Imágenes de páginas


ideal, the illustrations just given exhibit If our successors, after having worked how far short of responsibility our alleged under an intermediate system, wish to "party responsibility” can fall. They take any of these steps, that is their show examples of party leadership in privilege. We do not contemplate it. Congress not leading, not representing And there is no likelihood of their doing it the party nor responsible to or for it; unless it comes about, as it did in England, of party Presidents and party Congresses by natural development. Such things opposing each other and disclaimed by are not "adopted,” they grow. Ameritheir party conventions; of party organ- can experience would much more probizations misrepresentative of and repu- ably develop something quite different, diated (but not removed) by the party adapted to American conditions. voters; and of the failure of the election But, short of these limits, within our system to hold the party or these mu- present form of government, the terms tually irresponsible party unleaderships of the Constitution, and the intent of its responsible to the people. None of these framers, government could certainly be things could happen in any country less egregiously irresponsible than it now claiming a really responsible government. is. At least, the proceedings and leader

“Party responsibility” may or may ship of Congress and its relations with not be what we want; but at least there the executive branch could be made more can be no serious contention, based on open and responsible. facts, that we have ever had it. If it

AUTHORITIES ARE AGREED is a good thing, or so far as it is a good thing, it is something still to be got.

ND there need be no blinking the Also, it will be agreed that there is a

fact that the weak point in our quite attainable measure of party re

present process of government is just sponsibility, which other countries now where other governments are strongest enjoy, to which we do not aspire. No one —the legislative branch. Or, if not, is proposing to import bodily the British then every distinguished foreign observer, system of government by a responsible every scholarly American critic, and the parliamentary ministry. That system

That system whole voice of popular sentiment in may have its merits, but so has ours- America, is mistaken. To list the literary and we prefer ours. Even our absurdity authorities, from Bryce through Lowell, of fixing elections by the calendar instead Hadley, Merriam, and others to the of calling them upon issues has certain newest professor of political science, advantages of stability to which we cling. would be to write a bibliography of conEspecially we cling to the fixed-term temporary governmental scholarship. President directly representing the whole Popular expression is quite as unanimous, people. Britain's gift to the art of and more emphatic. “Politician,” meangovernment is Parliament; ours, besides ing a person engaged in the most imthe Federal scheme and the Supreme portant of human occupations, is a term Court, is the President. We will not of contempt. Business revives when stretch our President to a British Prime Congress adjourns. The older state conMinister nor reduce him to a French stitutions called for frequent sessions of ceremonial chief of state. We will not the legislatures, that the liberties of the limit him to members of Congress for his people might be protected continuously Cabinet, nor expect him to resign upon by their representatives; but the modern an adverse vote of Congress. We would ones limit the sessions and powers of the like to restore Congress to its due place, legislatures, and even within those limits but we will not make it omnipotent.

we look to the Governor to hold them No government can be completely “re

down. The veto is his most popular sponsible" without these features, and

, function. A Western newspaper made to this extent we do not wish and will itself famous by the headline: not have our government responsible. Thank God! The Legislature has adjourned!


Government by Committees


The initiative and referendum became even with our model, have not been able popular, not because any one thought to approach it. We find further ground them as efficient as representative legisla- in the written Constitution, which pretion, but because we did not trust our serves the balance between state and legislatures. Scorn of Congress, though nation and between governmental power less deserved, is nearly as widespread. and individual right, and in the Supreme We complain that we have more laws Court, as guardian of that Constitution. and less law than any other country. We find it, finally, in the President, the A British Parliament will have perhaps most powerful, the most useful, and the 300 bills at a session, of which few pass. most representative chief executive on We will have 30,000 in Congress, of which earth. But if we find any of it in Con1,000 pass, plus the still larger output of gress, it is with many and serious reservaforty-eight state legislatures. The com- tions. The problem is to restore Congress, plaint, to be sure, is as old as Tacitus: and by its example the state legislatures, Corruptissima republica; plurimae leges. to that confidence and pride which we so But it was never a compliment. Even justly feel in the rest of our government. if we might need ten or twenty times

IRRESPONSIBLE COMMITTEES as many laws as England, we do not need a hundred or a thousand times as many. S PARLIAMENTARY government And we should make it somebody's responsibility to propose, to consider, and government by Parliament, so Congresto sift those we are to have. No member sional government is not primarily govof Congress or of a state legislature will ernment by Congress. Woodrow Wilson pretend that this is effectively done now. said: “Congressional government is com

Paradoxically enough, along with this mittee government; parliamentary govcontempt of politicians and distrust of our ernment is government by a responsible most direct legislative representatives, cabinet ministry.

cabinet ministry.” Congressional govthere still survives an almost fetishistic ernment tends, therefore, to be just as reverence for the Constitution and a very responsible or irresponsible as its comreal pride in "our form of government." mittees are. Such instinctive paradoxes are never at Committees in the Senate have always bottom irrational. The Fourth of July been elected, though of course really orator may sound foolish, but he is right. disposed of, usually, by the small group The pride is really justified. Originally, of elder statesmen. In the House, they

