The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, November 05, 1909, Page 3, Image 3

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NOVEMBER 5, 1909
"It is not tho visible presence of members, but
their judgment and their, votes tho constitution
calls for."
And whether ten years afterward ho Baid a
different thing whllo occupying tho speaker's
chair, when it was necessary in order to securo
an increased representation of his party in
Mr. Grosvonor: Does the gentleman think
it any reflection upou tho statesmanship of a
member of congress for him to change his mind
"upon a question?
Mr. Bryan: Not at all, sir. In fact, I be
'lieve it is the duty of a man to change his mind
if he finds that ho is wrong.
Mr. Grosvenor: There havo been somo
changes of opinion lately in this house, and I
did not know whether tho gentleman was pass
ing criticism upon that, (daughter.)
Mr. Bryan:' I will 3ay this, however, that
it sometimes is the caso that where ono party
is in power, and desires to do a thing, one of
tho party out of power will denounce tho act
as wrong, and then when that man comes into
power ho -will change his mind, when party
necessity requires a change of action. I say
that is possible; and I am sure that tho gentle
man from Ohio (Mr. Grosvenor) will agree with
me that such a change of mind is not to be de
fended. Only that change of mind which is an
honest change, brought about by an honest con
sideration of all the questions involved, is to bo
But I say, Mr. Speaker, it is not a question
whether the speaker of this house at that timo
violated tho precedents of a hundred years and
placed a construction upon tho constitution
which no previous congress had placed there.
It is not a question whether his opinion in power
was different from that which ho expressed when
out of power. The question is simply as to the
wisdom of adopting the rule which was adopted
at that time.
I quote from the supremo court decision,
where the court says that this house has the
right to select, not only the method solected in
the Fifty-first congress, but tho right to select
the method which has been selected in every
other congress from the beginning of this gov
ernment to this time; in otner words, that the
house can determine for itself how tho presence
of a quorum shall bo ascertained. In the de
cision tho rule adopted February 14, 1S90, au
thorizing the speaker to count a quorum, is set
forth, and then follows this language:
"Tho action taken was in direct compliance
with this rule. Tho question, therefore, Is as
to the validity of this rule, and not what meth
ods the speaker may of his own motion resort
to for determining the presence of a quorum,
nor what matters tho speaker or clerk may of
their own volition place upon the journal.
"Neither do tho advantages or disadvantages,
the wisdom or folly, of such a rule present any
matters for judicial, consideration. With tho
courts the question is only one of power.
. f 'Tho . constitution empowers each house to
determine rules of proceeding. It may not by
its rules ignore constitutional restraint or violate
fundamental rights, and there should be a rea
sonable relation between the mode or method
of proceeding established by theru.le and the re
sult which is sought to be attained. But within
these limitations all matters of methods . aro
open to the determination of the .house, arid it
is no impeachment of the rule to say that some
other way, would be better, more , a.ccurate, or
even. more. just. , . . i
..' "It is no objection to the validity of a rulo
that a different one has been prescribed and in
force for a length of time.
. .
. "But how shall the presence of a majority be
.determined? The constitution haB prescribed
no method of making this determination, and
it is therefore within the competency of tho
house to prescribe any method which shall tie
reasonably certain to ascertain tho fact. It may
prescribe answer to roll call as the only method
of determination; or require the passage of
members between tellers, and their count a3 tho
eole test; or tho count of the speaker or tho
clerk, and an announcement from tho desk of
the names of those who are present.
"Summing up this matter, this law is found
in the secretary of the treasury's office, properly
authenticated. If we appeal to the journal of
the house, we find that a majority of Its members
were present when the bill passed, a majority
creating by the constitution a quorum, with au
thority to act upon any measure; that the pres
ence of that quorum was determined in accord-
The Commoner.
anco with a reasonable and valid rulo therototbre
adopted by tho house."
