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31. THE PUBLIC AND THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE.
There are now more than sixty standing committees in the House of Representatives. Mr. Bryce in his American Commonwealth makes the following points in criticism of the committee system:It destroys the unity of the House as a legislative body; it cramps debate; it lessens the harmony of legislation; it reduces responsibility; it throws power into the hands of the chairmen of the leading committees; and it gives facilities for the exercise of underhand and even corrupt influence. Referring to the last item, Mr. L. G. McConachie in his book on Congressional Committees shows how the committees perform their work and what influences lessen the opportunities for corruption:
A number of forces have counted against secrecy, or worked for larger and larger publicity. The lobbyist has not always been sure of his man; now and then the Representative has exposed him in open House; and to the heavy penalties of the law; beginning with such a case in 1795, an attempt to bribe the chairman of a Committee on Land Offices with shares of western lands, these bright examples of legislative esprit de corps have had occasional manifestation. The earliest form of publicity for committee proceedings came, both in England and America, through the printing of their reports. From the beginning this practice has obtained in the House more and more fully, and journalists continually send to the great newspapers notices of such reports as they think will be of interest. All reports of committees of whatever description, including those of minorities, must be printed. A recent amendment of the rules corrects, to a large extent, abuses which had grown up in connection with conference reports, by providing that they shall be detailed and explicit as to changes in bills agreed upon by the managers. Each Congressman is entitled to one copy of every printed document. Committee sessions are always open to members of the House. The more important committees have become so large that opportunities for cabal are much lessened. With the reporter going the rounds for interviews, with a diversity of interests represented by committeemen from many States, with a minority on the
watch, and quick to report to the House and to the public, with the gossipy confidences which pass among public men, and the easy evasions of that antiquated precedent which forbids any mention of committee proceedings in House debates, with the filibuster whose athletics have sometimes called the attention of the country to iniquitous measurespublicity has generally got in some degree its due, though often too late.
Tendencies past and present point to the desirability andperhaps it is not too strong an inference-to the inevitableness of a full publicity for committee work. The committee hearing is the most hopeful sign. No feature of Congressional legislation is more interesting. It is a happy device for gleaning information and gauging public opinion. It is growing in favor, and perfecting its development. A committee at the outset of its session's work will schedule fifteen or twenty days for presentation of arguments upon one of its prominent measures by outsiders. This testimony is caught by the stenographer's pencil, and presently appears as a printed and indexed booklet, which serves as the principal text for the committee's action. Before the daily meeting of the House, from 10:30 in the morning until noon, is a usual period for the hearing. The first comers at such a meeting are naturally those who expect to present their views before the committee. They are strangers in the city and the Capitol, and come, it may be, from distant parts of the Union. They find themselves in a large, square room with frescoed dome, from which the sunlight streams downward over a swinging chandelier. Shelves of books and maps mounted for convenient reference line the walls. There are easy sofas, a home-like fireplace surmounted by a fine mirror, and other objects of convenience or comfort. Diagonally across the room extends the great, solid committee table, bordered by ample cushioned chairs, and laden with thick files of the bills which await action. A hum of conversation hushes when the chairman, the first committeeman to arrive, takes his seat at the head of the table. The visitors are introduced by their
home Congressman, although he is not a member of the committee. Proceedings begin with a few of the committeemen present, and others drop in one by one, the minority members being the greatest laggards. Upon the Congressman who has introduced his constituents the chair will probably bestow the honor of managing the floor, including the order of the programme, the introduction of speakers, and the equitable division among them of the one hour and a half for debate. Each advocate or witness stands in turn at the foot of the table facing the chairman, and strives earnestly to impress his views upon the auditory, subject all the while to a fire of cross-questioning from those who choose to interrupt. An important general appropriation or tariff bill may be the theme. Perhaps these invaders of the Congressional halls represent rival towns in a fast developing and somewhat lawless mountain region of West Virginia, where the establishment of a new Federal court has become necessary; or they are the spokesmen of contending religious sects, who urge or oppose the introduction of the name of Deity into the Constitution of the United States; or they stand for two great clashing industries, filled cheese and oleomargarine against butter and full-cream cheese, the grievance of the quiet, self-respecting American cow against the pushing, unscrupulous American porker, the conflict of Vermont meadows with corn and cotton fields of Illinois and Georgia. It is a revelation to the onlooker, an indispensable key to the puzzles of that vast onward sweep of legislation in the full arena of the House. Here he sees the headsprings of law. Here is the despised secret lobby hopefully transforming into the open and fair voice of all who desire to be heard. From every class and occupation the influences come. Ministers of the gospel and labor delegates touch elbows. The physician and the expert of science contribute their testimony. Clerks and other officials of long experience in government answer the call for information. The judge, the old soldier, the merchant, come burdened with the letters, the affidavits, and the carefully prepared addresses of distant fellow-citizens and comrades. There are readings
of newspaper articles, echoes from numerous conventions, indorsements of labor organizations, amendments for pending bills suggested by produce exchanges, even voices from foreign lands. It is the point of mutual touch between two fully developed standing committees, the one maintained by some voluntary association of the people for the purpose of influencing legislation, the other established by Congress to ascertain and supply the needs of society in the way of new laws. While the private advocate is delivering before the committee his careful and labored argument, the legislator leans forward with eyes and ears all eager attention; for afterward, when the bill comes up in the House, he will rehearse the committee hearing in a broader, somewhat dramatized way.
32. AN APPORTIONMENT BILL.
The Constitution provides that Representatives shall be apportioned according to population and that a census shall be taken every ten years for that purpose. The following Act was passed in apportioning Representatives on the basis of the census taken in 1910:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled, That, after the third day of March, nineteen hundred and thirteen, the House of Representatives shall be composed of four hundred and thirty-three members, to be apportioned among the several States as follows:
Alabama, ten; Arkansas, seven.
Sec. 2. That if the Territories of Arizona and New Mexico shall become States in the Union before the apportionment of Representatives under the next decennial census they shall have one Representative each-which Representative shall be in addition to the number four hundred and thirty-three.
Sec. 3. That in each State entitled under this apportionment to more than one Representative, the Representatives to the Sixty-third and each subsequent Congress shall be elected by districts composed of a contiguous and compact
territory and containing as nearly as practicable an equal number of inhabitants. The said districts shall be equal to the number of Representatives to which such State may be entitled in Congress, no district electing more than one Representative.
Sec. 4. That in case of an increase in the number of Representatives in any State under this apportionment such additional Representative or Representatives shall be elected by the State at large and the other Representatives by the districts now prescribed by law until such State shall be redistricted in the manner provided by the laws thereof and in accordance with the rules enumerated in section three of this Act; and if there be no change in the number of Representatives from a State, the Representatives thereof shall be elected from the districts now prescribed by law until such State shall be redistricted as herein prescribed.
Sec. 5. That candidates for Representative or Representatives to be elected at large in any State shall be nominated in the same manner as candidates for governor, unless otherwise provided by the laws of such State.
Sec. 6. That all Acts and parts of Acts inconsistent with this Act are hereby repealed.
33. THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE HOUSE OF
In the following article Mr. H. A. Herbert, formerly Secretary of the Navy, points out the differences in procedure between the House of Representatives and its English prototype the House of Commons: .
The reasons why the debates in the American House are not as fully reported and as keenly followed by the public as those of the House of Commons, and. why the party in power in the House of Representatives has not and never can have any great leader who represents the government in every measure and upon whom all eyes are centred as they now are upon