The Center for Legislative Archives

Oral Histories and Interviews: Fenno - Joseph M. Montoya


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



Interview with Rep. Joseph M. Montoya (D-NM)
January 1961

Pleasant, not too bright.


Why on? 1) Learn more about government. 2) "You make contacts with the agencies." 3) Help for constituents.


How on? "I worked with the members who do the selection--the Committee on Ways and Means. I got the blessing of the Speaker and the leadership. It's personal friendship. I had done a lot of things for them in the past, and when I went to them and asked them they gave it to me. . . . It had nothing whatsoever to do with [Appropriations Committee Chairman Clarence] Cannon [D-MO]."


"It's like anything else in Congress. You have to sit in the back seat, and then edge up little by little. I've made a lot of friends on the Committee, and I feel like a member of the Committee now. In the beginning, you have a lot of trouble keeping up with the complications and intricacies of appropriations."


Regarding contact with top men on the committee: "Oh yes, you develop a personal fellowship on the Committee"--no more nor less than on other committees.


Do you get more conservatives on the Committee? "Yes, I think you do. You get to sympathize more with the taxpayer. You get insight into where the money comes from, and where it goes. You want to save as much as you can. You get to feel it. It's part of your system. It's like a wage earner. He knows where the money comes from, and how hard it is to get it, and he's careful in spending it. There's an inherent desire to economize in the members of the Committee."


His view of his role emphasized cutting: "We've got to see that these agencies don't get a blank check. If they want the money, they've got to walk the hard road to get it." He seemed well brainwashed. "Once in a while, we go off the deep end when some fellow wants a project in his district."


Other members of House feel Appropriations is doing a good job.