But when wo say, that Instead of adopting
tho method adopted, in tho Fifty-first congress,
wo will adopt tho method adopted by all pro
coding congresses rfud by tho Fifty-second con
gress, I believo that wo follow tho safer course,
and that our action in not counting a quorum or
allowing it to bo done, is based on solid wisdom.
And just a word, Mr. Speakor, to show the
wisdom of our method. Tho gentleman from
Texas (Mr. Bailey) in tho last congress showed
what various states had dono; and while- 1 enn
not give the states as he gave them, yet my recol
lection is that more than half of tho statos of
this union provide by their constitutions that
no bill shall become a law until a majority of
all the members elected shall express their con
sent upon a yea and nay vote. 1 beliovo that
provision is a wise ono. I beliovo it Is only a
saro provision that beforo a bill shall bocomc a
law a majority of all members oloctcd to con
gress shall express it as thoir wish, and not
merely a majority of those who happen to bo
present if a quorum is present.
A great deal was said about wanting tho ma
jority to rule. Mr. Speaker, I call attention to
tho fact that tho counting of a quorum is not a
device by which a majority can rule. It is a
device by which a minority can enact lawB. A
majority in favor of a bill requires no counting
of a quorum. It is when there is not a majority
in favor of a bill, that a quorum must bo count
ed in order to pass tho bill. Now, what is pos
sible under it? Wo havo in this house 35G mem
bers. Ono hundred and seventy-nine make a
According to all rules, If wo havo present 179
members, and 90 members vote aye and 89 voto
no, the bill will bo passed. Now that is because
the constitution says that, a quorum being pres
ent, a majority of tho majority is sufilclcnt to
pass a bill. But for ono hundred years our
peoplo have placed a construction on that, and
they havo given to tho minority tho right, by
refusing to. vote, to compel tho concurrence of
a majority in legislation.
I believo that that safeguard is a wise one,
and that no great interest will suffer if you
simply stay tho hand of legislative power until
you bring in a majority who aro in favor of tho
proposition. But in tho rules of tho Fifty-first
congress that safeguard was taken away, and
with 89 refusing to vote, the speaker, according
to the rules afterward adopted, and in accord
ance with his own" opinion beforo tho rules wore
adopted, was able to count tho 89 as present,
and thus two moro than one-fourth of tho house
Were able to unseat a member and put another
member in his place.
The first instance whore this rule was called
into effect was in the case of Smith vs. Jackson,
which camo up on the 29th day of January, 1890.
There 1G2 members of congress voted in favor
. of unseating tho man who held tho certificate.
It was not a majority of the members of that
congress, and yet it illustrates what could bo
dono under the rules of the Fifty-first congress.
Wo havo refused to adopt theso rules. We .havo
gone back to the precedents of a hundred years,
and left it in tho power of those dissenting to
compel the concurrency of a majority in tho
passage of a measure by refusing to vote, there
by breaking a quorum, whenever, in their judge
ment, such action would be justifiable.
There is another question. The Fifty-first
congress gave to the speaker the right to de
termine what was a dilatory motion. That
power, sir, when wisely exercised Is perhaps not
a dangerous power; but that power the fifty
second congress refused to give the speaker;
that power, this congress has so far refused to
trust to the speaker; and I believo wo aro wise
in refusing that power to any man.
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: Will tho gentleman
permit mo to interrupt him there?
Mr. Bryan: Certainly.
Mr. HopklnB, of Illinois: Do I understand
tho gentleman to say that wo havo no rule that
would permit tho speaker to determine what is
a dilatory motion?
Mr. Bryan: I do not believo the speaker of
the house should be invested, with tho power to
declare by his judgment what is a dilatory mo
tion, and thus stop what we call filibustering.
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: Now, if tho gentle
man will permit me, did ho not, as a member
of the last congress, voto for a code of rules
that clothed the speaker with that authority?
Mr. Bryan: Under, tho provision with regard
o suspension of the rules?
Mr. HopklnB, of Illinois: Yes, sir.
