[Congressional Record Volume 140, Number 139 (Thursday, September 29, 1994)]
[Page S]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]

[Congressional Record: September 29, 1994]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]


  The Senate continued with the consideration of the conference report.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the pending business.
  The bill clerk read as follows:

       Resolved, That the House recede from its disagreement to 
     the amendment of the Senate numbered 12 to the bill (H.R. 
     4649) entitled ``An act making appropriations for the 
     government of the District of Columbia and other activities 
     chargeable in whole or in part against the revenues of said 
     District for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1995, and 
     for other purposes,'' and concur therein with an amendment.

  Mr. HELMS. Mr. President, as I understand it, the amendment sponsored 
by Senator Domenici and Senator Boren is the pending business. Is that 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Feingold). The Senator is correct. That is 
the pending question.
  Mr. HELMS. I thank the Chair.
  Mr. President, a lot of people who profess to admire Thomas Jefferson 
do not want to get even in the vicinity of the positions that Thomas 
Jefferson took. One of the great books that all Senators ought to read 
is a little book written by Thomas Jefferson, entitled, ``Manual of 
Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the United States Senate.'' In 
this book, which is sort of a second Bible to me, Thomas Jefferson 
implicitly but nonetheless clearly warned those who in the name of 
institutional reform or ending gridlock or any other such contrivance 
seek to alter the rules which govern debate in the Senate.
  Jefferson clearly sounded a warning which is being ignored time and 
time again. You hear all of these arguments about changing this rule 
and changing that and expediting this procedure. I wish Thomas 
Jefferson could come in that door and say, ``Look here, fellows. Stop 
it.'' In my judgment, if Tom Jefferson were around today, he would 
disdain those who propose to change the Senate rules. In 1801, 12 years 
after the convening of the first Congress, Thomas Jefferson wrote this:

       Nothing tended to throw power into the hands of 
     administration and those who acted with a majority of the 
     House of Commons, than a neglect of, or a departure from the 
     rules of proceeding.

  Parenthetically, let me say, he was talking about rules of proceeding 
of the Senate. He was talking about those who might propose to change 
these rules. Then he continues. He said:
       * * * that these forms [rules], as instituted by our 
     ancestors, operated as a check and control on other actions 
     of the majority, and that they were in many instances, a 
     shelter and protection to the minority against the attempts 
     of power * * *
       * * * and whether these forms be in all cases the most 
     rational, or not, is really not of great importance.
       It is much more material that there should be a rule to go 
     by, than what the rule is; that there may be a uniformity of 
     proceeding in business, not subject to the caprice of the 
     Speaker, or captiousness of the members.
  Unfortunately, Mr. President, there are some among us who are poised 
to head down the very path that Thomas Jefferson warned us not to take.
  I have reviewed the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the 
Organization of Congress, and I acknowledge that the pending amendment 
contains some proposals of which I approve, such as the abolition of 
joint committees, limiting committee assignments, and the reduction in 
the size of personal office staffs and committee staffs. I am all for 
  But there are proposals that I believe Thomas Jefferson would reject 
out of hand--for example, the projected restrictions on the ability of 
a Senator or a group of Senators to debate and examine legislation 
could ultimately fracture the constitutional balance of power which has 
existed between the two Houses of Congress since the year 1789.
  I do not make this observation lightly. There is no right as 
essential to maintaining our freedoms, nor is there a right as 
misunderstood, as the right of unlimited debate in the Senate of the 
United States. For more than 200 years the Senate has wisely guarded 
its role as a check on the ``passions'' of the House--to use James 
Madison's words--and as a court of last resort for the views of a 
minority--be it a minority of one Senator, a minority party, an 
ideological minority, or a regional minority. We must not do harm to 
unlimited debate.
  In 1841, John Calhoun fought against the rechartering of the Bank of 
the United States. In debate, he remarked that what set the Senate 
apart from the controlled atmosphere of the House was:

       * * * the minority's unquestioned right to question, 
     examine, and discuss those measures which they believe in 
     their hearts are inimical to the best interests of their 

