FDCH Transcripts

Copyright © 1997 Federal Document Clearing House

No portion of this transcription may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the express written authority of Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.

Full Story
A Public Scolding (9/12)

What's New
The latest news and features

Bulletin Board
Join a thread, start a thread -- it's your chance to sound off!


Senate Foreign Relations Committee Special Meeting

U.S. Senator Jesse Helms (R-Nc), Chairman
U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-In)
U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell (R-Ga)
U.S. Senator Charles Hagel (R-Ne)
U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith (R-Or)
U.S. Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wy)
U.S. Senator Rod Grams (R-Mn)
U.S. Senator John Ashcroft (R-Mo)
U.S. Senator William Frist (R-Tn)
U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Ka)
U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-De), Ranking
U.S. Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md)
U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-Ct)
U.S. Senator John F. Kerry (D-Ma)
U.S. Senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va)
U.S. Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-Wi)
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca)
U.S. Senator Paul David Wellstone (D-Mn)

HELMS: The committee will come to order. I unhesitatingly scheduled this special meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in response to the written request under Rule 3 of the Rules of the Committee on Foreign Relations, sent to me by Senators Lugar, Biden, Gordon Smith and Kerry -- Mr. Kerry of Massachusetts, I might add.

Rule 3 authorizes Senator Lugar and his supporters to request a meeting, but Rule 3 does not provide that they can place any further restrictions on the agenda or the meeting or the procedures to be followed at the meeting.

Now I have asked the distinguished Senate parliamentarian, Mr. Robert Dove, to come here today, should any questions arise regarding Senate rules and procedures. And we thank you, Bob, for coming.

Throughout the past several weeks, the news media have created a circus atmosphere of this matter. I was thinking that maybe if we had a larger space, we could trot two or three elephants and in and then a couple of donkeys and...

BIDEN: We'll just leave the donkeys out, Mr. Chairman, all right?


HELMS: Yes. But I'll tell you. I've never seen such a barrage of misstatements of fact or such a collection of idle speculation, mostly erroneous, but published as fact.

For example, the suggestion by editors and reporters who saw no point in their going to the trouble of checking the facts, produced the allegation that my declining to schedule a hearing on the Weld nomination is unprecedented, and that it is a rare departure from common Senate practice and procedure.

Well, of course, anybody who knows anything about the Senate knows that nothing could be further from the truth, which I feel should be presented for the record in some detail, and I'll do that.

Therefore, the sole purpose of this meeting will be to discuss a history of countless failed nominations in the past ten years which were denied hearings by the chairman or the ranking member.

It is a somewhat lengthy history. And since Senator Lugar has exercised his right, and properly so, to try to force my hand, I feel

obliged to make a matter of record specific instances that could have been easily obtained by anybody in the news media. But as far as I know, not one of you tried.

But before I begin, I shall recognize the distinguished ranking member, Senator Biden, for what he has indicated to me will be brief remarks.


I have enormous respect for Senator Biden.

BIDEN: I appreciate that, Senator. And let me make it real quick.

HELMS: Wait just a minute.

BIDEN: Oh, I beg your pardon.

HELMS: While we do not always agree, we have agreed to disagree agreeably, and as a result, we have had this year a close working relationship, perhaps closer and more successfully than either of us expected at the outset.

We have moved nominations through this committee at a record pace. In fact, it has been acknowledged by both Senate Minority Leader Daschle and by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that the Foreign Relations Committee this year has the best record in the Senate in this regard.

We have also managed to find common ground on public policy matters, including an historic bipartisan bill to reform both the United Nations and the United States foreign affairs apparatus.

Needless to say, I haven't gotten everything I wanted, and neither has Senator Biden. But by working together in an effective and bipartisan manner, I believe this Foreign Relations Committee, as a former of Secretary of State asserted publicly recently, this Foreign Relations Committee is relevant again for the first time in years.

I now turn to the distinguished ranking member, Senator Biden.

BIDEN: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I want to make it clear that there is no one thing that is sufficiently of consequence that is going to alter that relationship, because there is a lot more on the agenda.

We have things like the Test Ban Treaty you and I disagree on, and a lot of other things of consequence.