, it may have rested mainly on what gov- were appointed by the Speaker until ernment did not do. By contrast with 1911. Since then they have been ostenthe meddlesome, discriminating, and op- sibly elective, though actually the imporpressive governments of the eighteenth tant places have been determined almost and early

nineteenth centuries, a govern- entirely by seniority. ment's letting us alone to do things our- These committees have assumed with selves and having the same law or lack of us an importance unknown in other legit for each of us was cause enough for con- islative bodies. Even in France, whose gratulation. Now, when mere negative system is closest to ours, there are

. Liberty is no longer unique, but is the practically no standing committees, and common possession of enlightened peo- the special committees are selected ples, we must seek more positive grounds from sections chosen by lot, each one to of pride. We find them first in the consider a single bill. Committees to “Federal scheme,” by which a nation consider private bills are appointed in of continental dimensions maintains it nearly the same way in England—and

self in unity and concentrated power, the member representing the district without derogating from state and local affected is never on the committee and self-government. There is nothing to is forbidden to approach or address them, equal it in the world. Other peoples, publicly or privately! That one rule

would deprive many American Con committee clerk. There is no intergressmen of 99 per cent. of their occupa committee organization. The chairmen tion and their districts of almost their of the principal committees are regarded only interest in Congress. Think of a as the official leaders of the House, but legislative assembly in which it is con they are a "disintegrate ministry," withsidered dishonorable for a member to out corporate existence or responsibility. try to get things" for his district! Each one leads separately, on his own

Part of the absorption of the func subject, but nothing happens to him if tions of Congress into its committees his recommendations are rejected and his has been due to the enormous grist of leadership not followed. Until the adopmeasures dumped into the legislative tion of the budget reforms, only in the hopper. If measures had to be intro last Congress, the House had one comduced separately on the floor, the en mittee to raise money, with no informatire session would be literally too short tion as to how much was needed, and for the bare form of introducing them, thirteen committees to spend it, with no with no time at all for their consideration. official information as to how much there Or, if Congress were to devote its whole was to spend, and no joint consideration time, every day, to nothing but consider to apportion it among them. Only the ing bills, it would have just two minutes richest nation in the world could have apiece for them. Of course nothing survived that system all these years. remotely resembling this happens. Most Even now, money-raising and moneybills are not considered at all, and the spending are still in two unrelated comothers receive practically all their con mittees. sideration in committee. With the ex

THE SENATE ALONE DELIBERATES ception of the few major measures of policy, everything goes by faith in the INDER these conditions the House committee.

of Representatives long ago “ceased All bills are private bills. Anybody to be a deliberative body," as Speaker literally anybody—can get any bill of Reed rather proudly confessed. Such any sort introduced. There is no tradi measure of deliberation as the Senate tion of responsibility in their introduction. has retained is due to its small number, If a member likes, he can disclaim all which partly exempts it from organizainterest by introducing the bill "by tion problems. This is the reason why request.

:” The writer recalls an ancient in America alone the less popular House lunatic who used to infest the corridors has become the more powerful. Norof the Capitol and procured the introduc mally, the real work ought to be done, and tion of two bills on his behalf, onę in with proper organization could be done, structing the Secretary of State to make in the House of Representatives, with the demand on the Sultan of Turkey for Senate as corrective balance wheel. But $10,000,000 due him, and the other pro even the boasted deliberation of the Senclaiming, in the name of America, his ate has been purchased at the cost of effititle to the throne of England, as heir to ciency, while the House, by becoming the Houses of both York and Lancaster! undeliberative, has suffered from too

Bills are drafted by the introducing much efficiency. The House cannot conmember or his friend, and there is no sider, but it can act. Bills can be expert body to redraft them, to make railroaded through it in short order, if the them intelligible. No wonder the courts majority is programmed for them. This have trouble!

very fact transfers almost the entire Aside from an occasional exceptional deliberative function to the Senate. public hearing, the sessions of the com The common assumption is that the mittees are secret. No public records House ceased to be deliberative because are kept, and the minutes, if any, are it was too large. But the British House legally the personal property of the of Commons has 615 members, and it is



Why the House Cannot Deliberate


a deliberative body. That is very nearly is not the number of members, but the twice the size of our House of Represen- number of bills. The House of Commons tatives when Reed proclaimed it no longer may have half again as many members, deliberative, and half again even its pres but it has only one one-hundredth as ent size. The French Chamber of Dep- many bills, and it shelves most of these. uties has 610 members and the Italian Moreover, these bills are introduced al535. The pre-war German Reichstag had ready drafted by a skilled drafting bureau 397 and the present one has 459 members. and need no examination except on mat

All these lower houses are deliberative ters of policy. Bills are short and simple; bodies. Debate in all of them takes place the House is not afraid to delegate the on the floor, rather than in committees, regulation of details to executive departand the fate of governments as well as of ments whose heads are constantly in its measures is determined by that debate. presence and accountable to it. The debates are interesting; the news Not all of this could be cured in Conpapers publish them; the people read gress, but some of it could, if there were them, and reputations are made and lost somebody there to represent the United by them.

