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IV. CABINET MEMBERS IN CONGRESS

BY CHESTER H. ROWELL

W

HEN President Wilson ments, but he should also have the right decided to deliver his to speak at other times, especially when message to Congress in matters germane to his department were person, he merely sent under consideration. A general field day

notice of his intention. on the budget, early in the session, with No action by Congress was necessary. the whole Cabinet present, would also be Strictly speaking, there is nothing ut desirable. Otherwise the rule should be custom to prevent a Cabinet officer from as simple as possible, leaving the developdoing the same thing, even without notice. ment of the system, whether into a minor The rules of both

incident or into the houses already give

central feature of him the right to be Perhaps the most striking aspect of the plan Congress, for pracon the floor during to have Cabinet officers speak on the floor of tical experience to the sessions, and Congress is the simplicity with which it could be determine. there is nothing in adopted and the equal ease with which it could

Droppingor minthose rules to say be dropped if on trial it proved unsatisfactory.

imizing the system Technically, no constitutional or legal change is he may not speak.

would be equally necessary to make possible its introduction, as is It may be tacitly

easy. No permanexplained by Mr. Rowell in this, the final article assumed, but it is of his series. Previously the useful leadership of

ent commitment is nowhere expressly the executive has been described, and the good

involved. If Cabideclared, that the results anticipated from making this leadership net officers did not right to speak is responsible are here reviewed.

find their attenconfined to mem

dance in Congress bers. If the Cabi

useful, they would net officer, therefore, were simply to rise avoid coming, or come only perfunctorily. and address the Chair, like a member, he Congress would make much or little use of would be violating no written rule. the privilege of conferring with them, or

Of course it will never be done this way. could drop the rule entirely, according to The change is too far-reaching to be made its own experience. The plan is autowithout full agreement and an established matically self-expanding, self-limiting, or procedure. But no new law, and especially self-terminating. It could therefore be no constitutional amendment, would be tried frankly as an experiment. But needed. A simple resolution, or, still since no government and no private orbetter, a rule of each house, would suffice. ganization that has ever used it would The right to speak should imply ulti now give it up, it is at least worth the mately, and might as well include from experiment here. the beginning, the right to make motions Obviously, the actual conduct of the and introduce bills, but of course it would executive business in Congress should be not carry any right to vote.

the function of the Cabinet, and the PresiIt would be convenient to set aside a dent's personal participation need not routine hour for each department head, go much farther than it does now. It is perhaps once in two weeks in each house, enough if by set messages and addresses when he would regularly attend, in order he announces and takes responsibility for to answer questions and to make state- administration policies. He should be

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Making Laws Behind Closed Doors

personally exempt from the rough-and- has its officers and rules, its committees, tumble of debate and the possible heckling and its influential members; otherwise it of interpellation.

could not operate at all. But it is not too This follows from the very double na- much to say that, among nations of comture of his office. The President is both parable rank and advancement, there is prime minister and chief of state. In no other national assembly in the world the one capacity he is sufficiently repre- with so inadequate and irresponsible an sented on the legislative floor by his organization of its leadership. formal appearances and by the fact that In one respect, indeed, Congress suffers the Cabinet officers are responsible to rather from too much organization. It him, and in the other capacity his place has more committees, and delegates more is apart from the immediate arena of of its functions to them, than any other conflict. Our system combines, but does legislative body. Practically all its work, not confuse, these functions. The cus- including much routine which no other tom of the committees of Congress al- legislature undertakes, is done behind ready recognizes the distinction. They their closed doors. Their chairmen confrequently hear Cabinet officers as wit- stitute such official leadership as Congress nesses and freely cross-examine them, but has. But these chairmen have no unity they receive information from the Presi- or organization among themselves. Each dent only in official communications or by one attained his chairmanship separately, informal personal conferences at the by seniority of service on that particular White House. Even without this analy- committee. sis, Congress would take the same distinc- A whole policy of leadership may be tion for granted in any system of more reversed, not by any change in the opinion public contact.

of Congress, or of the nation, but by the

accident of election in a single district. IMPROVING CONGRESS WITH EASE

To take an extreme instance_suppose the UT, while the introduction and trial Chairman of the Committee on Military

of the system would be thus simple, Affairs to be a roaring jingo, while the and might therefore be risked even by member next in rank is a flat pacifist. those who doubt its success, its possible The chairman is defeated in his district advantages, to legislation and to adminis- on a local quarrel over a post office aptration, are beyond reckoning.

pointment. So the pacifist succeeds him, , To the legislative process, the most and the official leadership of the military immediate benefits would be to exhume policies of the nation is reversed by the leadership and to vitalize debate. It Bingville Post Office. At the same seswould enable Congress to become what sion a transformation in the opposite the legislative assembly of every other direction on naval affairs may be precipifree people already is—the center of tated by the failure of the Mud Creek gravity of government and the focus of dredger appropriation. Or, changed conpopular attention. It would not create ditions may have altered the general any new executive leadership. That opinion of the majority party on a vital exists already. It would merely remove issue, and the newer members, as well as its only menace, by making it visible and the President, mostly represent the reresponsible. Much more important would vised view. All the chairmanships will be the new legislative leadership which nevertheless remain with the older memit would activate out of the ranks of Con- bers, who cling to the discarded policy. gress itself.