But, I want to make it clear to my colleagues why I'm only speaking briefly. I agreed to only speak briefly because the truth of the matter is the chairman could and within his rights he could stay here and speak if he wanted to. If I was going to speak a long time, since we're probably going to have someone suggest that we can no longer meet after 12 o'clock I would not have an opportunity to speak, although he would have given me the right to do that almost no matter. But, having said that, let me say that your purpose, Mr. Chairman, for the hearing, is different than the intended purpose that Senator Lugar, myself, Kerry and Weld, excuse me -- Freudian slip -- and Gordon Smith and others who wanted to have this hearing.

We wanted to have this hearing in the hope that we could get you to reconsider whether or not you would give Governor Weld a hearing, former Governor Weld a hearing. Now I have done my homework as well. The parliamentarian, Mr. Dove, because he's so good and so well known -- I have affectionately occasionally, since we're on the opposite side a lot of times -- we refer to him as Mr. Hawk instead of Mr. Dove. The truth about is he's dead right in what he's about to tell you. We checked with the Democratic counterparts, we checked the rules, we have our legal counsel, you are clearly within the Senate rules -- you can make this meeting about anything you want it to be about. But, I want to make it clear, that wasn't the intention of Senator Lugar and me, and I. We wanted this hearing to be about whether or not we could get a hearing for Mr. Weld. Now, your going to cite, and you will do it in your southern, diplomatic way. You're going to cite examples, I expect where there have been a number of cases where nominees have not gotten a hearing.

I may be mistaken, Mr. Chairman, but I respectfully suggest -- at least I'm unaware of any -- where a clear majority of a committee in question, a clear majority wanted to have a hearing, and the chairman, although within his rights, under the rules he can do it, where the chairman has said no, there will be no hearing. There were a number of judges, although we put through more Republican judges than any time in any Democratic chairman's tenure -- when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee. There were a number of judges who were left at the gate who did not in an election year get through -- although we put over a hundred through that same year. But I have no instance where there was a case where a majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee or any other committee said -- we want to have a hearing on a particular nominee, and did not get one.

Let me close by saying this, Mr. Chairman, and I mean this sincerely. I think we're making a mistake here. I think we should, although technically you are correct, I believe the spirit of the rule, which I will not bother to read now, which I put out in a statement, which you're fully aware, calls for and envisions more comity on this kind of issue. Our job as a committee, I need not tell you since you know the rules and procedure a lot better than anybody except possibly Bob Byrd, is to give the Senate our considered opinion. The Constitution says that the Senate will give its advice and consent. Not a committee. And so, I think we are denying our colleagues the opportunity of our judgment, them not being in a position to ever get a chance to exercise the constitutional responsibility called upon for them to exercise, so I would hope, when this is over, I, when I was in the hospital awhile, I had these aneurisms and neurosurgeon, because I said, aw, there's nothing to this operation -- he looked at me he said, why do you say that? You get me in trouble with other neurosurgeons who say how would you tell him that? And I said no, I was just being optimistic. And he said, you know how we were talking about whether or not aneurisms are congenital? And I said, yes, doctor. He said the problem with you is you're a congenital optimist.

Well, I am a congenital optimist. I hope still there may some way that we can see our way through this and Governor Weld can get a hearing, but I'm not stupid. And...


... so, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity to say a few words here. I hope Senator -- both Senators -- other senators who wish to speak may be able to get an opportunity.

But let me just conclude by saying Senator Dodd asked that I point out that he's at a scheduling conflict and could not be here today, but he wishes to be here.

Mr. Chairman.

HELMS: Thank you very much.

While there's been some heated rhetoric concerning the Weld matter, it should be made a matter of record that none of it has come from Senator Biden or me.

I like and admire Joe Biden, as I have indicated earlier.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, could I ask one question?

HELMS: And I'm confident that the relation...

(UNKNOWN): Could I just ask you one question?

HELMS: No, sir -- that the relationship we've forged will not be undermined by this unfortunate affair.

There have been, however, many contrived reports -- the committee will be in order please.

You called this hearing, which is not a hearing. It's a meeting. Now I insist that you exercise some decorum.

