Oral Histories and Interviews: Fenno - Eugene Keogh
Access to this interview is subject to the deed of gift of December 14, 1993.
Interview with Rep. Eugene J. Keogh (D-NY)
He started off talking about subcommittees--asking me if I knew about the power of the subcommittees. Another example of the perception which key members have of the committee, that is to say they see the subcommittee structure.
Regarding the feeling about the committee: "It's a mixture of awe, fear, and envy. Awe because of the power of the committee, fear because of the effect that the committee can have on the future of a member in his district, and envy because of the attractiveness and enhancement the position gives to any member who is on it. But I say, God bless them all, and go to it. Get on the committee as early as you can and stay on it as long as you can." He complained because too many New York people get off the committee too early--accept judgeships, et cetera.
Regarding the choice of men: "It's more an instinctive reaction to a man than a studied one." He said that "We never lay the political philosophy of a man out on the table." He said that regarding party, that it would be a consideration with him--party loyalty, that is.
He stressed first of all the area and who had held the seat before. He then went on to stress seniority since that was what he used as the basis for recommending within his own delegation. He then stressed the willingness to do the work "in those subcommittees."
"We look at his standing in the House, what he's done and how he has done it. After all, that touches on his effectiveness as a member of the House and as a member of his party."
He makes it a rule to pick the most senior man among the New York state delegation who applies. If two senior men apply, he makes a choice. This year he picked Joseph P. Addabbo (D-NY) over William Fitts Ryan (D-NY). "I made Addabbo my candidate." He said he brought Ryan into his office and told him that he could not support him. He then discussed occasions where a member of Ways and Means supported two men from his delegation for a committee position; but the upshot of this conversation was that it occurred only under most unusual circumstances.
He said that Addabo complained that he had to stay in Washington from Monday to Friday even when the House was not in session.
"[Appropriations Chairman] Clarence Cannon [D-MO] has never spoken to me about any Appropriations Committee assignment."
With respect to administration activity "I can truthfully say that I have never had any direct approaches from the White House. In fact, if they did they might defeat their purpose. But I assume that the reason they didn't call me was that they knew I wasn't down here trying to make their job any more difficult. They knew that I would be sympathetic to people who would look favorably on their program. So they didn't bother me."
"Cannon has peculiar ways of putting people on those subcommittees. He put Addabbo on the Agriculture subcommittee--just like he did Fred Santangelo [D-NY]. But what will happen if Addabbo outlives all the other members of that subcommittee? Then Cannon will have to deal with him as a subcommittee chairman. So he will have to be moved to a subcommittee more suitable for a city member . . . but I was the first member of the Ways and Means Committee to deliberately place a member from New York City on the Agriculture Committee. I put another one on--Ben Rosenthal [D-NY]--this time. That was my feeble blow on behalf of the theory that a committee is a jury and that it should be a cross section and not stacked on behalf of one interest."
He talked of stacking the Public Works Committee in order to get out the St. Lawrence Seaway bill. He said that we should not pick committees with regard to a single piece of legislation.
He kept stressing throughout the interview that he was only one man and would not generalize for the other members of Ways and Means.