Congress Makes a Law: The Story behind the Employment Act of 1946

By Stephen Kemp Bailey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN
Conference and Compromise

. . . the Conference Committee strikes a deficient compromise balance according to time-honored custom. -- Wilson, Congressional Government, p. 164.

THE INSTITUTION of the conference committee is one of long standing. By the middle of the nineteenth century, according to Ada McCown,

the custom of presenting identical reports from the committees of conference in both houses, of granting high privilege to these conference reports, of voting upon the conference report as a whole and permitting no amendment of it, of keeping secret the discussions carried on in the meetings of the conference committee, had become established in American parliamentary practice.1

After the House of Representatives had passed its version of H.R.2202 on December 14, 1945, the next step in the policy-making process was the appointment, in both Houses, of conference managers to whom was given the task of attempting to work out some compromise between the Senate-passed bill and the House substitute. Technically, the task of naming managers is the responsibility of the presiding officer in each house. Actually, the respective standing committee chairmen usually make recommendations which are automatically followed.2 As we have noted, the Senate managers were Barkley, Murdock, Taylor, and Radcliffe, Democrats; and

____________________
1
Ada C. McCown, The Congressional Conference Committee ( 1927), pp. 254-255, quoted in George Galloway, Congress at the Crossroads ( New York, 1946), p. 98.
2
See J. P. Chamberlain, Legislative Processes ( New York, 1936), pp. 244-245.

-220-

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