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Congressional Committee Chairmen

Congressional Committee Chairmen: Three Who Made an Evolution

Andrée E. Reeves
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Congressional Committee Chairmen
    Book Description:

    Congress does most of its work in committee, and no understanding of that body can be complete without an analysis of its committees and those who shape them. Andrée Reeves now offers a rare glimpse into the workings of committee chairmanship over a span of thirty-three years-how three chairmen operated and how they influenced their committee and its impact.

    As Reeves demonstrates, the chair is the most important player in a congressional committee-the one who holds more cards than his colleagues and can deal a winning hand or call a bluff. His use of institutional and personal resources affects the committee, the chamber, and public policy.

    As a case study, Reeves compares the leadership of three disparate and strong House Education and Labor Committee chairmen who served from 1950 to 1984: Graham A. Barden (D-NC), Adam Clayton Powell (D-NY), and Carl D. Perkins (D-KY). She delves into each chairman's background, orientation, and use of resources. Each had his own brand of leadership, she finds, and a pronounced but different impact on Education and Labor. The committee blocked "progressive" legislation under Barden, facilitated Johnson's Great Society under Powell, and fought tooth and nail to maintain its accomplishments under Perkins.

    Reeves emphasizes also committee development, including the effects of reforms, the relationship between committee composition and policy output, and committee voting patterns. Rather than advancing smoothly and incrementally, Education and Labor developed in stages that coincided with each chairmanship. And over the years covered, it evolved into a more complex, decentralized, and democratic organization.

    This is an illuminating study of three men who made a difference in our nation's governance. They left a legacy for succeeding chairmen and indeed for the House, and their chairmanships have had a lasting impact on our society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5905-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. A Note on the Interviews
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    Scene 1:After a roll-call vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives that had interrupted a committee meeting, a prominent chairman hurries, almost at a trot, to get back to the committee chamber ahead of his colleagues. He beats them by a furlong. Finding no other members present in the committee room, the chairman exercises his prerogative, declares the absence of a quorum, and adjourns the meeting. The major legislative proposal under consideration is put off—again. The same chairman, on several occasions, lines up with the opposition party on his committee to defeat a major federal...

  7. 1 The Committee during the Barden Years
    (pp. 20-51)

    A successful congressional committee chairmanship depends, in part, on the cards that the chairman was dealt in the game of leadership. These include the committee’s environment, its membership, and the rules under which it operates. The chairman’s own leadership skills are his ace in the hole. When Graham Barden, a conservative North Carolina Democrat, picked up his cards as chairman in 1950, the game of the modern committee on Education and Labor was just under way.

    National security issues, particularly involving the Korean War and its aftermath, dominated much of the politics of the 1950s. Communist fear inspired by traumatic...

  8. 2 The Chairmanship of Graham Barden
    (pp. 52-75)

    An abundance of institutional prerogatives combined with a personally resourceful chairman who did not mind using them to further his objectives characterized Graham Arthur Barden’s chairmanship. His leadership was negative and autocratic. It was negative, not in the sense that he was a bad chairman or that he was ineffective (he was not, in either case), but because he used his authority to keep things from happening, not to make them happen. He used his considerable powers largely to prevent new legislation from being enacted, to restrain organized labor, and to thwart the agenda of the increasingly liberal committee majority....

  9. 3 The Committee during the Powell Years
    (pp. 76-109)

    Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Democrat of NY, held an entirely different hand in the game of leadership than did his predecessor, and he played the game in an atmosphere entirely different from that surrounding Graham Barden. The political focus of the nation had largely shifted from international affairs to domestic programs, promoting Education and Labor proposals to the forefront of the president’s agenda. Under the Powell chairmanship, Education and Labor reformed its committee structure, enabling it to accommodate the newfound enthusiasm for matters under its domain and to facilitate the rush to enact the new liberal program. Powell’s cards also...

  10. 4 The Chairmanship of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
    (pp. 110-140)

    One of the Committee on Education and Labor’s most productive but evolutionary periods occurred during the chairmanship of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (D-NY). Perhaps as much as that of any chairman before or since, his leadership shaped the future of the committee.

    Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., was an important man. He was an inspirational leader among blacks and chairman of the powerful Committee on Education and Labor during the 1960s. He attracted attention everywhere he went. Part of the appeal was his flamboyant personal style, in addition to his charm and physical attractiveness. Another part derived from his oratorical skills,...

  11. 5 The Committee during the Perkins Years
    (pp. 141-178)

    The cards Carl Dewey Perkins (D-KY) drew when he became chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor in 1967 did not afford him the opportunities that had challenged his predecessor. Many of the major education controversies had been settled under Adam Clayton Powell, at least temporarily. Perkins faced another, less exciting, but equally critical challenge—that of expanding or maintaining the gains the committee had made in the preceding six years. Moreover, the chairman’s institutional resources had been curtailed because of his predecessors’ behavior.

    From 1967 to 1984 the committee was quite unlike the committee under its predecessors. Its...

  12. 6 The Chairmanship of Carl Perkins
    (pp. 179-212)

    The chairman of a congressional committee, within certain parameters imposed by House and committee environments, makes a difference in the behavior of his committee and in the outcome of the issues before it. This expectation certainly was true of Chairman Carl Dewey Perkins (D-KY), who had a unique impact on the operations and output of the Committee on Education and Labor.

    “Carl Dewey Perkins was up there next to God in the Seventh District of Kentucky. He was a savior,” according to one of his constituents who later worked for him.¹ He brought federal money, accompanied by jobs and roads,...

  13. 7 Leadership and Development on Education and Labor
    (pp. 213-236)

    The prevailing view of institutional leadership is that individual leaders have minimal influence on the organizations they head and that organizations are shaped by their environments. To determine if this view is correct as it relates to chairmen of congressional committees, this study examined the leadership of three disparate chairmen—Graham Barden (1950-52, 1955-60), Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1961-66), and Carl D. Perkins (1967-84)—who headed the Committee on Education and Labor for most of its existence. This study has demonstrated that as far as this committee and its chairmen were concerned, the prevailing view was incorrect. As each chairman...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 237-242)
  15. References
    (pp. 243-258)
  16. Index
    (pp. 259-270)