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Oral Histories and Interviews: Fenno - Charles Halleck


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Access to this interview is subject to the deed of gift of December 14, 1993.



Interview with Rep. Charles A. Halleck (R-IN)
March 1963

"They have to be willing to work. They can't be lazy. They have to attend the meetings. It's a laborious job, so diligence is one thing. And they have to be men of integrity. They have to have--I don't know what you would call it--plenty of political stamina." I think he meant both hard work and party loyalty when he said this--though stamina refers obviously to the fact that they would be under great pressure to do favors et cetera.


"It isn't very often we appoint a freshman to that committee. The boys figure that a man ought to prove himself first. You have to be careful. Once a man is on the committee, you can't get him off unless he wants to."


"John Taber [D-NY] was our top guy on Appropriations, for as long as I've been here. He and I collaborated on that. We would check together to see who he wanted on the committee."


"If we knew a fellow was openhanded, we wouldn't put him on the committee. That's true of a lot of committees, but it's especially true on Appropriations."


"New Jersey was pushing awfully hard to get a man on the committee. I don't want to get into names, but I'll tell you off the record for your own guidance that delegation has been jumping the track on us too damned much. They were pushing a fellow, but the boys just wouldn't buy it." Party regularity is very important on this committee.


Regarding leadership influence: "It depends on who your leader is. Now you take the Bow task force group. I collaborated in setting up that group and I was instrumental in getting Maury Stans [Budget Director under the Eisenhower administration] back down here to help and a lot of other very able guys who want to remain nameless. I've attended every one of their meetings." Harold C. Ostertag (R-NY) was called to a meeting with Halleck on Friday morning for this purpose--probably in Halleck's office.


"Of course I can't go into their meetings when they markup the bill. And they take testimony in secret. So, except for what they choose to tell me, I don't know what they're doing but I know what's going on. I know what the preliminary markup figures are in the interior appropriations bill. I've seen them and I've made a few suggestions. So I'd say, as we are presently constituted, the leadership has a good deal of influence on the appropriations process."


Regarding his getting information: "I've got plenty to do. I can't keep track of what's going on and all the details in each of those little subcommittees. I expect from all the committees a measure of cooperation with the leadership. They have to carry the ball. But when they get on the floor (he smiled), then they need help. The Appropriations boys can't carry the weight by themselves there." He said he knew what was going on before it got to the floor, that cooperation with the leadership means help on the floor. He saw no hostility or conflict.


"It's a most sought after committee. Maybe more people want Ways and Means but I don't even know if that's so." He never knew a case when they didn't have plenty of applicants.


Republicans Ben Riefel of South Dakota and Hjalmer Nygaard of North Dakota "wanted it something terrible." He had to choose, and he choose Riefel because Ben Jensen (R-IA), the ranking minority member on Appropriations, wanted him. He said that they were both "great guys."


The Republican Committee on Committees rejected Howard W. Robison from New York--"It was a little over-balanced."


Others he mentioned were Donald Rumsfeld (R-IL), Joe Skubitz (R-KS), Glenn Cunningham (R-NE), James D. Weaver (R-PA), David T. Martin (R-NE) ("panting after the committee")--he ran down the list--not all nineteen though--he spoke of several of them as "wanting it real bad."


Regarding Louis C. Wyman (R-NH): "Great qualifications"--Wyman was pitted against a New Jersey man, I gathered, because he talked of the two in the same breath. This was the eastern seat, I suppose. He said it was not very often that you get a freshman on Appropriations. He mentioned Sil Conte (R-MA)--"has worked out very well" and he mentioned Wyman. So he remembers when the freshmen get on the committee.


Regarding the legislative budget: He called it a "gimmick." "Whenever you're in trouble like this spending business now, the way to get off the hook is to appoint a committee." He wouldn't commit himself on this question. I asked him whether it would diminish the power of the House. He said, "Some people say it would hurt the power of the House. But as far as I'm concerned personally, I wouldn't agree with that." "The history of joint committees is that they never amount to much. Except maybe the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. And they're still sore at me over on the Senate side for insisting that we alternate the chairmanship."


He called Jensen "a real solid guy."


He got into a political speech regarding the Democrats blaming the Republicans for the Eisenhower budget.