The Center for Legislative Archives

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)
April 1964
"The way I look at the appropriations process, you have to get into these nit picking things if you want to branch out into the bigger areas. They give you leads." He said this in reference to the State Department putting in several new positions for women, et cetera, when they say they are tightening their belts.

"These agencies spend all their time--I'm convinced of it--trying to think up ways to hoodwink us. You have to ride them hard all the time." Then he went into the foreign aid bill, its "water." He talked about Majority Leader Carl Albert's speech (D-OK) on the floor regarding the foreign aid bill, saying that this year the executive is not "playing the usual game" and is honest. Then he said that this was good for home consumption, but not good for use in the House itself, i.e., the Albert speech. I'm not happy about the appropriations process. I'm trying to do all I can--which is damn little."

He is frustrated, as a minority member, with the staff arrangements. "The chairman has the clerk--and a damn good one--sitting at his elbow all the time. If I go to him and ask him for background material, he will help me all he can--up to a point. And that point comes when I'm trying to work up a challenge to the chairman's position. And that's right. He can't be expected to supply the ammunition that will scuttle the chairman in the full Committee or on the House floor. Given the ethics of the clerk's position, I'm sure he tells the chairman just what direction I'm moving in. So when I'm working up an amendment to challenge the chairman, he knows all about it. But I have no place else to turn." He wants a minority staff, and he points out how inadequate the majority arrangement is now.

"If they punish you and you lie down that's one thing. But if they punish you and you keep driving ahead that's another thing. The Democrats get punished. We don't have any trouble like that on our side. I have opposed the Committee on the floor. I did it last week. They don't threaten to throw you off the Committee for anything."

"There's a hell of a lot of difference between being a new member and being here a while. You have a chance to work your way in if you do your homework. The only limitations are time and staff. And we don't have enough of either. You'll find that all of us are more active now." He listed the people who now had valuable positions--Melvin R. Laird, (R-WI) himself, et cetera.

Many of his feelings are the same as they were in 1959. He still sees specialization as important and still worries about the amount of time he has to do the job. He points out that he is a relatively active sort of member, lots of juice, et cetera, and that all the members of the Committee are not like himself.

"I've learned that John Rooney [D-NY] knows ten times more about it than I do. When I challenge him, I want him to know that I've done some digging. I don't want him to be able to trip me up. I try to get all the background I can--and I think he realizes that I know my material. He gives me all the time I want. I ask all the questions I want to, and he never cuts me off." The idea is that he does his homework and gains respect from Rooney. He says Rooney is a fine chairman, that he makes a good record, that his questions are good, and that the record, therefore, is "readable," and that he has no complaints along this line.

He speaks of minority operations on the State-Justice Subcommittee. "Some of the agencies, I don't bother with at all. On some I do a lot of digging. Frank Bow [R-OH] will give me assignments to take care of. And the same with Elford A. Cederberg (R-MI), the third man. When I want him to ask questions for me I give them to him and vice versa. We have developed good teamwork on our side. We caucus before markup and set our goals for that."

Regarding the full Committee hearing, he gives the same description as others. On the defense bill: "No member except those on the subcommittee knows what's in the bill. The other members come in and they find in front of them five volumes of hearings a foot high, and a thirty-page report--neither of which they have ever seen before. George Mahon [D-TX] gets up and explains the bill. And Gerry Ford [R-MI] supports him. And no one in that room can ask an intelligent question. Then everyone votes aye. They go out of the Committee united. So you've got a solid block of fifty on the House floor. And no other member of the House can know what's in the bill. We usually report out our bills on a Friday and bring them up on Tuesday. So you've got Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to read the hearing and the report. With all the work they have, not many members are going to spend Saturday, Sunday, and Monday trying to understand those documents. Of course, people who are looking for a specific project look for their interest in the bill and then call up some congressmen. He may make a pitch on the floor. If he does, the chairman usually gets up and says, 'Oh there's plenty of money in the bill for that.' So he's made the public record, and he sits down."

He has a motion for a select committee to study budgetary procedures. He says Appropriations Committee Chairman Clarence Cannon (D-MO) and the ranking minority member on Appropriations, John Taber (R-NY) once agreed (about two years ago) to set it up, but that it got stuck in the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee wanted a joint committee on the budget and said that it would be that or nothing--so nothing came out. No activity since then. "No Democrat seems to want to sponsor it." He keeps pushing. Would he go for a joint committee on the budget? No--"I don't support that anymore. I don't have any confidence in the Senate on appropriations." He pointed out that the Senate yields too easily, they are too soft, not as informed, and not as conservative. "If we sat together, you would never get a bill out."

Regarding the accrued expenditures approach: "We have cost accounting in over a thousand agencies. In both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, the budgets have been submitted both ways--the regular way and cost accounting. The Committee has ignored the second way and continued the same as before. Cannon doesn't like the accrued expenditures. And John Taber didn't either. The subcommittee chairmen don't like it. They may not even know how to read the budget any other way except the way that they have. They still pinpoint particular items instead of considering it on a broad basis. Either they won't learn any other way, or they just won't use it."

He mentioned how thinly spread out the minority is. Only Ford and William E. Minshall (R-OH) sat thorough most of the defense hearings and knew what was in the bill. Laird had to go with Health, Education, and Welfare; Lipscomb to State-Justice; Harold C. Ostertag (R-NY) to Independent Offices. The result was that the defense hearings were attended mostly by Democrats, and the Republicans are out manned by the Democrats.

He liked Bow task force report. He seemed to indicate indirectly that John Taber's retirement brought it about--"One thing that came about was the Bow task force." He said that the administration caused whatever partnership there was on the Committee. In this vein, he talked about the defense controversy between Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis E. LeMay as producing partisanship. He credits the Bow task force with a six billion dollar reduction, though he says you can get some arguments there.

At one point he said, "There's been no rebellion."

On reserving: "If you object you have to take a reservation. Then you have to argue for it in full Committee. Once I show my hand in full Committee, I can take it to the floor."

He speaks of his California colleagues who pursue their constituency complaints through him--those that involve the Defense Department. "If they called the Committee, they would get an answer when those people got good and ready. Maybe they wouldn't get any answer. I can get it for them by turning a few pages. They are entitled to that consideration from me."
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