tv History of the House Ways and Means Committee CSPAN August 1, 2015 10:59am-12:02pm EDT
became a beloved figure in postwar belgium. this is the louvian that was rebuilt with american money, a bust to hoover. this is another hoover sign. there are a lot of hoover street signs in europe, no memorials to the countless belgian volunteers or americans who did the grunt work, but in the centennial year it is important to remember the work that they did. thank you. [applause] >> you are watching "american history tv" on c-span3. to do when the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span/history. coming up next, paul ryan and ranking member sander martin levin are joined by political commentator cokie roberts to celebrate the history of congress' oldest community --
community, ways and means committee. this hour-long program was hosted by the u.s. capital historical society in the committee hearing room. >> we have a very many distinguished guests with us this evening. i'm going to ask some of them to stand -- all of them to stand -- and please hold your applause until the keynotes be has been introduced. and that will be the end of the group. congressman paul ryan, chairman of the ways and means committee. congressman sander martin levin ranking member of the committee. we will hear from both of these gentlemen later in the program. former distinguished chairman bill archer. bill thomas. charlie wrangle. dave camp.
former ranking member jim mccrary. and all of the sitting members of the committee. please rise. >> [applause] >> we have two former committee members, robert canales and nancy johnson -- ,>> [applause] >> barbara and nancy were two of the first congresswomen to serve on the ways and means committee. then we had that wonderful lady, cokie roberts. >> [applause] >> and we will hear from her a little bit later.
and we are obviously pleased that all of you who are here could be with us this evening. another distinguished member is not able to be her in person but sends his best wishes. let me read this letter from president george h.w. bush. greetings to all assembled for the u.s. capital historical society's special tribute to the house ways and means committee. i sure wish i could be there with you. being appointed to the ways and means committee as a freshman member of congress with a high honor and a very lucky break for me. to say the least, i was at the right place at the right time. i loved every minute i spend working with my fellow committee members and i learned a lot from them. most especially from chairman wilbert mills. my tenure in the house and on the committee was brief, but the happy memories in your. -- endure. i send my respects. these are challenging times, but
i know each of you is up to the task. all the best to you in your very important work, side george bush. -- signed george bush. what a wonderful tribute. >> [applause] >> what a great tribute to this committee. this evening is possible because of the generous support of several sponsors. bank of america, northwestern mutual pc, exxon mobil and the security industry and financial markets association. we are very grateful to them for their support. >> [applause] >> and to now, the chairman of the u.s. capital historical society and a former member of congress from missouri will offer a toast to the committee and then we will have dinner.
>> before i offer the toast this evening, i want to give a brief history, a very brief history, of the committee. but i want to step -- set the record straight first. jim was not only the ranking member, but he was chairman of this committee. >> [applause] >> it was 226 years ago and 10 days from now that this committee was created in 1789. it's responsibility is for a clear, to raise money to pay for the government. the newly signed constitution as we all have studied, declare that all laws to raise revenue must originate here in the house of representatives. for the first two months, that is exactly what happened. the committee drafted and considered bills to impose tariffs and taxes. but a turf battle arose.
a magic, a turf battle in washington. that is unheard of. this one arose between the committee and the secretary of the treasury, alexander hamilton . hamilton won that battle. the committee was disbanded. thereafter, hamilton himself drafted the bills and submitted them directly to the whole house of representatives by passing the entire committee system. congress would not reassert his authority, as it should have, until after six years when he vacated the office of secretary of treasury and the white house developed a new relationship with congress. the ways and means committee was then reestablished in 1795. as we know, that uneasy equilibrium between congress and its exercising of its constitutional powers to raise revenue and the executive brands exercising the authority to collect and disburse the money
continues to this day. from 1795 to the 1860's, the committee was the center of power in the house. in addition to revenue, it had jurisdiction over appropriations and banking. the chairman was, in fact, the de facto leader of the house. the committee room was located right next to the house chamber where boggs'congressional women's reading room is now located. now, i don't wish to single out any former chairman, but let's face it, some modern era chairman have been noted for some of their idiosyncrasies. but not come closer to an early chairman, john randolph, of virginia, who took the house floor in his attire of riding b oots and accompanied by his hunting dogs. it was not clear whether the
dogs were trained to hunt down members of congress or scare of the opposition. in 1865, their responsibilities were taken over by new committees. of course, there was objection by the then current chairman of the ways and means committee. he claimed taxes and spending to be controlled by the same committee, quote, in order that they make me -- both ends meet. end quote. from tariffs to taxes, from raising revenue to reducing deficits trade and social security is, under public compensation, disability insurance, and providing the funding for our nation's highways and infrastructure are some of the issues now facing the committee. as ron said, distinguished leaders have served on this committee and gone on to higher positions.
