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The Congress: When Is a Majority a Majority?

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With a glance at the bronze-faced clock above the presiding officer’s chair, Majority Leader Mike Mansfield rose in the well of the Senate Chamber. His lined, angular face was even more solemn than usual. His words came slowly and with feeling.

“There is,” he said, “an ebb and flow in human affairs which at rare moments brings the complex of human events into a delicate balance. At those moments, the acts of government may indeed influence, for better or for worse, the course of history. This is such a moment in the life of the nation. This is the moment for the Senate.” So saying, Mansfield moved that his colleagues “proceed to the consideration” of H.R. 7152, a 55-page bill that embodies the most meaningful civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. At last the Sen ate’s civil rights debate was on.

Too Many Months. The debate is expected to last for months—”too many to suit me,” says Mansfield. It may affect the political fortunes of every Senator, and of President Johnson as well. Ultimately, it is almost certain to result in a bill that will go farther than any before it to change the status of the Negro in America. But ironically, its final form depends largely on a heavily outnumbered Republican minority. For the bill’s most zealous support and its fiercest opposition are both drawn from the Senate’s huge Democratic majority, illustrating only too well what Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor William Scranton meant when he spoke of the Democrats two weeks ago as “a deadlocked party.”

There is nothing quite like a fullblown civil rights debate to bring into focus the grievous problems of leadership in the Senate—particularly when a Democratic majority is in command. As Minority Leader Everett Dirksen mellifluously puts it, there are “100 diverse personalities in the U.S. Senate. O great God, what an amazing and dissonant 100 personalities they are! What an amazing thing it is somehow to harmonize them. What a job it is.”

Mike Mansfield knows that only too well. The spare (6-ft., 175-lb.) Montana Democrat has a 67-to-33 majority to work with, biggest since 1939. But on many issues—notably civil rights and Government spending—Mansfield’s majority is not a majority at all. During last year’s session, about 20 conservative Democrats joined with Republicans on roughly one-fifth of the Senate’s bills. This brings into critical question the ability of a Democratic majority, no matter what its size, to achieve effective control of the Senate on some of the crucial issues of the day.

Too Polite. The civil rights fight is a perfect case in point. In it, Mansfield must contend with three distinct groups —a pro-rights alliance of Northern Democrats and liberal Republicans; a segregationist bloc of Deep South Democrats, plus such G.O.P. right-wingers as Texas’ John Tower and Arizona’s Barry Goldwater; and the fence riders, mostly middle-of-the-road Republicans who approve generally of civil rights but would like some amendments to the bill that passed the House by a 290-130 vote last month.

Mansfield could muster the simple majority (51 votes) necessary to pass the bill right now—if he could bring it to a vote. But captained by Georgia’s Richard Brevard Russell, veteran of a dozen successful battles against civil rights legislation, the opposing Democrats aim to keep the bill from coming to a vote by talking it to death. For that purpose, they have set up three six-man talk teams, each assigned to a 24-hour shift while the other two rest.

To shut up his filibustering fellow Democrats, Mansfield must invoke Senate Rule XXII, the famed cloture rule that was adopted in 1917 after what Woodrow Wilson described as “a little group of willful men” had scuttled his proposal to arm U.S. merchant ships against marauding submarines.

“What Magic?” In all the years since then, eleven cloture petitions have been introduced to halt civil rights filibusters —and not one has succeeded. To get cloture, Mansfield needs the votes of two-thirds of the Senators present—67 if everybody is on hand. “You can immediately forget 22 or 23 Democratic Senators who will not vote for cloture,” he says. “You have to get that many Republicans to make up the deficiency.” What that means, says Mansfield, is that “whether we have a civil rights bill depends on the Republicans.”

This is by no means a unique position for Democratic Leader Mansfield. Time and again he has been forced to rely on Republican votes for approval of measures sponsored by a Democratic Administration. Some liberal Democratic Senators criticize him for working so closely with Republican Leader Everett Dirksen, but Mansfield really has little choice. As he himself once snapped: “The difficulties are more with our own people than with the Republicans.”

