Oral Histories and Interviews: Fenno - Jamie L. Whitten - 1964
Interview Notes Index
Access to this interview is subject to the deed of
gift of December 14, 1993.
Interview with Rep. Jamie L. Whitten (D-MS)
With respect to the leadership he pointed out that they help each other. "As long as my subcommittee follows me -- and usually they do -- I could hold things back, or mess things up good for the leadership. By the same token when my bill comes to the floor I need the help of the leadership to get it passed. I have delayed bringing my bill out when the boys are too hot about something. The leadership tells me that and helps me in that way. On some of my other subcommittees, there are a lot of things that the leadership may want done. I try to cooperate with them, and they cooperate with me in those particular areas where they need my help, and I need their help. My relations with the leadership in that area are excellent. As far as the whole leadership program is concerned, there are just a lot of things that my people won't buy."
Regarding the caucus of the Democratic members, there are none as such. "We live so close to one another on the subcommittee that we are caucusing all the time, talking about things and comparing notes. But as to a formal caucus, no. Mr. Cannon sees all the Democrats and follows them pretty closely. But he doesn't call them all together at once. People are too busy for that. Two or three times a year he will call in subcommittee chairmen and talk to us. But that depends on his wishes. It's not regularized. He may talk to us about the budget generally, or how we have to hold down, or about something special that has come up."
Cannon left the agriculture subcommittee at five members -- for reasons of his own. "What his reasons were, I don't know." He feels the loss of expertise with the loss of Marshall and Anderson.
He stresses the old men angle in the conference dispute. Cannon and Hayden making a show for back home. "I can't think of any better way to make folks in Missouri or Arizona take notice and tell them that they should think twice before they send some other fellow down here who doesn't have any power."
He and Horan have worked together for a long time, and things worked out fine -- as for the members of the subcommittee he noted that second man has usually been here for a long time, and that he "works right in."
Regarding both the Taber situation and his own subcommittee he said, "things have a way of folding right in around here when any one of us leaves."
Regarding Taber: "We missed John Taber two years before he actually retired. He was pretty far gone."
"Ben Jensen is a real solid fellow -- a little windier than John."
He still remembers his motion to override the public works program of Eisenhower. He helped the leadership in that instance. Cannon, Taber, and Rabaut tried to stop him from doing it. He said that he was helping the leadership in this instance.
On deficiencies: "No one committee can say grace over the whole of government with these supplementals. Some of the agencies used to lie in wait when they went through my subcommittee, and then bring it up in the supplemental committee where they didn't have the background. There isn't a finer group of people on the Appropriations Committee than that bunch on the deficiencies subcommittee, but no one group can have all the background. It's an unsound procedure. An overwhelming majority of the committee have been opposed to it, but not many have been vocal. I have made no bones about my opposition. I've been complaining to the chairman about it for a long time. But nobody talked to him much this year that I know of. Why he did it this year, is a mystery. Maybe personalities entered into it."