tv Ray Smock Interview CSPAN January 3, 2015 8:01pm-8:14pm EST
from former house speaker's. >> what is the speakerphone job -- what is the speaker's job? >> the speaker has a big job. it started as a constitutional office. it said the house shall choose their speaker. choose their speaker. there were no other duties mentioned. the founders knew all about speakers from colonial legislatures and from british parliament going back to the 13th century that what a speaker was, he speaker was a presiding officer. but in our congress, it was not only a presiding officer -- as
the two-party system developed the speaker it became the leader of the majority party with political ramifications. the constitution is silent on this. the powers of the speaker is what the speaker can make of them, and that is the unique part. some speakers exercise great power, even rivaling the presidency in terms of setting the national agenda. but also 100 years ago, two powerful republicans, thomas brackett reed and joe cannon of illinois -- they were powerful figures who set the agenda of
the country. the first speaker, bill and berg of pennsylvania, in the first congress, he simply was the presiding officer. he was paid two dollars more than the other members, six dollars a day. and for that eight dollars a day, he said, oh, i spent most of it on things for the members. he did not feel like it was much of a bonus. he felt like he was losing money on the deal. but even he felt like he was elevated above the members. >> what does this say about the speaker's authority? >> the speaker is great authority and that was changed
in 1897 with the secession act which brought the speaker up to a higher position as the highest elected officer after the president and vice president. then it goes to the president pro tempore of the senate after that. the speaker is in line to succeed. that act was an effort to look at having someone in line that was an elected official. in the old days, it was the secretary of state. but since 1947, it has been the speaker. >> how has the job evolved since the founding? >> it has evolved into something where the speaker today other speakers, their role is to be
the chief administrative officer's of the house, even though they have other officers that are elected but the speaker is where the buck stops for the administration of the house. the speaker is also the head of his party, and that party is opposite that of the united -- if that party is opposite that of the president of the united states that means he is the spokesman for the other party vis-à-vis the president. the speakers also have at various times had great power to bring legislation to the floor. that can be tangled by committees, but with the speaker's say-so. they control the agenda. the majority party controls the agenda and the speaker has the final authority. >> what qualities do you think make for a successful speaker? >> the best speakers through history have been those who have
tried to find a way to be problem solvers, to be compromisers, to work with presidents of their own party and opposite party. those who understand the relationship with the chairman of the committees of the house. that is a tough job, to balance all those forces. speakers do not always have complete control of the room caucus. -- all of their own caucus. there are divisions in the system. the house runs by the numbers for the most part. if you have the majority, you can push the legislation of the majority party. now, that is one difference between the house in the senate. the senate, no matter which party is in charge, each senator has considerably more individual power. but the house goes by the numbers. you can push the agenda.
but that comes at a price if you do it against the best interests of most of the members of your caucus or sometimes if your party's opposition to a national agenda that is different from your own. >> in a few minutes we will see speaker to bone meal's remarks from 1985 on the opening day of the 99th congress. of how old is this tradition? >> i don't know how long he has been doing the opening remarks. my guess is it is a fairly modern device. i do not know when it first started. a lot of those could have started since the first radio and television. even the state of the union address was not resurrected.
it was something held in congress until woodrow wilson did it in 1913 and lbj made it on television in 1965. these other things like opening day -- it is an important event, no question about it. it has been televised for many years. but it is a wonderful day when despite the differences this is when the members try to put their best foot forward, they try to be cooperative, they tried to hand the olive branch to the other party, majority minority, you will see lots of children. some of them paying attention. so, it is a family day to a large extent. and also former members come onto the floor.
it is sort of like meeting your old friends and patting him on the back. it is a very friendly thing. but it also has a serious tone in the sense that sometimes speakers have used it just to say, i, i am glad to be here, i am humbled to have you. a lot of times they will speak about what their agenda is going to be like in this is the first opportunity to see a light handed approach and a friendly exchange. in the minority party, the person who has lost to the speakership has to hand the gavel over to the winner. that is usually done with great style. >> tell us about tip o'neill. where was he from? >> tip o'neill was from massachusetts. he was the classic liberal politician of the old school, a new dealer from fdr's days.
he was born in 1912. his first campaign, he worked as a campaigner in 1928. tip o'neill's whole life was politics. he was on the cambridge, massachusetts city council. he was born in cambridge. he served a cambridge district. it was a district in north cambridge that was mostly irish. he was even called old dublin. he never forgot where he came from. he always thought that was important. he said all politics with local. that was a pretty good shrewd observation. whether you are fixing a pothole in a local street or bidding on the national budget, someone has to have the money to fix a problem and someone has to set the priority of what problem to fix. in that sense, all politics is
local, whether it is a pothole or a jillion dollars budget. >> what kind of speaker was he? >> he was amicable. he could be tough. but if you were on the floor, he would go call you pal, and if you were a lady, he might go out to sit on the floor so numbers could talk to you. you did not have to come to his office. sometimes he would just make an appearance on the floor. he was a classic liberal in the sense that he believed government could do things for people and their lives. he grew up during the depression watching franklin roosevelt change america and put people back to work. whether those programs were always successful did not matter. it was the government leaving the struggle to restore the economy of the country.
he always thought that was important. that was the hallmark of his politics. >> while reagan in the white house in 1985, what was it like in the house of representatives? >> his relationship with president reagan really quite interesting. after hours they would still be buddies after 6:00 and have a drink together. but they word tooth and nail against one another. by 1985, tip o'neill had survived the reagan revolution of 1981 when reagan came into office. it was very hard for the speaker to stop reagan's policies, even though many democrats wanted him
to, and he said we said, i don't have the votes. in the early years, the reagan agenda of cutting taxes and programs went through without much trouble. tip o'neill had a majority of democrats in the house, but there were always 40 or 50, sometimes 16 members of the democratic party that were conservatives that would frequently side with the minority. to o'neill did -- did not always control his own delegation. >> thank you. now here is tip o'neill on the opening day of the 99th congress. [gavel pounds] >> mr. doorkeeper. >> the house of representatives, speaker tip o'neill. [applause]