Even such small displays of temper are unusual for Mansfield, an easygoing type who perpetually puffs at a pipe stuffed with Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco. Although an ex-miner and an exmarine, he is one of the least combative men in the Senate. As a boy, he recalls, he tried to break up a fight, got a drubbing from a tough roustabout for his pains. “I learned not to butt into other people’s fights,” he says. And as Senate majority leader he relies on “persuasion, accommodation and understanding” rather than force. “The leader has no real power, none at all,” he says. “What magic can change a vote?”

If that does not sound like the popular image of the arm-twisting string-pulling, push-it-through Senate floor leader, it isn’t. But as a matter of fact, that image itself is flawed. The post is recognized in neither the Constitution nor the Senate Rules, and only at the beginning of the 20th century did it take its present form. Since then, the number of truly dominating majority leaders can be counted on one hand, for rarely has the Senate leader also been the most influential man in his party.

Probably the first to make the job a genuine power center was crusty old Rhode Island Republican Nelson Aldrich, grandfather of New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who as Senate leader in 1908 and 1909 used his power to appoint committees as a lever for control. Old Nelson’s fiercest expletive was “my goodness gracious,” but he was so ironhanded in his domination of the Senate that “Aldrichism” became a term of opprobrium. After World War I, another famous grandfather, Henry Cabot Lodge Sr., was not only majority leader but also chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate’s most important Republican. Triply anointed with power, he led the successful fight against ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. Ohio’s Robert Taft had been “Mr. Republican” for nearly a decade before he finally assumed the leader’s post in 1953, just before his death. It was Taft’s idea that his job was to lead the President, not follow him.

And then there was Lyndon Johnson, undoubtedly the most powerful Senate majority leader ever. Lyndon browbeat Senators, threatened them, coaxed and cajoled them, tugged at their coat lapels and kneaded their elbows. Sometimes he worked them over so roughly that as he put it, “the skin comes off with the fur.” From the moment he became majority leader in 1955, Johnson grasped all the ganglia of Senate power, and he never let them go. He floor-managed all major bills, was chief lobbyist, strategist, parliamentarian and whip. He took his own nose counts, relied on people like busy Bobby Baker only as supplements to his own one-man intelligence agency.

New Show. This was the man mild Mike Mansfield succeeded. “It’s going to be a new show,” chuckled one Senator when Johnson left to assume the vice-presidency. “These fellows are about as similar as Winston Churchill and St. Francis of Assisi.” For a while, Vice President Johnson seemed to be trying to run the same old show. He retained his baronial majority leader’s suite while Mansfield occupied humbler quarters. He sat in on the Democratic Senate Conference, spoke up often at Policy Committee meetings, attended weekly legislative conferences. But after Mansfield proposed that Lyndon preside over Democratic caucuses as well, a determined cadre of Democrats rebelled. “We are creating a precedent of concrete and steel,” protested Oklahoma’s Mike Monroney. “The Senate would lose its power by having a representative of the Chief Executive watching our private caucuses.”

Mansfield’s proposal was passed by a 46-17 vote, but Lyndon quickly understood that he was not very welcome at caucuses. He showed up at fewer sessions, finally resigned himself to the fact that diffident Mike Mansfield, not he, was now the majority leader.

Without Apology. Once in the job, Mansfield set about what he called the “dispersal of responsibility.” He made Hubert Humphrey his whip, realizing that the ebullient Minnesotan would more than make up for the dynamism he personally lacked. He acknowledged the Senate’s 15 committee chairmen as the body’s oligarchs, encouraged them to floor-manage their own bills. “It’s logical, that’s all,” he explained. “They are the men who know most about those particular bills.” He shunned “parliamentary pyrotechnics,” maintained a sensible schedule that got most Senators home for dinner.