There's been many contrived reports to the effect that my decision -- and that there would be no hearing on the Weld nomination -- is somehow a radical departure from Senate procedure. Some have resorted to unfortunate name-calling -- for example, dictatorial -- and I've been lectured regarding what the Constitution says about hearings, and it says nothing -- and the traditions of the United States Senate and about democracy in general.

Such critics have merely demonstrated their own unfamiliarity with the Constitution, with the Senate, the Senate rules, its precedents and the authority of all committee chairmen.

A (OFF-MIKE) I spoke with alleged earlier this week -- and I quote him -- "We are in an unprecedented area here. Even nominees who are rejected get hearings."

Well, we'll see about that. Mr. Weld himself joined once again the parade of misstatements of fact last weekend, when he appeared briefly on ABC's THIS WEEK program. Without the foggiest notion of what he was talking about, he declared, quote, "You would be very hard-pressed if you looked back in the precedents of the United States Senate to find a case where a presidential nominee for ambassador was denied a hearing."

Well, we'll see about that.

During the August recess, I asked the non-partisan Congressional Research Service to prepare a report for me disclosing just how unusual it is for a nomination to fail in committee without a hearing -- not only for ambassadorial nominees, but for all nominees by the president to senior positions in the federal government.

Specifically, I asked Congressional Research Service to list every failed nomination during the past 10 years that did not receive a Senate hearing, and when possible, to explain the circumstances under which the nomination was blocked.

In examining this question, Congressional Research Service excluded all nominations submitted during the last three months of a Senate sessions -- four months in the case of judicial nominations -- and all nominations that were submitted in the final month of a president's term in office.

In other words, the CRS report includes only those nominations where was more than sufficient time to act on a nomination, but in which the nomination hearing was specifically blocked by the chairman.

Now, in the matter involving this nominee, I have a lot of company. Based on criteria, the Congressional Research Service reported to me that during the past 10 years alone, there have been 154 failed nominees who never received a hearing.

Unprecedented? You make up your own mind about that. Let me repeat there. There have been 154 nominations in the past 10 years alone which died in committee without a Senate hearing because a chairman or a ranking member or someone else didn't want a hearing.

These include nominations for ambassadorial and judicial posts, nominations for senior positions in the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Labor, the Department of State, the Department of Education, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, nominations for senior positions in the independent agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Social Security Administration, and also nominations for senior positions on important regulatory boards and commissions, including the Federal Communications Commission, the National Transportation Safety Board, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission. And I'll get back to that in just a minute.

In most cases, the Congressional Research Service reported, and I am quoting, "In most instances, no information is publicly available to indicate why a hearing was not held because committees normally do not report why they take no action on a nomination."

The Congressional Research Service submitted to me -- and this was available to anybody on this committee and, I think, to the news media -- submitted 10 pages of charts, identifying each of these 154 nominees, the position for which they had been nominated, the date that they nominated, the date their nomination was withdrawn or returned to the president without a hearing -- without a hearing.

I have asked the staff, as you note, to enlarge these charts so they can be seen by everyone present and maybe the television cameras will want to get it, too.

I have already emphasized my great respect for Senator Biden, so I hope you will understand that it is with some reluctance that I must point out that during his tenure as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, CRS has documented 44 separate judicial nominees whose nominations were sent to the Senate by the president of the United States, not one of whom -- not one of whom was given a hearing by the Judiciary Committee.

Now, there were many more than 44 nominations for which hearings were not held at the Judiciary Committee during this period. But CRS has counted only -- only those judicial nominations sent up by the president at least four months before Congress adjourned.

In other words, not one of these 44 nominations was a case where the clock simply ran out and there was no time to hold a hearing.

All right. Senator Biden will no doubt remember one of those 44 nominees -- U.S. District Judge Terry Boyle, of North Carolina, who was nominated by President Bush to serve on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Boyle was nominated on October 22, 1991 and his nomination was held in the committee files for almost a year, until it was returned to the president on October 8, 1992. Now despite my repeated appeals that a hearing be held on Judge Boyle's nomination, Judge Boyle never got one.

Now in saying this, I cast no aspersions on Senator Biden. He was within his rights as chairman. He was within his rights as chairman, and I want you to take note of that.