bush 41 and seven others were not to become president. eight members became vice president. 21 became speakers of the house. and four served as justices on the supreme court. perhaps this will continue. today, without question, the ways and means committee is one of the most powerful committees in the house and serving on the committee is indeed a prestigious assignment. please join me and rise, to toast this committee. here's to the house ways and means committee for safeguarding the constitutional requirement that all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the house of representatives, the chamber closest to the people. for confronting complex financial, economic, and international trade issues affecting our nation and the world. for addressing with compassion the challenges facing older americans, the disabled
>> ladies and gentlemen, we are going to begin our program. we are going to start the program. and one of the -- one of the special features of this dinner, of course, is this senate. the elegant newly refurbished committee hearing room. it is really very well done. thank you to the committee for opening this room and the library for us this evening. it is now my pleasure to introduce the chairman of the ways and means committee. congressman paul ryan represents the first district of wisconsin. he has been a member of congress since 1999. as a member, paul quickly gained respect for his expertise in the budget process. he was chairman of the budget committee before being elected chairman of ways and means committee. under his leadership, ways and means committee recently passed major trade legislation that was
just signed into law. congratulations again on this major accomplishment. >> [applause] >> as a diversion from his responsibilities on the hill, paul enjoys a variety of sports such as fishing, hunting with bow and arrow -- that is impressive -- and running marathons. he also makes his own bratwurst and polish sausage. now, that is very impressive. paul and his wife has three children. ladies and gentlemen, these welcome the chairman, paul ryan. >> [applause] mr. ryan: thank you. welcome, everybody. you know, i think the last time we did in event like this, if i'm not mistaking, was bill thomas hosted this dinner here in 2006. so it is not very often that we
do this. so for those of us on the committee, it is a real treat to be able to do this. ron, tom, thank you very much for doing this. appreciate all your kind words. i want to thank the historical society for hosting us here. i also want to thank cokie roberts for being here. you spend part of your childhood in this room. your dad was on this committee. and sandy 11, i look for to hearing from you. the past chairman -- just look around this room. a lot of us spend time here. we see the portrait. the past chairman of this committee, they are legends in their own rights. wilbur mills, oscar underwood no relation to frank underwood for the record. >> [laughter] mr. ryan: to be honest, it is
such a distinguished list that is intimidating for a guy with two first names. i try to relate to these predecessors by looking for similarities of things we share in common. the most striking was and let's is john randolph. he was tall, lean. he had hunting dogs, i have hunting dogs. and he looks really young for his age. >> [laughter] mr. ryan: my staff, on the other hand, picked to stevens. he was the youngest of four children, a republican, and he liked to wear large, ill fitting suits your -- suits. >> [laughter] mr. ryan: but the chairman who had the biggest effect on me are the chairman who are sitting here in this room tonight. bill thomas, bill archer, dave camp. charlie wrangle. and i cannot leave this out, a person who was our fantastic
ranking member, jim mccrary. it is great to see you guys. >> [applause] mr. ryan: i was a young guy, i came here when i was 28. i aspire to be on this committee. people told me, no chance. ended up getting on here and just looked at the people who were in the fast lane, the people who knew how to get things done, and -- and it is these gentleman right here that taught me so much. and i just had this amazing flashback today. it was in one of the rooms in the capital called each 137. -- called h1317 -- h137. in this particular case, if you are here in the room, this is a newly redecorated room.
