Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 17 1874-1946

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Chapter 17. Records of the Committee on Rules and Administration and Related Committees, 1825-1988

Records of the Committee on Rules and Administration and Related Committees, 1825-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committee records discussed in this chapter:
Committee on Rules, 1874-1946

17.39. The standing Committee on Rules was established on December 9, 1874, following adoption of a resolution submitted by Henry Anthony of Rhode Island. The committee replaced the Select Committee to Revise the Rules of the Senate, which had been established in 1867 and produced the 1868 revision in the rules of the Senate. With the passage of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, the functions and duties of the Committees on Rules and other administrative committees were consolidated to form the Committee on Rules and Administration.

17.40. The records of the Committee on Rules (3 ft.) are very limited. They include committee papers, 1885-1946 (3 ft.); petitions and memorials referred to the committee, 1900-44 (1 in.); minutes, 1893-1946 (3 vols., 2 in., and part of 1 roll of microfilm); and legislative dockets, 1920-46 (2 vols., 2 in., and part of 1 roll of microfilm). For each of these series, there are significant gaps. All but 1 inch of the committee papers are dated 1934-46; papers for these years include a small subject file that contains information on the 1937 Presidential inauguration (76A-F23); Senate Press Galleries, 1935-40 (76A-F23); and operation of the Senate restaurant (77A-F28, 78A-F28). Among the older committee papers is a drawing of the floor plan of the kitchen of the Capitol (c. 1886), accompanying a letter from the chief engineer of the Senate (49A-E28). The committee papers also include two transcripts of executive sessions, 1941-42 (77A-F28). Among the petitions are those opposing Sunday sessions of the Senate (58A-J74, 60A-J124), favoring transferring District of Columbia appropriations bills from the Committee on Appropriations to the Committee on the District of Columbia (57A-J66, 62A-J81), and favoring a 1943 bill, S. 1823, 78th Cong., to provide for radio broadcasts of the proceedings of the Congress (78A-J24). The minutes of the committee are its most complete series of records, but there are no minutes for the years 1927-31 and most for the years 1943-44 are also missing. The minutes for the 72d-76th Congresses (1932-40) and 79th Congress (1945-46) are on 35mm microfilm, with records of the Committee on Rules and Administration, 81st Congress. The legislative dockets consist of two volumes: one for the 66th Congress, 2d session through the 67th Congress, 1st session, and the other for the 72d-79th Congresses (1931-46). This latter volume also includes the original minutes, 1932-40, and the entire volume appears on the above-mentioned microfilm.

Committee on Rules and Administration, 1947-68

17.41. The Committee on Rules and Administration was established under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, which consolidated the functions of the Committees on Rules, Audit and Control of the Contingent Expenses of the Senate, Library, Printing, Privileges and Elections, and Enrolled Bills. Under this legislation, the jurisdiction of the committee included all of the areas previously within the purview of the predecessor committees, such as matters relating to the contingent expenses of the Senate; the Senate Library and the Library of Congress; works of art for the Capitol; erection of monuments; most matters relating to the Smithsonian Institution; election of President, Vice President, and Members of Congress; corrupt election practices; contested elections; credentials and qualifications of Senators; Presidential succession; parliamentary rules; floor and gallery rules; the Senate restaurant; administration of the Senate wing of the Capitol, including assignment of office space; printing and correction of the Congressional Record; and enrollment of bills.

17.42. The committee maintained several standing subcommittees, generally representing the specialized jurisdiction of the predecessor committees. However, only one of these, the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections, has transferred any records to the National Archives. In fact, nearly half of all records of the committee since 1947 are records of the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections. Since 1977, the Committee on Rules and Administration has operated without subcommittees.

17.43. There are 314 feet of records for the committee and its subcommittees for this period.

Records of the Full Committee

17.44. Documenting the legislative activities of the Committee on Rules and Administration are its legislative case files, 1947-68 (70 ft.). Arranged by Congress, thereunder by type of bill or resolution, and thereunder numerically, these files may include copies of printed bills and resolutions, printed hearings or transcripts of hearings, original and printed reports, copies of slip laws, newspaper clippings, and related correspondence and staff memorandums. Many of the resolutions referred to the committee concern approval of funds to support specific investigations or studies that cannot be funded by regular legislative appropriations, and typically these files are very brief. Others, pertaining to Senate rules or procedures, can be more extensive; for example, S. Res. 25, 80th Cong. (3 in.), and S. Res. 11, 81st Cong. (7 in.), both concern efforts to amend Senate Rule XXII on the precedence of motions and the closing of debate, also known as cloture. The largest case file of this kind is for S. Res. 65, 83d Cong. (3 ft.), to establish rules of procedure for Senate investigating committees; it consists of a subject file, an original copy of the transcript of the hearing, and copies of statements submitted by witnesses. Bills referred to the committee often concern broader issues, such as the conduct of Federal elections. Other large case files on bills are S. 2150, 85th Cong., relating to the Federal Corrupt Practices Act and elections, and S. 1211, 89th Cong., relating to a proposal to change the national election day to the first Sunday in November.

