up. Usually, just one man was there, and the others might come in once and a while when they were interested; then they all showed up to support the chairman on markup."
Regarding the committee leaders: "They try to keep you one step behind them."
The full committee hearing is the first time that many of the members have seen a bill--very rarely do appropriations hearings and reports get to the committee members' desks the required three days before it comes out on the floor--sometimes it is reported out in the morning and is on the floor in the afternoon--members don't have a chance--"If I want a copy of the defense hearings in time I have to send over to the committee for them"--"that's no way to run a railroad."
Usually there is no minority report--he thinks this is so members of the House won't have any dissenting view to read, to peruse, to think about, and to come to a different opinion. He thinks this is bad--
"The traditions, the unwritten rules of the committee (result in . . . a lot of capable people going to waste)--he mentioned John J. Rhodes (R-AZ) and Melvin R. Laird (R-WI).
The unwritten rule of no open opposition is important--and this one bothers him--regarding the Coast Guard appropriation--"They want to wash their linen in the committee and then want no opposition afterward, . . . they let me say my piece in committee, . . . but I just couldn't keep quiet. I said some things on the floor, but I found out that's about all they would take . . . if you don't get along with your committee and have their support, you don't get anything accomplished here . . . I'm trying to be a cooperative loyal member of the committee . . . you hate to be a stinker, but I'm still picking at little things because I can't work on the big things . . . there's nothing for the new men to do, so they have to find places to needle in order to take some part in it"--he wants to participate and is frustrated--he cannot make his influence felt anywhere--so he turns to bucking the committee on little things--example: he saved fifty-four thousand dollars in the State Department--Mr. William E. Minshall (R-OH) opposed Bomarc in the Defense appropriation bill.
He sponsored HR 8002--Why get on the committee then? He hints that maybe they put him on to quiet him--"they've got me in a funny spot now. I take a lot of ribbing about it. I'm silenced and can't speak out against the committee but the leaders won't even give it a try. I think it could do some good, but in all the budgets this year they've ignored it."
Regarding the leaders: "Their power is inconceivable to me"--"they work together, decide things, build up friendships, and don't tell anyone else what they are doing." (This quote is a little fuzzy but the substance is okay.)
"You don't know what's going on. Nobody tells you."
"[Clarence] Cannon [D-MO, chairman of Appropriations] and Taber fight for the same things in committee."
The Democrats have a protege system where they bring young men along, but the Republicans are worse in this respect, he says--yet still--"we all have a great deal of respect for John Taber. Anything he says, we almost always go along with."
Regarding the leaders: "They can hurt you, they can cut your project . . . but they can't hurt me. I come from a metropolitan district and we don't have any projects."
He says he's going to come out into the open.
There is a lot of resentment among the other House members toward the Appropriations Committee for legislating in appropriations bills--he says that the Appropriations Committee was "shocked" to find resentment--the leaders told committee members not to congratulate each other so much on the floor--this congratulation of all subcommittee members is a kind of custom--the implication is that clubby exchanges of this sort are resented by the membership--Kenneth Sprankle, clerk to the Appropriations Committee, also thought this custom was a foolish one, or in any case was overdone.