States. It is only because each member

represents his own district and nobody EFFICIENT, BUT NOT RESPONSIBLE

represents the nation that it becomes the F COURSE, so cumbersome and chief duty of all the members to prevent

irresponsible an organization as we each of them from doing what he most have described could not have operated wishes. Collectively, Congress may be at all unless ways had been devised for most interested in the great national some one to run it. That "some one" measures. Separately, each member is was originally the Speaker, balanced at most interested in some minor measure, one time by the Chairman of the Com of importance to his district or group. mittee on Appropriations. As was de Left to itself, Congress will represent not scribed in a previous article, the Speaker the whole nation, but merely the sum of became an efficient boss, but was never all its parts. That means log-rolling; held to responsibility as a leader. The each standing by each. The only reason committee chairmen were responsible, results have not been worse is that, while not to the House, but to him. He saw Congress has lacked constructive leaderto it that the committees reported out ship, it has had some measures of rethe right bills, and that they were passed, pressive control. These have partly and that objectionable bills were buried squelched the individual member-exwhere they could give no trouble. It actly what he and his district did not was an efficient system while it lasted, want, but what the country had to have. and under a good Speaker it got good

CABINET OFFICERS BEFORE COMMITTEES legislation. But it was in no sense a responsible or representative system. HIS, briefly, has been the situation It could have been developed into real inside Congress. How about its releadership, but it was finally overthrown, lation to the executive, outside? instead, in revolt against dictatorship. To say that there is no contact between Since then, a steering committee has the legislative and executive departments settled questions of priority and seen to would not completely state the facts. it that necessary legislation had the right There is contact, but it is not open or of way, but the initiation and related responsible contact. Cabinet officers and formulation of major policies was no their expert assistants frequently appear body's business in Congress. Since it before Congressional committees as withad to be somebody's business, some nesses. Their information is at the servwhere, it passed to the President.

ice of the committee, and is invaluable The real obstacle to making the House in enabling the committee to reach its of Representatives a deliberative body conclusions. Frequently the Cabinet of


[ocr errors]

ficer, by this process, gets what he wants them the machinery to exercise this and is satisfied. But Congress and the leadership legitimately, responsibly, and nation do not get from him what he coöperatively with the legislative branch. could give the open presentation, face Instead, we have expected them illegitito face, of the executive facts and views. mately to dictate to that branch, and

Similarly, though Congress has no have applauded them when they sucpublic “interpellation” of the Cabinet, ceeded in doing so. That is not good for its committees have plenty of “investiga- them, for Congress, or for us. If we tions.” But this is an inquisitory process. keep on with it, in due time a revolt will The department investigated has prac come against executive dictatorship quite tically to be put under indictment before as sharp as that which dethroned the anything is started. That day-by-day, Speaker. intimate touch, by question and answer, Nevertheless, the responsibility of iniwhich "interpellation" gives, even in tiating major legislation is a legitimate governments so little responsible as the function of the executive. We do not Legislative Councils of India, we have need theory either to sustain or to refute not at all. The only interpellation in this. A sufficient demonstration is the America is the weekly quiz of the Presi- fact that it is the recognized function of dent by the newspaper correspondents. the executive in all other free governAnd they are not permitted to quote ments, and has become its actual funcdirectly the answers they get, though tion here, even against our theoretical they may and do use the information. tradition. Why not have the proceedings public, in

“SEEING" LEGISLATORS Congress, by the elected representatives of the people?

HE executive becomes a usurper of Under the "literary theory" of the legislative functions, not when it Constitution, there need have been very proposes, urges, and discusses laws, but little of this conduct. It was the business when it determines the decision on them. of Congress to make laws and of the ad Decision is the legislative function. This ministrative officers to carry them out. has been the evil, and the only evil, of Congress might question them, to get executive leadership in America. It beinformation, or investigate them, to see gan when Alexander Hamilton was driven if they had executed the laws, but these to pass his finance bill, not by argument could both be done in writing, or in secret

and leadership, but by trading votes on committees.

the Capital site. It is found in every But this literary theory was never com

state capitol, where the Governor passes pletely realized in practice, and it has his bills, not by advocating them, face long been scarcely even a fiction. There to face with the legislature, but by “seeis probably not a competent theorist in ing" members in his office and making the world who now believes in it, even as it to their interest to vote with the ada theory. Both in state and national ministration.

ministration. It operates in Washington, governments, we have come to look to when Senators and Representatives find the executive for legislative leadership. their recommendations for appointments We elect Presidents and Governors, not more readily followed and their personal for what they say they will do, but on bills more surely passed and signed if they what they advocate Congress or the leg- vote with the administration than if they islature doing. We reëlect or defeat them, show signs of insurgency. not on what they have done or failed to It is no new scheme. Presidents did do, but on what they have tried, suc

not invent it. President Lowell says: ceeded, or failed to make the legislators

It is said that during the reign of Louis do.

Philippe, the government kept a regular acRight or wrong, this is our actual at

count with each Deputy, showing his votes titude. All we have lacked is to give in the Chamber on one side, and the favors

« AnteriorContinuar »