Nobody follows them, of course, but they In the first article of this series was an are still the "leaders." outline of the process by which Congress, This is always a possibility, and it did fleeing from bossism, also escaped leader- happen, wholesale, as to every chairman ship. This is not to say that Congress is of every war committee, during the Wilmerely an unorganized, unled mob. It son Administration, and it is happening

BUT

to some extent all the time. Different Speeches are news, not because they are leaders lead in opposite directions; they good or bad literature, but because they tend generally to represent the past are made by somebody of significance or rather than the present; their position is on a significant occasion, or because they unaffected even when their lead is not affect somebody or something. Speeches followed; and they never meet as a body, in Parliament affect not only measures, to agree on a related Congressional or but also the defeat or victory of the party party policy. The only centralization, in power. There is a sporting interest in now that the autocracy of the Speaker is them. Every vote in Parliament is a gone, is in the weak control of a steering potential national election, and every committee and a titular floor leader, speech is a'campaign document. Speeches chosen by much the

in Congress will besame process. This

come news whenis the present organ

Congress Is Overworked ever they are real ization of the lead

elements of a real ership of Congress. "The whole conflict of localism against

transaction. And As a by-product nationalism, which is the bane of our legis

that will be whenof the same process,

lative bodies, tends to repress debate, to
decrease its quality, and to press consider

ever the real decisdebate has decayed,

ions of the nation ation from the floor back to the committee. and the newspaper The very press of business makes much of

are made in the reporting of it

this inevitable. Usless things are done in open, on the floor of grows yearly less.

committee, most of them could not be done Congress. A people The debates of Par- at all. But not all of this press is necessary. that gets excited liament are the Congress does too much. It has invaded over whether it was most important

functions which in all other governments a left swing or a thing in England, are executive, and which could be better

right hook that and the reports of done by the highly staffed executive de

knocked out the them are the most partments. Congress has not dared delegate

champion can at conspicuous feature the necessary powers to the executive de

least be interested partments, because they were irresponsible of all serious British for the exercise of that power when granted.

to know whose skill newspapers. In With the heads of those departments reg

or what faux pas disCongress, the real ularly present and subject to question on

comfited the party consideration and the floor, there would be no reason for this

leader. most of the major hesitation."

The inevitable decisions take place

result of the present in committee.

system is to conSpeeches on the floor tend to shrink to demn Congressmen to errand-boy localism perfunctory explanations of conclusions and personal obscurity. They are denied already reached, or else to degenerate the chief reward of public life, which is into buncombe for home consumption, reputation and leadership. The partial and they are no longer worth much, even survival of debate in the Senate, together for that. Blasé, over-sophisticated Wash- with its fewer members and their longer ington correspondents scarcely regard a terms, accounts for the relatively greater speech as news unless it assaults some- personal distinction of some Senators. body, and editors are of the opinion that But no such avenue to fame is open the people would not read the debates, to members of either House of Coneven if published.

gress as stretches before the abler memYet these same editors regularly print bers of European Parliaments. An reports of speeches by the President, a important speech by Asquith, Curzon, Cabinet officer, or a candidate for high Lloyd George, Baldwin, Macdonald, Cleoffice, wherever delivered and regardless menceau, Poincaré, Herriot, Marx, or of quality, and their judgment is that the Stresemann is cabled all over the world. people do read these speeches.

Their names are better known even in

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Simple Means to a Great End

T

America than are those of any ten mem- another of which each member's constitubers of the present House of Representa- ents are chiefly interested. Even in the tives, and their retention in the public life time set aside for formal debate on major of their countries is regarded as a national measures, the pressure for “recognition" obligation. Congress offers no such career is to make (or print) speeches for distrito an American.

bution at home, as campaign documents.