When he decided -- I didn't like it -- but he decided that Judge Boyle would not get a hearing for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now I recall no senators invoking little-used Senate or committee rules in an attempt to force Senator Joe Biden to have a hearing. It was suggested to me, but I declined. I declined because I thought his authority as chairman ought to be insulated against petty contrivances.

Now, I certainly did not take to the airwaves to call Joe Biden a dictator. I would also point out another nomination that should be of particular interest to the committee, a nomination that came before the Senate Agriculture Committee on September 8, 1989, that of a Margaret Machol, a very talented lady, well recommended, who was nominated by President Bush to serve as a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Now I have before me three press accounts regarding the circumstances under which Margaret Machol did not receive even a hearing. And my staff on the Foreign Relations Committee has spoken directly with a number of people intimately familiar with the conflict over this lady's nomination. Now by all accounts, public and private, Margaret Machol was denied a hearing by the same able and distinguished senator who brought us here today, the senator from Indiana.

Now according to these news accounts, which I believe to be credible, because we checked on them, and we're going to make copies of them available, Senator Lugar contended that Margaret Machol was unqualified to serve as a member of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. But there's one more interesting angle to this. Margaret Machol, was nominated to be a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. At the same time, a lady named Wendy Gramm, who just happens to be the wife of Phil Gramm, United States senator, and a great one, Wendy Gramm was nominated at the same time by President Bush to serve as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Senator Lugar also fought unsuccessfully to block Wendy Gramm's nomination. But Margaret Machol, was not so lucky. I'm having trouble with that name because Machol was spelled M-a-c-h-o-l.

For the record, a glance at media accounts may be helpful. According to the March 8, 1990 edition of the Journal of Commerce, and I'm quoting, "A senior White House aide said that Senator Lugar was trying to keep Wendy Gramm from being nominated and confirmed, citing the Indiana senator's role in holding up the nomination of economist Margaret Machol, sat on the same commission."

LUGAR: Mr. Chairman...

HELMS: And from the publication Institutional Investor of May 1990, and I quote, "Lugar has admitted that he raised questions about Gramm, although he has promised a vote for her now that she has been officially renominated, and has blocked action on Machol, whose nomination has been lingering since September."

LUGAR: Mr. Chairman...

HELMS: And another, and another from the publication Securities Week, April 30, 1990, which reported, and I quote, "Margaret Machol, whose CFTC nomination has been stalled since last December, is considering withdrawing her name in order to pursue other career opportunities."

"Machol's nomination ran into trouble last fall," the magazine said, "when Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), the ranking Republican member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, told the White House that he did not believe Machol had enough knowledge of the futures industry to serve as commissioner."

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, can Senator Lugar respond to this?

HELMS: No, I will not.

(UNKNOWN): But shouldn'g he have a right to be able to?

HELMS: The Committee will be in order.

(UNKNOWN): I think there should be due process.

HELMS: I'm not going to debate with the Senator.

(UNKNOWN): I just think there should be fairness here. Senator Lugar should have a chance to respond.

HELMS: Yes, you've been fair. The Machol nomination was buried in the Senate Agriculture Committee without a hearing for 14 months. With the feeling that all senators may want to examine the CRS report, I am making copies available.

At this point, I feel obliged to read into the record some other nominees who have been denied hearings. Lawrence M. Hecker (ph), deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, nominated on April 23, 1987, returned without a hearing August 7, 1987.

CRS reports that Senator Ford of Kentucky, chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, refused a hearing because the nominee quote, "lacked management ability," end of quote.

James E. Gillerand (ph) to be Comptroller of the Currency, Department of the Treasury, nominated May 21, 1992, returned without a hearing October 8, 1992. CRS reported that the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Donald W. Riegle, Jr., decided not to hold a hearing in hopes that his party will control the White House come next January.

Michael G. Kozak (ph) to be Ambassador to El Salvador, nominated October 3, 1991, returned without a hearing October 8, 1992.

Joseph G. Sullivan to be Ambassador to Nicaragua, nominated February 27, 1992, withdrawn without a hearing September 24, 1992. CRS again had no reason listed. This was another case that Senator Dodd, I may recall, and I regret that he's not here.