we were in other committees until april 15 of this year. and chairman thomas said -- presided over wii during -- over redoing the room to historical accuracy, but the committee here served as the alternative for the house floor. on the house -- the audio system had to be redesigned in order to accommodate putting 435 members of congress in here and all the rest. so we headed to a big overhaul of this thing, and during that overhaul, things got changed. the curtains are different, the carpet is different. and i would like to let you, bill, no, and anybody else who has complaints, concerns problems about this to e-mail those to davecamp at the private sector dot com as he is the one who made all those decisions. [laughter]
so, let me get serious for a moment. whatever the superficial similarities about all of us about the 10 years we have had here, when every chairman, when every member of this committee shares is a love of public policy. and we are in the right place in this committee. the way i see it, it is a mission control of congress. this is where the big decisions about where this country will go are being made. the things we do here, the jurisdiction we have, the laws we write they have a huge impact on people's lives. social security, medicare, welfare, trade, taxes, health care. this is why both parties, both parties, put their best members on this committee. the most knowledgeable, the most passionate, and the hardest
working people in congress on this committee, republicans and democrats. >> [applause] mr. ryan: the people on this committee came here not to be someone, but to do something. ways and means committee, we are fears, we are doers. you might be wondering why all this fuss over a committee. will rogers once said, outside of traffic, there is nothing that has held this country back as much as committees. >> [laughter] mr. ryan: i would like to argue that this one has made a very special contribution to our democracy. remember how we started. the house ways and means committee was created in the first session of congress in 1789. and it dismissed after two months after that time. congress needed to raise money for the federal government. most members thought it be more
efficient just to differ to alexander hamilton to do it. he was a pretty darn smart guy and he knew what he was doing. well, it wasn't until later that many of them realized they didn't like what he was doing. and so they wanted to make their own judgment. independent of the administration. so the house re-created the committee and this is where we have been, here, in business, ever since then. we conduct oversight of the administration. we double check the numbers. of course, most often, we dropped our own legislation. you could say that we offer a second opinion, and more importantly an example. here, the people rule. we do not outsource the job. to some specially trained elite. elected officials in this committee come from all walks of life to do the hard work of government. they study up on the issues. they take on a specialty. they struggle with the
trade-offs, each and every one of us do this. and through it all, they have always maintained that fears sent of independence. one of my favorite examples is we used to have this book on the history of the ways and means committee that was always handed out when he became a member. one of my favorite examples is -- he earned president woodrow wilson's eternal gratitude when he passed a bill to establish the income tax. he earned woodrow wilson's eternal hatred when he passed the bill to tax the president's salary after that. it makes you almost want to forgive him, doesn't it echo not quite, -- doesn't it? not quite, though. we are looking at two enormous challenges in particular today. a huge debt that is dragging us down. and a tough global competition that is racing ahead. this committee will make the
reforms that we need to do to make this country great, to move our country ahead. the questions we face are really simple. will we shape the world economy or will it shape us? on the home front, do we control our budget or does it control us? i will leave you with this -- every question of ways and means committee is also a question of aims and and's -- ends. you look at our history -- first, we argued over tariffs. then we argued over the income tax. now we argue over all sorts of things. on the surface, the issues look different. but at the core, they are the same. who pays? how much do they pay? what do we discourage? what do we reward? on the surface, they seem like
technical issues. things like tax exemptions. but at their core, they are really fundamental issues. they are not just about what is efficient or what is effective they are about what is right. what is fair. what is good. what is just. each question -- these questions are not distractions. they are the essence of self-government. of seeing things for yourself. making your own decisions. reason we bother with all of this, the hearings and the meetings and the speeches and the votes and the markups, is because we believe in self-government. we believe it is the way of life. we believe that it is the happiest and most filling way of life. we believe the demands that we wrestle with certain questions with eternal questions. in fact, we believe that it is a very wrestling with these questions that actually makes us free. so tonight, we celebrate the ways and means committee.
