• U.S.

THE CONGRESS: A Nightmare Quality

3 minute read

Flailing his arms and thumping his desk in a nearly empty Senate chamber last week, Wyoming’s freshman Democratic Senator Gale Me Gee loosed a rambling tirade in his campaign to help New Mexico Democrat Clinton Anderson block confirmation as Secretary of Commerce of former Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Lewis Strauss (TIME, June 15). Charged McGee: Strauss was guilty of “evasion” and even “falsehood” during the long, quarrelsome Senate Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee hearings on his nomination.

Defending Strauss against McGee’s attack, Pennsylvania Republican Hugh Scott told the Senate in effect that the atmosphere of the hearings was hostile enough to make anybody evasive. The hearings, said Scott, often had “a nightmare quality … At one point a woman rose from the audience and shouted that Mr. Strauss had financed the Russian Revolution. So bizarre had been some of the evidence against Mr. Strauss that, instead of recognizing this as the ravings of an unfortunate person, I wondered if in fact this was not the next witness.”

With neither side confident enough of victory to be eager for a showdown, the Strauss affair dragged on, may come to a vote before next week.

Also on Capitol Hill last week:

¶ The House, 251-54, passed a bill to create an independent, three-man federal commission to think up ways of helping the ailing, coal industry. Complained Iowa Republican H. R. Gross: “No matter how thick or thin you slice it, this creates a new agency when we already are surfeited with them.”

¶The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously approved a veterans’ pension reform bill that could save the taxpayers an estimated $12 billion over the next four decades.The Administration-backed bill adopts a sliding-scale principle for determining how big a pension an elderly or partially disabled veteran may draw; the bigger his income from other sources, the smaller his pension. But, fearful of annoying veterans’ organizations, the committee balked at an Administration proposal to count social security payments as income. The reforms apply only to future cases: no veteran now drawing a federal pension will get a cent less under the bill.

¶The Senate Armed Services Committee kept gallantly silent in public while trying to figure out in private what to do about a delicate problem of senatorial courtesy and chivalry. The problem: a campaign by Maine Republican Margaret Chase Smith, the Senate’s only lady member, to block a fourth star for Air Force Lieut. General Emmett (“Rosie”) O’Donnell Jr., named last month to command the Pacific Air Forces. The Smith-O’Donnell feud started two years ago, when Senator Smith, annoyed at the Air Force’s failure to promote her administrative assistant from colonel to brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve, retaliated by blocking the promotion of Cinemactor James Stewart, much-decorated World War II bomber colonel, to Reserve stardom. In defending the Air Force decisions, O’Donnell got Senator Smith unforgivingly sore at him.

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