The Senate was certainly a less colorful place without Lyndon, and many argued that it was also less effective. Among Mansfield’s most vociferous critics were some fellow Democrats, chiefly Oregon’s Wayne Morse, and one newspaper called his leadership a “tragic mistake.” To that, Mansfield replied in a Senate speech. Said he: “As for being a tragic mistake, if that means, Mr. President, that I am neither a circus ringmaster, the master of ceremonies of a Senate nightclub, a tamer of Senate lions, or a wheeler and dealer, then I must accept the title. Indeed, I must accept it if I am expected as majority leader to be anything other than myself.” Of the Senate’s legislative record under his leadership, he insisted: “The results require no apology whatsoever.”

He had a point—up to a point. As leader, Mansfield has made some mistakes and fouled up some nose counts, but he has also won some heady victories. The depressed-areas bill, the reciprocal-trade program, a spate of education bills, the test ban treaty, and the biggest tax cut bill in U.S. history have all gone through under his aegis. Also passed by the Senate, but defeated in the House, were such items as a $375 million mass-transit bill and a $456 million area-redevelopment program. Two big blunders were not Mansfield’s fault, but he blamed himself for “bad judgment” anyway. In 1962 Kennedy overrode Mansfield’s warnings, persuaded him to bring the urban-affairs and medicare bills to a vote. Both were beaten.

In his gloomier moments, Mansfield seems anxious to chuck his job. “Being a Senator is the best job in the world,” he once said, but “the leadership is a headache.” Still, no Montanan has ever risen higher in the U.S. Government than Mansfield, and that is quite something for a poor Irish boy who spent years mining copper and did not finish high school until he was 30 years old.

Devoted Claques. Michael Joseph Mansfield was born on the edge of Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen 61 years ago this week to a father who had emigrated from County Kilkenny and a mother who hailed from Limerick. His mother died when he was seven, and he was packed off with two younger sisters to live with relatives in Great Falls, Mont. When the U.S. entered World War I, he quit the eighth grade and ran away from home, got into the Navy just before he was 15 by lying about his age. He served on convoy duty in the Atlantic for ten months, later served in both the Army and the Marines. By the time he was 19, Mike had served in three branches of the armed forces, never rising above the rank of private first class, and was the youngest Montanan in the war. He still wears the Marines’ discharge button in his lapel.

For the next six years, Mansfield worked, often half a mile underground, as a $4.25-a-day mucker and ore sampler in Butte’s copper mines. He entered Montana State University in Missoula in 1928, in his senior year married Maureen Hayes, a copper-haired Butte schoolteacher who had tutored him for a time in high school English. They have one child, Anne, a 25-year-old Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College who now works for the Alliance for Progress in Washington.

Through special courses and exams, Mike finally made up his high school credits in 1933, received his B.A. at the same time. He began teaching history a«t Montana, never rose higher than assistant professor. “He was not fiery as a lecturer,” recalls a colleague, but the students liked him, and those who sat in on his Latin America and Far East history courses still form a large, devoted and politically profitable claque.

Much Better, Thanks. In his first political venture—a congressional primary race in Montana’s First District in 1940 —Mansfield finished third, but he has never lost an election since. In 1942 he succeeded G.O.P. Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, who was the only member of the House to vote against U.S. participation in both World Wars I and II. After five terms, he was ready for the Senate. In the 1952 race, Joe McCarthy descended on Montana to campaign for G.O.P. Incumbent Zales Ecton, accused Mansfield of promoting

“Communist-coddling practices,” and called him “either stupid or a dupe.” Mike squeaked by with a 5,800-vote plurality out of 260,400, and despite his kindly soul, he was not the sort to forget McCarthy’s smears. At the start of his first term, McCarthy strode up, slapped him on the back, and asked, “How are things in Montana these days, Mike?” Replied Mansfield, “Much better since you left.”

Thanks to Lyndon Johnson’s precedent-setting decision to give each freshman Senator a choice committee assignment, Mansfield immediately got a coveted spot on the Foreign Relations Committee. To this day, he would rather be considered an authority on foreign policy than a famed floor leader. He made three trips to Indo-China during the years when the French were letting it slip down the drain, concluded that the best solution there was partition, with South Viet Nam under a native, anti-Communist regime headed by Ngo Dinh Diem. Re-examining the situation last month, Mansfield urged that neutralization of both North and South Viet Nam ought to be contemplated. President Johnson had considerable trouble convincing South Viet Nam’s leaders that Senate Leader Mansfield was not speaking for the Administration, but just for himself.