that's great workshop of democracy. this great former freedom. this is a committee that has produced so much and is a committee that has attracted such great talent and is a committee that has been so well led by these fine men who chaired it before, by these names we have seen in history that are hanging on our walls and a committee that has a lot of work ahead of it and a committee that is just grateful for this opportunity to serve in the greatest country. thank you very much. >> [applause] >> thank you, paul. thank you very much. sander levin, known to all of us as sandy, represents the night congressional district of michigan and is serving his 17th term.
sandy is married to pamela and has four children. he has been described as a leading architect of trade policy that embraces globalization while protecting jobs for american workers. his tenacity in striving for a level playing field in international trade is legendary. and it is memorialized by a universal joint hanging on a plaque in his office, the same joint to carry to japan to protest unfair tax barriers. tariff barriers. and trade barriers. the cost was much more expensive here than it was there. sandy and his brother have the unusual experience of serving together in congress for 32 years. sandy in the house and carl in the senate. at one time, both were committee chairman. carl was chairman of the senate armed services committee. not since 1881 had brothers held
such powerful positions in congress. carl retired in january, but sandy recently announced he was -- he is going to run again. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome raking member sandy levin. >> [applause] mr. levin: i don't know how you heard about that universal joint. ron and all of you, i am so glad to be here. i want to make a correction right away to ron and tom. we are not one of the most powerful committees -- >> [laughter] mr. levin: the ways and means committee is the most powerful committee in the u.s. >> [applause] mr. levin: paul, i'm glad to be here with you. people ask me quite often how we get along. and the answer is -- and i want to say a few words about that
aspect of life here -- i think there is kind of a happy personal relationship, inability to talk back and forth -- an ability to talk back and forth. i am sorry that all of my colleagues here have not been formally introduced. for paul and me, if i might say so, we are honored to serve with each and everyone of you. so i want to say a few things more personally. i think you know i don't shy away from ideas, clash of ideas. as you said, paul, that is why we are on this committee. anybody who joins this committee , and i look about and see all of my colleagues here, i don't think you join this committee primarily for any reason except the issues that come before us. everything else was secondary and in some cases, irrelevant. and now and then contradictory.
because we don't want anything to get it away -- to get in the way of our work. i think back when i first came here. i -- talking about getting along, there was a meeting of -- of democrats and republicans. and i sat down to a republican and i looked up and, who was it? it was my classmate from 25, 30 years ago, nancy. we haven't seen each other in decades. and your sister was the girlfriend of the brother of my girlfriend. >> [laughter] mr. levin: and i tell my staff nancy and i went skiing together and they want to know more. and i said, there is nothing more. >> [laughter] mr. levin: and then come if i
might say, for some reason, i was asked by a subcommittee of ways and means to join them on a trip to eastern europe. it was my first year, i think, here. i wasn't on the committee. maybe it was i had been on administrative aid. i went on this trip, and i must say, some of you get bored hearing me talk about it, but it really set the on administrative stage for my feelings about this committee. the chairman, sam givens, barbara, bill, jim jones, and others, we traveled on a bus around eastern europe. and there was so much camaraderie that does have decided he would give the honors
of introducing us to the various leaders of these governments. he would spread the honors. fortunately, i did not end up -- because i was not yet on the committee -- being chosen to introduce the members of the committee to mr. typecast grew -- mr. charge of school -- chow chow school we had a fabulous time and how it struck by the camaraderie. the good feeling within that group that i was able to share. and then, i was also thinking of social security. you know, it was a clash of ideas. i was back in and looked at the rollcall. and i was somewhat surprised -- it was so bipartisan.
