The Center for Legislative Archives

Research Interview Notes of Richard F. Fenno, Jr. with Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1959-1965



Interview Notes Index

Access to this interview is subject to the deed of gift of December 14, 1993.


Interview with Rep. Joseph W. Martin, Jr. (R-MA)
March 1963
He spoke of a man who wanted to go off the Appropriations Committee. He said the man was the only one he had ever heard of. He said the man was second and was afraid that the top man would not run, and he would be chairman. But in answer to my question he said it was not Richard B. Wigglesworth (R-MA). "He wanted to trade with me. I don't know that he would have left if it had come right down to it. But he's the only fellow I ever knew who said he wanted to get off that committee. And I don't blame him. It's a dog's life. Nobody gives you any credit. You go down into the dugout the first of December and don't come out again till after adjournment."

"I was chairman of the Committee on Committees all the time I was leader. We had five states--New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and California. I didn't give a damn whether the other states were there, or what they wanted. We would make up a slate and push it through."

"It's a prize committee. A young boy comes down here and wants to do something for his state and for his career. He can do more for his state in that committee and make a name for himself. We never lacked for applicants on that committee. Sometimes they wished to hell they had never gotten on it, but they all stuck it out."

"You want a man who is solid and sound. You want someone who has had experience in spending money and knows what the value is. That's the big thing. Some people don't know what money is--they are too liberal with money, with other people's money. You don't want people who are too liberal with other people's money. Of course, s. . . ."

Regarding former Representative John Taber (R-NY), previously ranking minority member on Appropriations: "He was always consulted. We asked all the committee chairmen if they could work with a certain man."

"It's a hard committee. Everybody knows that. It's a labor of love and a devotion to duty that keeps you on that committee. People have a lot of respect for them. Oh, sometimes they get mad because they can't have what they want. But after they cool off, they have a high regard for the committee."

"Every section of the country is entitled to a seat on the committee. You wouldn't want to stack the committee with all Easterners. That wouldn't be right. Of course, you take the big states, they pay most of the taxes, and they should have representation. But still you wouldn't want to stack the committee."

I asked regarding party loyalty, and he didn't bite on that at all. He said you did want someone who would help your side, but he made no specific point of it.

I got no [blank] that he ever had trouble with the committee. He got reports regularly, he said, and said that he even had weekly meetings where each committee chairman would report to him. He said he thought this was a formal method and that things were more informal now.

I asked him if he had to oppose the committee on the floor--"Oh yes, many times." Then he went into the question of western land development, said that Iowa and Kansas didn't want that but that the party leadership had to support it because opposition to soil conservation "wouldn't be a good record to stand on." This was somewhat confused--"No committee is infallible."
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