Mr. Bryan: I believe that no motion is in
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: But did not tho
gentloman In tho lust oongrasi voU for ft codo
of rules which clothsd tho syenknr with that
Mr. Springer: in two ontos only.
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: I do not caro
whether It is two or one.
Mr. Bryan: I was going to my
Mr. Outhwalte: It does not clothe lilrn with
tho powor to determine what Is a dilatory mo
tion Mr. Hood: It takes three of them to answer.
Mr. Outhwaito, continuing: Or what the mo
tive of the maker Is. It only onnblos him to
doclaro a motion dilatory whon tho motion It
solf shows It Is a dilatory motion, and for delay.
Mr. Bryan: And that la what the rulo says.
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: Doe It not clothe
tho spanker with authority to declare what is a
dilatory motion?
Mr. Bryan: It dooa not glvo tho speaker tho
right to determine what tho motive of tho makor
was, but simply what the effect was; and that
was tho rule.
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: Has not tho speakor,
under section 8, rule 14, the samo power, whon It
comes to a question of suspending tho rules, that
tho speaker of tho Fifty-first congress was
elothod with under tho rules adopted by that
Mr. Payne: 'And in language preoluely tho
Mr. Reed: It Is on pages 11 and 19.
Mr. Bryan: It seems to take three gentlemen
to propound the question. (Laughter.)
Tho Speaker, pro tempore: Doos tho gentle
man from Nebraska yield to tho gentlonmn from
Mr. Bryan: Yes, sir; I yield to tho threo
gentlemen. (Laughter.)
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: Beforo tho gentle
man yields to tho others, If ho will simply an
swer my quostlon, I will bo obliged. Did not
he, as a mombor of tho last congress, voto for
a codo of rules that lodged with tho speaker tho
power to dotermlno what Is a dilatory motion?
Ho has refused to answer that question yet.
Mr. Bryan: 1 votod for tho rules adopted.
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: Can not tho Kontle
man bo frank, and say yes or no? Will tho
gentleman- allow mo
Mr. Bryan: I will allow you to framo your
question If you will allow mo to framo my
Mr, Hopkins, of Illinois: Doos It require an
argument to answor? Can not you answer by
yes or no?
Mr. Bryan: Aro you ready to lot me answer?
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: Do you decline to
answer my question? , .
Mr. Bryan: If tho gentleman Is through with
the question I will answer.
air. Hopkins, of Illinois: Well, Mr. Speakor,
I will not press tho gentleman upon that point,
as I see It Is a delicate subject with him. It Is
a question which could havo been answered with
a direct yes or no.
Mr. Bryan: Tho gentleman lias submitted
his question, and I will try to answer it and go
back to the point whero ho Interrupted mo.
Now, whilo such a provision is In tho rules of
tho last congress, those rules provided that In
the instances which tho gentleman refers to the
speaker was permitted to decldo that a motion
which delayed action was not In order.
But I do not understand that the decision of
tho speaker In the last congress was at all like
tho decision of tho speaker of tho Fifty-first
congress. And furthermore, tho decision of tho
speaker of tho last congress was based upon
the decisions of speakers In other congresses
previous to the Fifty-first, under tho samo rule,
and presents a very different question from that
which was raised in the Fifty-first congress.
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: In the last congress,
in tho two instances to which tho gentleman's
attention has been called, is not tho language
which lodges this power in tho speaker precisely
' tho language In which the rulo was clothed
that was adopted by the Fifty-first congress?"
Mr. Bryan: I can not say. Will you answer
that question yourself?
Mr. Hopkins, of Illinois: I think It was.
Mr. Bryan: The gentleman thinks. It was,
and I do not know, so we will leavo It there.
(Laughter.) Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to say
this: Tho provision of tho rules in this congress
and In tho last congress Is very different from
that In tho rules of tho Fifty-first congress, In
that, instead of lodging tho power In the speaker
to stop filibustering, they lodge that power In
the house itsolf, and to my mind there fs a very
great distinction between allowing a speaker to
say that filibustering shall stop and allowing
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