This was not the first time Mansfield embarrassed a U.S. President with his foreign policy pronouncements. In 1961 he gave Jack Kennedy the same sort of headache by advocating that West Berlin be turned into a free, neutralized city. U.S. diplomats in Bonn spent hours trying to persuade hand-wringing West German officials that Mansfield was merely speaking his own mind, not staking out a new Administration position.

Out of Admiration. In 1957 Lyndon Johnson tapped Mansfield as assistant Senate majority leader. Because Johnson was really his own whip, he needed nothing more than an agreeable errand boy, and Mansfield seemed to fit the bill. Mansfield accepted—but reluctantly, and only out of his personal admiration for Johnson (he supported L.B.J. against Kennedy for the 1960 presidential nomination).

Even after he succeeded Johnson as majority leader, Mansfield had hankerings to be just a plain Senator. He works hard at keeping his seat. He is in his office by 7 most mornings to catch the first mail delivery from Montana, makes a point of seeing as many Montanans visiting Washington as possible. While he paints in broad, if sometimes fuzzy strokes as a foreign affairs expert, his domestic politics are a masterpiece of minutiae—the sort of caring-for-constituents stuff that ensures reelection. “If I forget Montana, they’re going to forget me,” he says. “I know how I got here.” At year’s end, according to one Republican, “practically every living thing in Montana gets a Christmas card signed ‘Mike.’ I think he skips the elk and the mountain sheep.”

Thanks to such techniques, Mansfield won re-election in 1958 with 72.2% of Montana’s total vote, the biggest percentage piled up by any Senator outside the South. He swept all 56 counties, had a plurality of 120,337. He is up for reelection again this year, but the G.O.P.’s most attractive potential candidates are holding off for a crack at Democrat Lee Metcalf’s seat in 1966. Mansfield, therefore, has few worries about reelection.

A Hideous Thing. That is just as well, since his attention is currently consumed by the civil rights bill.

Never in his time as majority leader has Mansfield had to cope with so important and controversial a measure. The 1957 and 1960 civil rights bills that Lyndon Johnson got through the Senate covered limited areas—voting rights and school desegregation—and had few teeth by the time the Senate’s dentists got through with them. But this bill covers the field. It would bar discrimination in voting rights, public accommodations, schools, jobs and Government-aided welfare programs, would also give the U.S. Attorney General substantial enforcement powers.

To Democratic segregationists, the rights bill is, in the words of Georgia’s Russell, a “hideous” thing, “an instrument of unparalleled tyranny and persecution.” It would, Russell predicted, “upset the historic division of powers among the three branches of the Government.” It would sanction “such vast governmental control over free enterprise in this country as to commence the processes of socialism.” It would, moreover, lead to the “mongrelization of our people,” and Russell could not recall a single instance “in all of human history in which a mongrel race has been able to preserve a great civilization, much less to build one.”

To the Last Ditch. When the bells clanged at noon last week, summoning the Senators, the atmosphere in the gold and mahogany Chamber was deceptively relaxed. Mansfield chatted quietly with a knot of reporters. Republican Leader Dirksen huddled with his lieutenants on the other side of the aisle, occasionally padding across the Chamber’s carpeted floor to fling a bearlike arm around a colleague’s shoulders and whisper a few honeyed words into his ear.

Shortly after the session got under way, Russell successfully pulled off his first parliamentary coup. Under the Senate rules, a motion to introduce a bill is not debatable and therefore not subject to filibuster during the “morning hour”—which actually begins at noon and lasts for two hours. Mans field wanted to call up the civil rights bill during the morning hour and plunge right into the debate. But when he asked for unanimous consent to dispense with the reading of the previous day’s Journal, Russell objected.