80 republicans voted aye and 48 no. democrats, 100 63 and 54, if i have the figures correct. -- 163 and 54, if i have the biggest correct. and then i went back and looked at the tax reform of 1986. and there was such a clash of ideas, but in those days, i think there was a better ability of people to work across party lines so i looked at the rollcall. democrats, yes, 176. no, 116. republicans, 74, 62 no. and it john and i voted opposite ways. that is how bipartisan it was.
and then i was thinking further. bill archer is here and bill thomas. we were struggling with china. so i said to them, i would like to go to china and i would like to go myself. and i would like to spend a week there to really understand what it was all about. and bill at first said to me, because the chairman has the power in this institution of approving travel or not, at first he said to me, sandy, how are you going to vote? and then i said, that is why i'm going. and bill said, that is exactly why you should be going and he signed on and off i went. and i got into terrible political trouble as a result because i came back and worked with amendments, with bill
thomas' help, and amendment was added, which passed, and the rest is history. and for a year or two, it is my political misery. then the ambulance within the committee began to be less close, in terms of partisanship and bipartisanship. and charlie and i began to work on trade issues and to essentially negotiate a free trade agreement with peru. but there was still some major bipartisanship at that time. so i just want to say a few words about that and i don't want to gloss over the differences of opinion among us. i don't want to indicate for a moment that because of the jurisdiction of this committee there isn't a strong likelihood
that there will be differences of opinion. but under dave and jim, there always was a sense of not only civility but of respect for each other's ideas. and dave, when we said this, and i just want to repeat it, your work on tax or from was controversial and many of us had differences of opinions, as you know, in both parties, but we respected your willingness to step up to the plate and say something meaningful about tax reform for the united states of america. >> [applause] mr. levin: so, i close with this because i think the differences have deepened between the two parties. i think these differences have deepened within the united states of america.
this is really the most polarized atmosphere that i have been in in the 32 plus years that i have been in the u.s. congress. but i do think we have a -- a legacy here within this committee. it is a legacy of acknowledging the unusual, often unique importance of the issues facing this committee. and therefore, because the issues run so deeply, there is a special need for the members of this committee to honestly and forthrightly exchange the differences of opinion and see if there is, ground. -- is common ground. and that is a legacy here. it is alive. in addition to pictures on the wall, it was something that was ingrained in the in the first trips that i took with the ways and means committee.
i loved it. i enjoyed it. i found the atmosphere on that bus when we were stuck on that bus forever -- i had to listen to barbara speak five different languages. >> [laughter] mr. levin: i had to listen to bill's terrible jokes. and i had to listen to sam givens tell me why it was good that you -- japan could take over the american auto industry. >> [laughter] mr. levin: that was cruel and unusual punishment. but i learned to their -- learned there what has been such an important part of this committee. and cokie as you take over and give us your thoughts, i know because of your father's legacy having served on this committee
for so many years and so many sessions, my guess is you are going to say all of -- to all of us here you have special power, and therefore you have special responsibilities. do it well. thank you for having us at this dinner. >> [applause] >> sandy, thank you very, very much. i doubt there is a person here who does not know or know of cokie roberts, our keynote speaker. she comes into our homes via npr and tv. we read her books, we see her in the halls of congress and in the congressional press office. we value her astute observations of congress and the legislative process. she is also known to us because of family ties to congress. her father was elected to
congress when she was a cobbler. he served here for 28 years. he was a member of this committee until he was elected house majority leader. and her mother, lindy, was a member of congress for 18 years. in addition, she has been an outstanding member of the board of trustees of the u.s. capital historical society for many years. and we are very grateful for her service on the committee. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome cokie roberts. >> [applause] ms. roberts: thank you. i think he said it. i can just go home. you have a lot of power, do it. excellent message. but really, it is likely to be with you. i actually did not know i was your keynote speaker until i got the invitation. i thought i was the mc. but then i said -- it said that
i was the keynote speaker, so i actually studied. and that was useful. i was happy to do that. i was thrilled to be here. congressman levin i have known for many years and it is so nice to be in ever with someone older than me. it doesn't happen often. and congressman ryan, the age of my daughter, who is my various child -- youngest child. [laughter] but it is also very gracious of you to have us here. i did grow up in this room. i absolutely did. my father -- i did look it up last night -- my father came on this committee. he was elected before i was born. he was 26 in 1940. it is think about it now, him and momma, coming here. she was 24, he was 26. and they had two babies.
