The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Those Hells Canyon Civil Rights Bill votes

Here we go again...

In my piece earlier today, I mentioned that ultra-liberal Wayne Morse had been a participant in one of the most famous pieces of Senatorial log-rolling, the Hells Canyon deal.

Keith Finley tells the story (Chapter 4 p30): briefly, Lyndon Johnson was trying to keep the civil rights bill HR 6127 out of the clutches of the Judiciary Committee [1], chaired by James O Eastland (MS). Senate Rules provide that if there is an objection raised when a bill is called up, that bill does not go to a committee but is placed directly on the Calendar. Pro-bill liberals arranged for such an objection to be made - by Republican Senator Knowland (CA).

Richard Nixon, in the chair, ruled that the precedents were unclear, so the Senate had to vote on the issue: the result was 39-45 on a point of order against Knowland's objection: a vote against the point of order was a vote in favour of bypassing the Committee.

Finley says that 12 Western senators voted with the Confederacy in favour of the point of order.

I get two GOP (Goldwater (AZ) and Malone (NV)) and a eight Dems, according to the Poole-Rosenthal regional classification:

Morse OR
Murray MT
Mansfield MT
Magnuson WA
O'Mahoney WY
Hayden AZ
Anderson NM
Bible NV

All of them are on the liberal side (negative DW-NOMINATE 1st dimension scores) of the line, though only Morse and Murray (12th most liberal) score -0.5 or lower. (The implication of the Hells Canyon deal narrative is that, without it, these votes would have been supported bypassing Judiciary; but wouldn't Goldwater have voted with the Confederacy in any case?)

How does Finley get to 12? Where does he draw the line for west? Including the Dakotas gets us two more (Young (ND) and Mundt (SD)), which brings the total to 12 if one includes Malone and Goldwater.

The quid pro quo vote - authorising construction of the Hells Canyon Dam, on June 21, saw no fewer than 17 Confederate Dems - including Eastland - voting with the Westerners. Only Robertson and Byrd (both VA) and our old chum Strom Thurmond voted against.

The scores on the doors: 45-38. So, if you think about it, fully seven Rebels decided to cast a futile vote to show their appreciation. (Assuming Nixon would have given a casting vote in favour; if not, make that six Rebels.)

Note that both ends of the deal failed: not only did the Westerners fail to prevent the bypassing of Judiciary, but the Hells Canyon Dam went on to die in the House. As everyone knew it would.

There's something positively Japanese about it: the Dam That Would Never Be against the Civil Rights Act with the minimum of civil rights in it!

It would be fascinating to see how the gentlemen of the press covered the story. The New York Times, say. Were attentive Times readers wise to the charade or not?

  1. An earlier civil rights bill, HR 627, had died in the 84th Congress the previous year.

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