Vaughn R. Walker (ph) to be U.S. District Judge, nominated February 28, 1989, returned without a hearing on August 4, 1989. CRS reported the nominee did not get a hearing because he was opposed -- now get this -- he was opposed by homosexual and women's groups and by Senators Alan Cranston and Patrick J. Leahy.

Bradley P. Holmes, to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission, nominated November 9, 1987, returned October 22, 1988. CRS reported that Senator Hollings said he was unwilling to hold hearings on this nominee.

There is objection to...

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, point of parliamentary inquiry.

HELMS: There's an (OFF-MIKE)

(UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE) parliamentary inquiry.

HELMS: I didn't ask for this hearing. I didn't ask for this hearing.

(UNKNOWN): Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman.

HELMS: The committee will be in order.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, point of parliamentary inquiry.

HELMS: You can get to it in a minute. Now.

(UNKNOWN): Well, in a minute, we won't be meeting, Mr. Chairman. Is that my correct assessment?

(UNKNOWN): Will we have a chance to speak here today, Mr. Chairman?

HELMS: Well, let me see now. I will not speculate as to whether any president allows nominees to dictate to him where they will serve. Speaking for myself, and myself only, I will not put up with it as a committee chairman. And I shall withhold comment on Mr. Weld's plethora of self-serving declarations to the news media. Let me simply say that while Mr. Weld was deciding whether to launch, as he put it, a ground war or an air war, Jesse Helms was working behind the scenes with the White House to see if an acceptable compromise might be possible.

On August the first, the first day of the congressional recess, I sent to the president that four-page letter that I've alluded to. I wrote it at my home in Raleigh. And in that letter I explained my objections to Mr. Weld for the Mexico post, and I made an expanded offer to the president of the United States. That offer was that I would immediately, immediately convene hearings on the Weld nomination to any other country in the world that the president chose, provided, provided it was one where drug trafficking is not the principal U.S. foreign policy interest. Now what Mr. Weld appears to be threatening is that unless his nomination to Mexico is moved, he will begin a war within the Republican Party. Let him try. I have been tempted to say but haven't that I, Mr. Weld, do not yield to ideological extortion.

So here's where things stand. Senator Lugar has the support of committee Democrats, and that's not an unexpected development.


He has plus one other Republican, who just happens not to be here today.

LUGAR: He is. He is here.

HELMS: I thought you were going to the funeral. I'm glad to see you.


I have the support of the distinguished majority leader, who has declared this nomination dead, and who has asked the president to withdraw it, plus the majority of my Republican colleagues on this committee.

To sum up, it was Senator Lugar who first used a parliamentary procedure to force this meeting. I didn't want it. This is to my knowledge the second time in the history of the Senate and the first time in connection with a nomination that this rule has ever been invoked. Moreover, I have presented 154 examples of precedents for my action during the last 10 years alone, and it may be that Senator Lugar's actions, which are unprecedented, and which violate the spirit of the Senate, may go into the books.

Now, let me make it clear. I am a friend, want to be a friend, and I intend to try to continue to be a friend of the senator from Indiana. Whether he wants to return or restore or whatever is up to him. But it was his prerogative to invoke Rule 3. I was not informed about it until I got a letter late in the afternoon. I was informed this morning that several other senators who differ with Senator Lugar have exercised their Senate prerogative by filing objections to allowing this committee to continue meeting after the two hours. Under Senate rules, any senator can object to a committee meeting continuing past two hours after the Senate went into session. And several senators, as I say, have objected, I am advised.

I had hoped, I had hoped that I could state my case with more brevity, but because the distinguished senator from Indiana decided to challenge my authority as a committee chairman, and by implication challenging the authority of all other committee chairmen now and in the future, I have felt obliged to state this morning in detail for the record the true facts. You guys in the media, I love you all.


But, you ought to deal with facts and not speculation. And I mean that. I thank all of you for your patience and the committee, at now having reached 12:00 we'll stand in recess pending a formal call by the chairman.

home | news | in-depth | analysis | what's new | community | contents | search

Click here for technical help or to send us feedback.

Copyright © 1997 AllPolitics All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this information is provided to you.