“I trust the clerk will read the Jour nal slowly and clearly,” he drawled with a sly wink at Hubert Humphrey. The clerk did, thereby used up the better part of an hour. As soon as he finished,

Russell was on his feet again, this time with an amendment to the Journal. His “amendment” turned into a two-hour monologue, while Alabama’s John Sparkman snoozed at his desk and other Senators sat glassy-eyed. At 3:15, Russell addressed a parliamentary inquiry to Wyoming Republican Milward Simpson, who was sitting in as the Senate’s presiding officer.

Russell: Is the morning hour concluded?

Simpson: The morning hour has been concluded since 2 o’clock.

Russell: At this time would a motion to proceed to the consideration of a bill on the calendar be debatable?

Simpson: The Senator is correct.

So Russell yielded, but not before making it possible for his fellow Southerners to wage two filibusters against the civil rights bill—one on the motion to consider the bill, the other on the bill itself. After a week or so, Russell will probably permit Mansfield to call up the bill. Then, unless a motion to send the bill to Eastland’s Judiciary Committee for ten days or so is approved, the real filibuster will begin.

Irrepressible Windbags. When it will end, nobody knows, for a filibuster is devilishly difficult to defeat. This is partly because the Senate, even without a filibuster going on, is a notably dilatory place. It took the first Senate 33 days just to muster a quorum back in 1789, and things have scarcely improved since then. In 1951, exasperated by his talkative colleagues, West Virginia Democrat Matthew Neely stacked a 100-lb. pile of the Congressional Record—the fruit of a single session—on top of his desk and pointed to it as evidence that the Senators were a bunch of “irrepressible windbags.” If they had to talk so much, he suggested, they ought to do it “in highly secluded places where the only auditors will be hoot owls, turkey buzzards and shitepokes. These, when vexed, as they certainly would be, could take the wings of the morning, noon or night, and fly far, far away.”

Still, many Senators are rather proud of the deliberate pace at which they proceed. The filibuster itself is often extolled as the last, best hope of avoiding domination by a tyrannical majority. The use of the filibuster is by no means confined to Southern Democrats and right-wing Republicans; liberals filibuster whenever it suits their purpose, and Oregon’s Morse for a while held the record for uninterrupted windiness. For the simple reason that cloture might be invoked on them some day, many Senators are wary of imposing it on others. Thus the dean of Senate Democrats, President Pro Tempore Carl Hayden of Arizona, has never yet voted in favor of a cloture motion. Mike Mans field well understands this Senate feeling. And though he is already under pressure—some of it originating in the White House—to speed up the pace of debate, he flatly refuses. “You’re not going to wear down the Southerners with such tactics,” he said. “If anyone gets worn down, it will be the bill’s proponents.”

Nor does he intend to order round the-clock sessions, as Lyndon Johnson was apt to do, except as a last resort. “We debated a civil rights measure 24 hours a day for many days on end,” he said, recalling the nine-day siege in 1960. “We debated it shaven and un shaven. We debated it without ties, with hair awry and even in bedroom slippers. In the end, we wound up with compromise legislation. And it was not the fresh and well-rested opponents of the civil rights measure who were compelled to the compromise. It was, rather, the exhausted, sleep-starved, quorum-confounded proponents who were only too happy to take it.”

Three separate strategies have been shaped to conduct what could prove to be the longest filibuster since the Ship Subsidy debate, which dragged on intermittently from December 1922 until the end of February 1923.

∙THE ADMINISTRATION STRATEGY. For the time being, President Johnson is keeping out of the fight, limiting himself to frequent phone calls to Mansfield or Hubert Humphrey, floor manager for the pro-rights coalition. “When he’s most needed,” says a Johnson aide, “he’ll get into it.” Humphrey, a veteran civil rights battler who sparked the 1948 Dixiecrat walkout at the Demo cratic National Convention by inspiring the insertion of a strong rights plank, will be backed up by three strongly liberal deputies: Washington’s Warren Magnuson, whose Commerce Committee late last year approved a separate public accommodations bill that is slightly stronger than the version passed by the House; Pennsylvania’s Joseph Clark, a longtime advocate of fair-employment practices; and Michigan’s Philip Hart, ranking Democratic liberal on the Judiciary Committee. To make sure that a quorum of at least 51 pro-rights Senators is on hand at all times, Humphrey has organized six six-man Democratic teams, each captained by “quorum whips,” and will supply 36 men whenever the bells begin clanging. The Republicans are responsible for a 15-man quota. Humphrey has set up a master chart of out-of-town engagements for the next two months for all Democrats, has also established a special phone-communication system with several Democratic Senators’ offices.