17.45. Because the preponderance of the committee's business concerns internal Senate matters, few Presidential messages and executive communications, 1947-68 (2 ft.), and few petitions and memorials, 1947-68 (2 ft.), were referred to the committee. The former series consists largely of reports of the Librarian of Congress, the Public Printer, the Chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, and the Director of the Smithsonian Institution. For the 80th Congress, the series also contains original petitions from contestants in the 1946 Senate elections in Maryland and West Virginia (see also para. 17.54).

17.46. One of the major series of committee records is the general subject files, 1947-68 (40 ft.). For each Congress, the records include correspondence, printed materials such as legislative calendars and newspaper clippings, and financial records on administrative and legislative subjects. Among the better documented subjects are the battles over amendment of the cloture rule, room assignments, the case of Louis R. Lautier and racial integration of the Senate Press Gallery (80th Congress), the 1950 Maryland election investigation (82d Congress), and operation of the Senate restaurant (numerous Congresses). Committee business meetings are documented in this series by subject files on agenda and, for 1953-64 and 1967-68, minutes of committee meetings. Also included is a small amount of correspondence with subcommittees, 1947-54.

17.47. Minutes of committee meetings, 1947-52 (parts of 2 rolls), are on 35mm microfilm, which also includes the minutes of the Joint Committee on the Library, 1947-52, and earlier records of the Committee on Rules, the Committee on Privileges and Elections, and the Committee to Audit and Control the Contingent Expenses of the Senate.

17.48. The committee also maintained its outgoing letters, 1947-68 (4 ft.), that serve as a name index to correspondence in the general subject files and legislative case files. Except for the 88th Congress (1965-66) where these letters are interfiled in the general subject files, the records have been maintained separately for each Congress.

17.49. Another important series is the historical subject file, 1945-85 (27 ft.). Unlike the general subject files (see 17.46.), this series serves as a reference file over a broad time period. It contains some correspondence and staff memorandums, though it is predominately a collection of printed material. It is divided into three segments, each arranged alphabetically; the first of these contains most of the pre-1969 material, although some more recent records are present. The focuses of the file are Senate administration, rules, and facilities. A folder title list prepared by the committee serves as a finding aid.

17.50. The committee has preserved as a separate series its transcripts of unpublished hearings and executive sessions, 1957-68 (5 ft.). The transcripts are verbatim accounts of committee business meetings held in executive session where administrative and legislative matters were discussed, as well as executive session and unpublished public hearings. These also include hearings on nominations for the Public Printer.

17.51. The remaining records of the full committee include nomination files, 1947-48 (¬ in.); copies of printed bills, resolutions, and reports, 1947-52 (1 ft.); and miscellaneous records, 1947-52 (1 ft.).

Records of Subcommittees

17.52. Until 1977, the Committee on Rules and Administration maintained several standing subcommittees. Of these, the records of only one, the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections, have been transferred to the National Archives. Records of and relating to the others may be found in series of full committee records, such as the general subject files, minutes, and unpublished transcripts of public hearings and executive sessions. The committee has also transferred to the National Archives records of two special subcommittees, one considering a change in the cloture rule and the other investigating the financial activities of Robert G. "Bobby" Baker, secretary to the Senate majority leader.

Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections

17.53. The records of the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections, 1947-68 (141 ft.), contain records on several contested elections, 1946-56; investigations of William Benton of Connecticut and Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, 1951-52; broad investigations of Senate and Presidential elections during the 1950's; general and administrative subject files, 1947-68; and legislative case files, 1961-68.

17.54. Most of the records were created as the result of investigations into elections from 1946 through 1956. The records of some of the better-documented investigations are described below.

17.55. D. John Markey-Herbert R. O'Conor of Maryland, 80th Congress (1947-48): Markey requested a recount in a very close election. The records (11 ft.) consist largely of investigative material accumulated in the recounts of certain counties and Baltimore City, investigators' reports, unpublished executive session transcripts, and general subject files. 17.56. Tom Sweeney-Harley M. Kilgore of West Virginia, 80th-81st Congresses (1947-49): Sweeney also requested a recount in a close election, basing his petition on allegedly fraudulent election practices in 12 counties. The records (19 ft.) document voting results and practices, particularly in Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, and Mingo Counties.

17.57. Frank E. Hook-Homer Ferguson of Michigan, 81st Congress (1949): Hook charged numerous election irregularities in his challenge, which was rejected. As in the cases above, most of the records (4 ft.) stem from the investigation of election practices at the county level, and include vote tally sheets, investigators' reports, and statements of election officials. In addition, correspondence and staff memorandums are present.

