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The “down” Years 1972-74
A Senator’s View
August 1976 | Volume 27, Issue 5
We are getting bills out of committees these days that would be disastrous if passed as reported by the committees. … Some members … who are running for re-election this year or in 1974 appear to have lost their capacity for sound reasoning as they try to justify positions they never should have taken. Their great desire is apparently to please those people or groups which they feel will support them either financially or by soliciting votes at election time.
Much time is taken up every morning by fifteen-minute political speeches, usually four or five Democrats making charges against the Nixon administration and a couple of Republicans, led by Senator Scott, trying to counteract them. So far this has been an exercise in futility, and I doubt if any votes have been changed. The net result has been to use up to two hours a day in the Senate which should be given to necessary legislation. …
I would characterize the time taken up with campaign charges and countercharges as a costly nuisance. Although some of the members, particularly Senators Kennedy and Humphrey, seem to have their eyes and ears tuned to the 1976 Presidential campaign, they pretend to be helping Senator McGovern in his efforts to win the 1972 election. … It is a wonder this country survives as well as it does while undergoing this unholy ritual every four years. …
The Land Use bill represents a determined effort on the part of its advocates to secure power through controlling the use of all land. Of course the federal government controls a good share of our land area through the Department of the Interior, the National Parks, and the National Forests. But there are those who feel that the federal government, meaning themselves of course, should have control over the use of all privately owned land as well. If these people were all competent, such a policy might have its advantages for the future, but a great many of those who think they should direct the use of the land are terribly incompetent and couldn’t possibly make a living by themselves through their own skill and knowledge of the land. Too many of them are living on trust funds or sizable salaries as officials of government agencies, federal, state, and local. Anyway, the Senate amended the Land Use bill to eliminate much of the harm. …
I would not criticize too harshly the so-called environmentalists, who feel that the use of all land should be put under government control. Most of them do mean well, and the efforts they make go far to offset the other extreme of our society, which feels that industrialists, commercial interests, and developers should have the right to use our natural resources any way they see fit.
Efforts are being made to bring onto the Senate floor political and personal arguments which more properly should be made, if at all, out behind the barn. The situation verges on outright political dishonesty. I got mixed up in one of these occasions on Thursday when I came on the floor just in time to note that Senator Brooke and Senator Cranston were offering what is called the “end-the-war amendment” to a clean-water bill. The Senate had previously agreed that no nongermane amendments could be offered to legislation for the rest of this session. …
If I had not come on the floor just as I did, their ruse might have succeeded. Both Senator Ervin, who came on the floor about that time, and I vigorously dissented, and they were thwarted. … I admit that I had difficulty in controlling my thoughts and my language … and the language which I used in expressing my opinion was not exactly complimentary or of Sunday-school caliber.
On Friday, Senator Mansfield and I introduced a bill which we know should probably originate in the House of Representatives, providing a tax credit for human depletion. By human depletion we mean a person’s inability to work and earn at full capacity because of physical, mental, or emotional difficulties. We held that since oil wells, mines, and quarries are eligible for special tax benefits as a resource nears depletion, and inasmuch as an industrial concern gets special tax benefits as its machinery gets older, the person operating that machinery should also receive as much consideration as the machine itself. By offering this bill we intended to call attention to the fact that property values get far more attention and consideration in governmental bodies than do human values.