  As a result of Calhoun's fight, the Senate's role as the forum for 
protecting the rights of the minority became an accepted facet of 
American Government. Last year, a group of western Senators--
Republicans as well as Democrats--used the same tactics, practiced by 
Calhoun and others, to prevent the majority of both Houses from 
trampling on the rights of sparsely populated States which derive 
substantial revenue from those who use public lands. If the right of 
unlimited debate had been curtailed, the needs of this regional 
minority would not have been served. The filibuster forced a 
recalcitrant Congress and adminisration to pay attention to those who 
otherwise would have been ignored, as if they were a ship passing in 
the night.
  The so-called parliamentary reform advanced by the plan of the Joint 
Committee is the abolition of the right of unlimited debate on a motion 
to proceed to the consideration of a bill. Because recent Senate custom 
has allowed the majority leader to move to consideration of legisaltion 
at his pleasure, this change will represent a major expansion of the 
majority leader's power to set and dictate the Senate's schedule.
  The majority leader is supposed to lead the Senate but he is not 
supposed to dictate to it. And that line has been crossed time and time 
again. The reform package would also require a three-fifths majority to 
overturn a parliamentary ruling of the Chair after cloture is invoked, 
again broadening the scope of the majority leader's power.
  Mr. President, it is clear to anybody who reads the history of the 
Senate that the Founding Fathers never intended that any Member of the 
U.S. Senate, including a majority leader, assume the trappings of the 
Speaker of the House of Representatives who singlehandedly controls the 
timing of debate, controls interpretation of the rules of the House, 
and through his surrogates on the Rules Committee, even controls what 
amendments will or will not be considered by that body.
  If and when the Senate majority leader--regardless of which party, 
and there are a lot of folks hoping that the mantle of control moves 
from one party to the other after the November election--is allowed to 
acquire such powers, and this legislation is the first step toward 
that, the Senate will be reduced to being nothing more than ``an 
appendage of the House,'' as the distinguished President pro tempore, 
the Honorable Robert C. Byrd, has so eloquently noted in his history of 
the U.S. Senate.
  There is no Member of this body who understands more clearly what is 
at stake here than Senator Byrd. I look forward to his remarks on the 
pending amendment. Senators had better heed it because he knows what he 
is talking about and he knows what is afoot.
  Those who have argued for the elimination of unlimited debate contend 
that in a democracy the majority must always rule.
  I dissent from that with all my being, and I call attention to a guy 
named Pontius Pilate, who abdicated his responsibility to a mob. Must 
the mob always rule? That position is at odds with the very principles 
upon which this Government was built. Do not forget how we honor the 
men whom we call our Founding Fathers and what they created at 
Philadelphia over 200 years ago. They got down on their knees and they 
prayed for guidance in the creation of this country, because they 
understood that nothing can be created if there is no Creator. The 
Founding Fathers viewed the Senate as the last check--the last check--
on the potential excesses of the House of Representatives and the 
executive branch. Without the power to filibuster, the Founding 
Fathers' plan would be decimated, destroyed. During his first days in 
the Senate, a man named Lyndon Johnson discovered why the Senate's 
prerogatives must be carefully protected. Here is what Lyndon Johnson 

       If I should have the opportunity to send into the countries 
     behind the Iron Curtain one freedom and only one, I know what 
     my choice would be * * * I would send to those nations the 
     right of unlimited debate in their legislative chambers * * * 
     If we now in haste and irritation, shut off this freedom,--

  Meaning in the U.S. Senate,

     we shall be cutting off the most vital safeguard which 
     minorities possess against the tyranny of momentary 

  Mr. President, it is true that from time to time there have been 
abuses of the right of unlimited debate. At times, unlimited debate has 
been inconvenient to some. How many times do we hear, ``Well, I have to 
catch a plane, I have a fundraiser back home, and if you keep on 
talking, I will miss my plane.'' I always say to them, ``You ought not 
to have made the plans to go home on a working day.''
  This system was not designed for the convenience of a President of 
the United States, or the whims of a majority leader, or any party. 
This system was designed to protect all citizens from the dangers of 
hurried, arbitrary, and ill-considered legislation. And the Lord knows 
a pile of it flows through this Senate Chamber every year.
  The current rules of the Senate strike a necessary balance between 
the need of the Senate to carry on its business and the need to ensure 
that the minority is not overwhelmed by the majority, because as 
history shows, a majority in this town is not always in step with the 
wishes of the American people. I could cite a number of pieces of 
legislation this year and last year that are in that category. The 
defeat of the President's so-called job stimulus package last year is 
just one prominent case where the majority was proved wrong.
  So if the Senate is really concerned and really serious about reform, 
it should not dispose of the rules which have made this body the most 
powerful Upper Chamber in the world. Instead, the Senate should focus 
on: First, ethics reform; second, making the laws we pass here in the 
Senate Chamber applicable to Congress--Senators and Members of the 
House of Representatives; and third, a plan for using unspent Senate 
funds to reduce the Federal deficit and get that burden off the 
taxpayers' back. These are meaningful reforms, which would increase 
public confidence in, and respect for, the U.S. Senate.
  I close, Mr. President, with words from a reporter's account of an 
address delivered by Vice President Aaron Burr on March 5, 1805. That 
was the day of his departure from the Senate. Aaron Burr's speech has 
been described as ``the most dramatic ever delivered before the 
Senate.'' I think it is proper to close my remarks by quoting from that 
speech, or at least the reporter's account of what Burr said:

       He [Vice President Burr] further remarked that the ignorant 
     and unthinking affected to treat as unnecessary and 
     fastidious a rigid attention to rules and decorum. This 
     House, said he, is a sanctuary; a citadel of law, of order, 
     and of liberty; and it is here--it is here, in this exalted 
     refuge; here if anywhere, will resistance be made to the 
     storms of political phrensy and the silent arts of 
     corruption; and if the Constitution be destined ever to 
     perish by the sacrilegious hands of the demagogue or the 
     usurper, which God avert, its expiring agonies will be 
     witnessed on this floor.

  That is a very, very interesting comment by Aaron Burr. I thank the 
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent I be allowed to 
proceed as in morning business for a period of time not to exceed 10 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.