17.58. Millard E. Tydings-John Marshall Butler of Maryland, 82d Congress (1951): Following his defeat in 1950, Senator Tydings, the incumbent, charged that Butler had used unfair election practices and had violated State and Federal election laws. Butler's election was upheld. The case was also noteworthy for the role Senator Joseph R. McCarthy played in the campaign against Tydings. The records (2 ft.) include exhibits and related correspondence concerning the election practices of the Butler campaign.

17.59. Joseph T. Ferguson-Robert A. Taft, 82d Congress (1951-52): Informal charges were exchanged between Ferguson and Taft. Ferguson complained about Taft's campaign expenditures and Taft charged that the Ferguson campaign used defamatory and scurrilous literature. No formal petition was filed and no subcommittee report was issued in this case. The records (5 ft.) consist largely of exhibits supporting the candidates' charges. Additional evidence of scurrilous literature in this and other campaigns is located in the general records of the subcommittee for the 82d Congress.

17.60. Patrick J. Hurley-Dennis Chavez of New Mexico, 83d Congress (1953-54): Hurley contested the election result on the basis of alleged election law violations. A detailed investigation by the subcommittee supported these charges, and its chairman reported a resolution to the effect that the seat was vacant. The Senate rejected this resolution, and Chavez retained his seat. The records of the investigation (44 ft.) consist largely of reports of and exhibits collected by the subcommittee's investigators; these records are arranged by county. Other records include general and administrative subject files.

17.61. The subcommittee records also document investigations into the 1948 Texas Democratic primary contest between Coke Stevenson and Lyndon B. Johnson (80th and 81st Congress, 2 ft.) and charges of excessive campaign expenditures against Robert S. Kerr in the 1948 Oklahoma Democratic Party primary (80th Congress, 5 in.), among others. Additional records on these and other contested elections may be found in the minutes of committee meetings, where these matters were often discussed at length.

17.62. The records of the subcommittee also document the charges, countercharges, and resulting investigations of Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin and William Benton of Connecticut, 82d-83d Congresses (1951-53). Benton sought McCarthy's expulsion from the Senate for his campaign activities against Millard Tydings in the 1950 Maryland Senate election. McCarthy countered by filing a civil suit against Benton for libel and obtained approval of a resolution authorizing an investigation of Benton's campaign finances. In 1952 McCarthy was reelected, and Benton was defeated. The Senate took no further action, and McCarthy dropped his lawsuit. The records relating to the McCarthy investigation (9 ft.) are arranged alphabetically by subject and include correspondence, investigators' notes, copies of transcripts of hearings, newspaper clippings, and copies of financial records of McCarthy and his family. The records relating to the Benton investigation (1 ft.) contain transcripts of executive session hearings.

17.63. The subcommittee also investigated the 1952 Presidential election by sending questionnaires to every committee, organization, and association "tending to influence, directly or indirectly" the election. There were three types of questionnaires, including one sent to radio and television stations and networks. In addition to the completed questionnaires, the records (10 ft.) include related correspondence and staff memorandums.

17.64. During the 84th Congress the subcommittee investigated campaign contributions and expenditures in Presidential and senatorial elections in 1956. The records (25 ft.) again consist largely of questionnaires that were sent to labor and political organizations and to radio and television stations. Also documenting the investigation are correspondence, hearing and legislative files, exhibits (such as lists of major contributors), lists of State and local political leaders, and computer printout reports of campaign expenditures.

17.65. The records of the subcommittee for 1957-68 (8 ft.) are much less voluminous and include administrative subject files, legislative case files, and miscellaneous records.

Special Subcommittee on Amendments to Senate Rule XXII

17.66. The records of this subcommittee document its inquiry into whether rule XXII relating to cloture should be modified. Although Mike Mansfield of Montana was originally appointed chairman when the subcommittee was established on April 3, 1957, two of its members--Jacob Javits of New York and Herman Talmadge of Georgia--were the key members of the committee and eventually served as co-chairmen. While no action was taken in the 85th Congress, in 1959 the cloture rule was modified to permit cloture of debate by a vote of two-thirds of the Senators present. The records, 1957-58 (2 ft.), are arranged alphabetically in a subject file and include correspondence and copies of hearing transcripts, among other records.

Special Subcommittee on Financial and Business Activities of Senate Employees and Former Senate Employees

17.67. A major investigation during the 88th and 89th Congress relating to ethics issues was conducted by a special subcommittee of the Rules and Administration Committee. The Special Subcommittee on Financial and Business Activities of Senate Employees and Former Senate Employees focused on the charges against Robert G. "Bobby" Baker, secretary to Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and protege of Lyndon B. Johnson. Baker resigned from his position, but the Senate, spurred on by John J. Williams of Delaware, approved S. Res. 212, 88th Cong., and investigated Baker's complex financial dealings. The records, 1963-66 (19 ft.), consist largely of copies of Baker's financial records and related correspondence, working papers of subcommittee investigators, and copies of transcripts of hearings, among other records. There is no index to these unarranged records.

Table of Contents

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.