The whole conflict of localism against DEVOTION TO LOCAL, NOT NATIONAL

nationalism, which is the bane of our legisINTERESTS

lative bodies, tends to repress debate, to HIS situation further exaggerates the decrease its quality, and to press consider

inherent localism of our representa- ation from the floor back to the committive system. There is little chance to make The very press of business makes a national reputation, and it would not be much of this inevitable. Unless things worth much if made. Districts are likely are done in committee, most of them could to resent rather than to reward their not be done at all. But not all of this representatives for devotion to national press is necessary.

press is necessary. Congress does too affairs. Moreover, the attainment of much. It has invaded functions which high committee place, where alone such in all other governments are executive, service is possible, depends little on tested and which could be better done by the national leadership, and almost wholly on highly staffed executive departments. long local survival in one's home district. Congress has not dared delegate the necesA member might get on the Judiciary sary powers to the executive department Committee, for instance, because he had because they were irresponsible for the been known as a lawyer or judge, and exercise of that power when granted. finally become chairman of it by keeping With the heads of those departments the peace of rival factions and ambitions regularly present and subject to question longer than do his colleagues. And then on the floor, there would be no reason for he might in turn be ousted, as many this hesitation. Even the committees have been, by some local booster, on the could have a more finally delegated platform of running local errands and power, over the things on which they are not wasting time improving the judicial in practice nearly final now. This would system of the United States. * If a dis- get the minor business done, even more gruntled district retires a McKinley, for efficiently than now, and would leave instance, there is no way for any other time for real consideration and debate of district, or for the national party organi- major measures on the floor. A proper zation, to do anything about it. Other organization of the now-recognized leadernations have a remedy, and our laws ship would make debate physically possitheoretically provide for it, also, but our ble, even in a numerous body like the incorrigible localism has always prevented House of Representatives. This has been its use.

accomplished in even larger chambers. This adds further to the degeneration How could the mere presence and parof debate. There is little inducement, ticipation of Cabinet members bring all even if the rules of the House of Represen- this about? tatives were not made chiefly to obstruct It would bring debate immediately out it, to make a serious speech on a matter of secret committees into the public which is already decided and on which forum. Whatever a Cabinet officer says votes could not be changed by argument. is heard and printed. Whatever is said Members will not listen, the papers will in reply, in explanation, in defense, or in not print it, and the people would not be alternative suggestions has some of the interested if they did. The real pressure same interest attached. The fact that is to get the debate out of the way, to

the administration policy, or prestige, make room for the multitude of local or is involved adds the sporting interest. special-interest private bills, in one or

The debate will be before the national

audience, and reputations made in it will There would not be the temptation to be nationally worth while. It will even "ear mark” appropriations beyond the penetrate the home communities, and limit of efficiency. lessen the pressure to deliver mere local Much futile debate, inquiry, and invescampaign documents. Leaders will pre tigation would disappear. A vast lot of fer, in parceling out time, those who can time and agitation is now wasted on contribute something to the result. This things that never happened. A simple is what occurs in other countries.

statement of fact, by the department head This would activate leadership in Con concerned, would often clear up the matgress itself. An incompetent or dissenting ter in two minutes. committee chairman, holding by mere It would be somebody's business to be seniority, would

responsible for the spectacularly fizzle,

major bills and a and someone would We Know Europe, Not

related policy. It assume his leader

would be the busi

America ship by title of com

ness of the Opposipetency. Such a "No such avenue to fame is open to

tion to meet the member could be members of either House of Congress as challenge of offercome as big a man stretches before the abler members of

ing an alternative at home as he had European Parliaments. An important speech

positive policy, for by Asquith, Curzon, Lloyd George, Baldwin, grown to be in

which it would be Macdonald, Clemenceau, Poincaré, Herriot, Washington. Dis

willing to be retricts would be

Marx, or Stresemann is cabled all over the
world. Their names are better known even

sponsible. Party proud, instead of rein America than are those of any

associates of the sentful, of a repre members of the present House of Repre

Administration, if sentative to whom sentatives, and their retention in the public

they wished to other districts life of their countries is regarded as a

cavil, to amend or looked up. Or, if an national obligation. Congress offers no such improve, would individual district career to an American."

have to give reasons were in disagree

for their changes. ment with a bril

If it developed that liant representative, it would not be be an Administration measure was crude and yond hope that some other district, in half-considered, so much the worse for the agreement on policy, would take advan Cabinet head concerned, and so much the tage of its constitutional privilege to better for the committee chairman or choose him for its representative. In sub-chairman who remedied the defect. this practice consists the salvation of He would be in line for a Cabinet position Parliamentary leadership in Britain. himself, perhaps not much later.

Unquestionably, the quality of legisla The mass of private bills could be tion would be improved. The reputation lumped for reference to administrative of an administration would depend on the departments as well as to Congressional careful preparation as well as on the policy committees. With the aloofness gone, of its bills. They would represent a re expert reports would no longer have to be lated plan. Not only could expert staffs regarded with suspicion and hostility.

. draw technically better bills, but also the Staffs and committees, in fact, could codepartment head would dare introduce operate. The Postmaster-General could bills leaving administrative detail to ad ask for a public buildings bill for the ministrative officers. If he does that buildings he really needs, without paying now, before a committee, he is turned the pork-barrel price of distributing other down. But before Congress he would have buildings among enough districts to prothe advantages of publicity and of the duce the necessary votes. Neither the argument: “You have me here now, to Postmaster-General nor the committee hold me responsible for what is done." can stand against that pressure under the

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