The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, January 01, 1914, Page 6, Image 6

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The Commoner
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The Minority Veto in the Senate
Must End
Speoeh of lion. Robort L. Owen, of Okla
homa, in, tho Homito of iho United Statos, July
14, .19X3, on an ainontlinont to tho rules of tho
enato proposing tho cloture, or termination of
debate and dilatory motionu.
Mr. Owon. Mr, President, I offer tho follow
ing resolution:
"Rosolvod, That Rulo XIX of tho standing
rules of tho sonato ho amendod by adding tho
" 'Soc. 0. That tho senate may at any time,
upon motion of a sonator, fix a day and hour for
a final voto upon any matter pending in tho sen
ate: Provided, howovor, That this rulo shall not
ho invokod to provont dobato by any sonator who
requosts opportunity to express his views upon
such ponding matter within a timo to bo fixed by
tho senate.
" 'Tho notice to bo given by tho sonato under
this section, oxcopt by consent, shall not bo less
than a woolc, unless such requests bo made with
in tho last two weeks of tho session.'
"For tho foregoing stated purpot.? tho follow
ing rules, namely, VII, VIII, IX, X, XII, XXII,
XXVI, XXV11I, XXXV, and XL, aro modified:
" 'Any sonator may demand of a sonator mak
ing a motion if it bo made for dilatory or ob
structive purposos, and if tho sonator making the
motion declines or evades an answer or con
codes tho motion to havo boon mado for such
purpose, tho president of tho sonato shall declare
such motion out of order.' "
Mr. President, tho minority voto in tho sonate,
with its power to provont tho majority from ful
filling its pledges to tho American people, must
ond. Tho right to obstruct tho public businoss
by a factional filibuster mujjt coaso. Tho power
of an individual sonator to blackmail the sonato
must bo terminated. Thoao national evils can
no longer bo concealod by tho false cloak of
"freedom of debate."
Those who defend the antiquated rulo of un
limited parliamentary debate do so chiefly on
tho ground of precedent. Tho precedents of the
intellectual world, of tho parliamentary world,
aro entirely against the preposterous rule which
has been pormitted to survive in tho Unitod
States sonato alone. What are tho precedents
of tho world?
Tho precedents in tho state of Maine and in
every New England state, in every Atlantic state,
in every gulf state, in every Pacific state, in
every Rocky mountain state, in every Mississippi
valley state, and in every state bordering on
Canada aro against unlimited dobato or tho
minority voto. In both tho seiiae and house of
every stato tho precedent is to tho contrary.
Tho precedent is against- it- in Now Hampshire; .
The precedent is against it in Vermont.
, Tho precedent is against it in Massachusetts.
The precedent is against it in Rhode Island
and Connecticut.
. What senator from the Now England statos will
venture to say uut the precedents of every single
ono of tho New England states aro unsound, un
wise, and ought to bo modified to conform to tho
superior wisdom of tho senate rulo?
Tho precedent is against it in New York, and
In Pennsylvania, and in Now Jersey, Delaware,
Maryland, Virglnlr, and Qjtf Virginia. What
senator uponJhs flojpn presenting these com
monwealths - 11 venture to say that the people
Of his state liac.d adopted a false standard of par
liamentary practice wjiich they ought to abandon
for the superior virtue of the minority veto es
tablished in the senate by an archaic rule in
- The precedent in North Carolina, in South
Carolina, In Georgia, in Alabama, in Florida, in
Mississippi, and Tennessee is against it. Will
tho senators from these states say that the par
liamentary rulo and practice of their own states,
which they have the honor to represent upon this
floor, are unwise and not safe and should be
modified to comply with the superior rule of tho
minority veto?
The precedents of Louisiana, Michigan, Indi
aua, .Illinois, and Kentucky, of Missouri, lown
Wisconsin, and Montana, of the Dakotas, of Ne
braska and Kansas, are all against this unwise
practice of the United Statos senate.
Tho precedents of Colorado, Wyoming, and
Minnesota, of Idaho, of Nevada, of Arizona and
Now Mexico, and of the great Pacific states
Washington, Oregon, and California provide
for the closing of debate and are against the evil
practice which still remains in vogue in the
United States senate.
Why, Mr. President, the precedent of every
city, big and little, in the United States is against
the right of minority veto under the false pre
tense of "freedom of debate."
Every one of the 48 states of the union, while
permitting freedom of debate, has set us the
wise and virtuous precedent of permitting the
control by tho majority. I remind every senator
In this body that in his own state his legislative
assembly, whether in the house or in the senate,
does not permit a minority veto under the pre
tense of freedom of debate. It is the rule of
common sense and of common honesty.
In the house of representatives of the congress
of the United States the right to r.ove the pre
vious question and limit debate has been wisely
and profitably practiced since its foundation.
The rule of tho majority is the rule in all the
parliaments of English-speaking people. In the
parliament of Great Britain, in the house of
lords, the "contents" pass to the right and the
"not contents" pass to the left, and the majority
In the house of commons the "ayes" pass to
the right and the "noes" pass to the left, and
tho majority rules. (Encyclopedia Britannica,
vol. 20, p. 856.)
The great English statesman, Mr. Gladstone,
having found that the efficiency of parliament
was destroyed by the right of unlimited debate,
was led to propose cloture in the first week of
the session of 1882, moving this resolution on
the 20th of February, and expressing the opinion
that the house should settle its own procedure.