∙THE G.O.P. STRATEGY. “The key is Dirksen,” says Mansfield, “with Hick-enlooper and Aiken.” Besides Dirksen, he was referring to Iowa’s Bourke Hickenlooper as a Midwesterner with influence over other rural conservatives, and Vermont’s George Aiken as a leader of Northeastern moderates. Among them, these three could almost certainly swing enough Republican votes to put cloture across. Dirksen is in a tough spot. Though he was his old, congenial self last week, traipsing up to the press galleries and sitting crosslegged on a table to chat with newsmen, he is under heavy fire from civil rights groups, which have threatened to mount dem onstrations in Illinois if he does not back the bill all the way. But such efforts may backfire. “If the day ever comes,” says Dirksen, “when under pressure, or as a result of picketing or other devices, I shall be pushed from the rock where I must stand to render an independent judgment, my justification in public life will come to an end.” Although he is expected to end up supporting the overall bill, he would like to soften its public accommodations section by making compliance voluntary for a one-or two-year trial period. He also thinks the bill’s equal-employment provisions need changes. And in his present strategic position, he may very well be able to force the Democratic

Administration and Senate leadership to accept his suggestions. ∙THE OPPONENTS’ STRATEGY. The Democratic opponents of the civil rights bill realize that it will eventually be passed, and they are concentrating their energies on gutting a few key sections. With G.O.P. leaders like Dirksen talking about softening the public accommodations provision, Richard Russell has shifted his fire elsewhere. “The public accommodations section, severe as it is, is not the worst provision of this bill,” he says. “There are at least two that I think are much more damaging to our system and would cause a much more violent reaction throughout the country.”

One is Title VI, empowering Washington to cut off federal aid from programs where discrimination is practiced. Russell calls this the “genocide clause,” insists that it would kill off “a large section of the country”—namely, the Deep South. The other is Title VII, empowering a Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to prevent job discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin or sex (the latter thanks to an amendment offered by House Democrat Howard Smith, more in the spirit of obstruction than of chivalry). Russell contends that the commission would discriminate against what he calls “the average garden variety of American.”

Russell has named as his lieutenants Alabama’s scholarly Lister Hill, who weighed in with a 33-page speech in the filibuster’s first hours; Mississippi’s stentorian John C. Stennis; and Louisiana’s peppery Allen Ellender, who held the floor for 25 hours, with overnight recesses, during a 1938 filibuster. “I’m 73 now,” says Ellender, “but I wouldn’t mind trying it again.” Also in the ranks: South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond, who holds the alltime Senate wind record with an uninterrupted 24-hr. 18-min. speech during the 1957 civil rights debate; North Carolina’s Sam Ervin, who is ready with a waist-high pile of books on constitutional law and a heap of stories about Uncle Ephraim and Job Hicks; and Louisiana’s Russell Long, whose father Huey once rambled on for 151 hours about the delights of potlikker and corn pones, finally gave up only because his colleagues denied him a “gentleman’s quorum” so he could seek out a men’s room.

But eventually the Democratic filibuster will end. That will come shortly after Leader Mansfield, having counted noses in his own forces and consulted with Republicans, walks quickly up to Russell and says something like: “Dick, I’ve got the votes for cloture.”

Before he can do that, Mansfield almost certainly will have been forced into making some concessions on specific provisions of the bill. The extent of those concessions, and the strength of the bill in its final form, may go a long way toward answering the question of whether a Democratic majority can control a Democratic Senate.

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