In previous posts, I shared excerpts from the Prologue and from Act I of my political morality tale “Guaranteed Income: Chronicle of a Political Death Foretold.” Here is an excerpt from Act II (footnotes below the fold), which describes how an old school Arkansas Democrat (Wilbur D. Mills, pictured below the fold) made common cause with conservatives like Milton Friedman to shepherd Richard Nixon’s controversial guaranteed income bill through the House of Representatives during the 91st Congress:
“Mills’s power and influence were in large part a function of the committee he chaired since 1958, the House Ways & Means Committee. In brief, the Origination Clause of the Constitution requires that all bills regarding taxation must originate in the House of Representatives,[a] and the internal rules of the House, in turn, dictate that all taxation bills must pass through Ways & Means.[b] To this day, the Ways & Means Committee is still the chief tax-writing committee of the House, and the members of this key committee may not serve on any other House committee unless they are granted a waiver from their party’s congressional leadership.[c] So, when the original version of Nixon’s guaranteed income bill was first introduced into the 91st Congress on October 3, 1969, the first draft of the bill (H.R. 14173) was referred to Ways & Means.[d]
“Between October 15 and November 13, 1969, the House Ways & Means Committee held 18 days of public hearings on the bill.[e] But then, on November 13, Chairman Mills abruptly concluded the public phase of his hearings and proceeded behind a special closed-door session.[f] This was the first of two pivotal procedural moves Chairman Mills would make. Rather than drag out consideration of Nixon’s guaranteed income bill and provide a public forum for opponents of the bill to raise their objections, the bill would remain under closed-door consideration until March of 1970.”
[I will post an excerpt from Act III in my next post.]
[d] See Congressional Quarterly, supra note 8, at 1031. A few days after Nixon’s guaranteed income bill was introduced in Congress, Chairman Mills called the first round of public hearings to order on October 15, 1969. See id. at 1032. In addition to Nixon’s income bill, the committee also considered a proposal to increase Social Security benefits (H.R. 14080). Id.
[f] For a helpful historical overview of closed-door activities in Congress, see Walter J. Oleszek, Cong. Research Serv., R42108, Congressional Lawmaking: A Perspective on Secrecy and Transparency 2–5 (2011), perma.cc/6S9E-WPZC.