The acts of Mr. Gladstone and others of like
opinion finally led to the termination of un
limited debate in tho procedure of parliament.
In these debates every fallacious argument now
advanced by those who wish to retain unlimited
debate in tho United States senate has been
abundantly answered, leaving no ground of
sound reasoning to reconsider these stale and
exploded arguments.
The cloture of debate is vey commonly used'
in the houses of parliament in Great Britain, for
example, in standing order No. 26. The return
to order of the house of commons, dated Decem
ber 12, 1906, it appears that the cloture was
moved 112 times. (See vol. 94, Great Britain
House of Commons, sessional papers, 1906.)
In France the cloture is moved by one or more
members crying out "La cloture!"
"The president immediately puts the question
and if a member of the minority wishes to speak
ho is allowed to assign his reasons against the
close of- the debate, but no one can speak in sup
port of tho motion and only 6ne member' against
it. The question is then put by the president
'Shall the debate be closed?' and if it is resolved
in tho affirmative the debate is closed and the
main question Is put to the vote."
M. Guizot, speaking on. the efficacy of the
cloture before a committee of the house of com
mons in 1848, said:
"I think that in our chamber it was an in
dispensable power, and I think it "has not been
used unjustly or improperly generally. Calling
to mind what has passed of late years. I do
not recollect any serious and honest complaint
of the cloture. In the French chambers, as they
have been during the last 34 years, no member
can imagine that the debate would have been
properly conducted without the power of pro
nouncing the cloture."
He also stated in another part of his evidence
"Before the introduction of the cloture in
1814 the debates were protracted indefinitely
and not only were they protracted, but at the
end, when the majority wished to put an end to
the debate and the minority would not, the
debate became very violent for protracting the
debate, and out of the house among the public it
was a source of ridicule."
The French also allow tho previous question,
and it can always be moved; it can notjbe pro
posed on motions for which urgency is claimed,
except after the report of the committee of 'in
itiative. (Dickinson's Rules and Procedure of
Foreign Parlianents, p. 426.)
The majority rule controls likewise in the
German ehipire and they have the cloture upon,
the support of 30 members of the house, which
is immediately voted on at any time by a' show
of hands or by the ayes and noes. .. "
In Austria-Hungary, motions, for the closing
of the debate are to be put to the vote at once
by the president without any question, and there-,
upon the matter is determined. If the majority
decides for a close of debate, the members whose
names are put down to speak for or against the
motions may choose from amongst them one. ,
speaker on each side, and the matte: is disposed,
of by voting a simple yes or no. (Ibid., p. 404.)
Austria also, in its independent houses of
parliament, has the cloture, which may be put
to. the vote at any. time in both houses, and a,
small majority suffices to carry it. This is done,
however, without interrupting any speech in
actual course of delivery; and when the vote to.
close the debate is passed each side has one.
member represented in a final speech on 'the
question. (Ibid., p. 409.) . -...-,
In Belgium they have the cloture, and if the1
prime minister and president of the chamber
are satisfied that there is need of closing the
uenate a nmt is given to some member to raise
. the cry of "La cloture," after a member of the
opposition has concluded his speech, and upon
the demand of 10 members, granting permission,
however, to speak, for or against the "motion
under restrictions. The method, here does not
prevent any reasonable debate, but permits a
termination of the debate by the. will of the
majority. The same rule is followed in the sen
ate of Belgium. (Ibid., p. 420.)
In Denmark also they have the cloture, which
can be proposed by the president of the Danish
chambers, which is decided by the chamber
without debate. Fifteen members of the Lands
thing may demand the cloture. (Ibid., p; 422.)
In both houses, of the parlia. lent of Nether
lands they have the cloture. . Five members of
the first chamber may propose it and five mem
bers may propose it in the second chamber They
have the majority rule. (Ibid., p. 461.)
In Portugal they have the cloture in both
chambers, and debate may be closed by a special
motion, without discretion. - In the. upper house
they permit two to speak in favor of and- two
AgamsUt. . The. cloture may be voted. (Ibid.,
p. 409.) - '
. The. cloture in Spain may be said tb'exist in
directly, and to result from the action allowed
the president on the order of parliamentary dis
cussion. (Ibid., jp. 477.) . , eniary ais-
The cloture exists in Switzerland both in the
conseil des etats and conseil national "
Many of the ablest and best senators who have
ever been members of this body have urged the
abatement of this evil, including uchmln'
Senator George G. Vest, of Missouri- SSILtSS
BrVHi S-MPlat C ecticut;SS Senator Da
B Hill of New York; Senator George F Hoar nf
Massachusetts; and Senator Henry Cabot Lori
of Massachusetts, who introducedesoiutions
?f fLthe amendnt ot this evil practice of
the senate.
Mr. President, the time has come in tho Mo
tory of the United States when congress shal be
directly responsive to the will of the malowtv ?
90,000000 of people without delay, eviiof or
obstruction. We are in the midst ; of the 1R
gigantic century in the history of the i worid
when every reason looking to the welfare and
advance of the human race bids r.s march for
ward in compliance with the magnificent intim
gem and humane impulses of theAmein
v We have the most important problems before
us-,financial, commercial, sociological! jFifteen
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