and, you know, it was prewar washington. it was just like the books i write about women in history. because it was all calling on people and all of that was exactly the way it was -- of course, washington wasn't here. it was jefferson's time. -- just as it was in jefferson's time. it was really something to have to do. and then he was defeated. in 1942. went into the navy for the war, they came back in 1946 in that huge postwar congress, which was a republican congress. and he was a democrat. of course, there was the huge 1948 congress, which was a democratic congress. jerry ford was elected, such a close friend of our family for all those decades. and so in 1949, my father came on this committee.
i had just turned five. i grew up in this room. my parents both worked on the hill. my mother worked in my father's office. and they were just park me here. that people who work here -- worked here took care of me. my page can now go to jail for this. >> [laughter] ms. roberts: but it was fun. i liked it. everybody was really nice to me. and i liked being here. by the time my father left this committee when he was elected majority leader, i was 27 and had two children. so that was my donation as a child of congress. in this room. and i learned not only to just be happy here and like the people here, but become -- i did, i did grow up in all of the
committee. and of the work it did. when my mother came to congress, she eventually went on an offshoot of the original ways and means committee called the appropriations committee. >> [laughter] ms. roberts: and that is all of a different sort. my mother always said it was lovely to be raised by -- [indiscernible] even as a little kid, i understood that what happened here was important. my father was always really proud of the role he played in funding the interstate highway system. it was -- it was -- you know -- it needs tweaking now, but he was the person who came up with the idea. of how to find the interstate highway system that president eisenhower was very keen on having be a part of his legacy.
and it had to happen in this committee. now, it didn't hurt that it made it easier for us as we drove back and forth with five or six people and a dog in a small part -- car. it was nice of the roads got better but still, it was something my father was very proud of. then in the kennedy administration, the trade expansion act. sandy talked about sam gibbons. he and my father basically did that bill. and it was a huge part of the kennedy legacy. and aside from the work that was always done, this committee was always a place where everybody got together and had a good time. when my husband and i got married, the ways and means
committee took up a collection for us. i cannot tell you how grateful we were for this because, at our wedding, i'm not making this up, there were 1500 people and my mother cooked for the whole thing. true story. and i still live in the house i grew up in. my daughter got married there 31 years later. and it did not occur to me to cook. >> [laughter] ms. roberts: and i said to my mother at that point, why did you do that? and she said, well, because it was cheap. and also when you have people to your house, you are supposed to entertain them yourself. ok, fine. but then i said, why did we have 1500 people anyway? i was fine with steve and me still living off the wedding present all these years. and she said, well, you know, i
got daddy on a bed -- bad night and i said to him, who in the house doing to have to the wedding? and he said, all the democrats. now, this was after the 1964 landslide, so there were more than 300 democrats in the house. and by the time we had them in so proudly republicans and the enemy, the senate, and -- and the extended family, then we got to some people we actually liked , it was 1500 people. and most members of congress -- members of congress give you something from the stationary office with their name on it. >> [laughter] ms. roberts: no, seriously, i have so many things. you may be way too young to remember tommy's cake plate. every time i serve cake, the
senator from california is on there. and it looks like you stole it. >> [laughter] ms. roberts: so i was really thrilled to get money from the ways and means committee. the only time they have actually given money. it was $250 in 1966. and we still -- we bought a very pretty piece of furniture, which is quite appropriately our liquor cabinet. >> [laughter] ms. roberts: now one of the great characters of that time was a longtime member of this committee, tom o'brien. of chicago. or blind tom, as he was known. he was known as that because he was the sheriff of cook county when al capone -- in fact, he had been in congress, he quit congress to go home to chicago to become sheriff because it was a better job. really a better job in that circumstance.
and they came back to congress, by this time known as blind tom and people thought that it was you know, a handicap. so he got all these letters that said it is so brave of you to serve in congress with your disability. it worked for him. but so when he turned 80, my parents had a birthday party for him. and he was known as a great aficionado of the racetrack. and they had a big cake that had a racetrack on it. and one of the long time employees of this committee, walter little, and i picked up a cake to move it to put something on the table. not knowing that it had sort of a box at each end, but nothing
in the middle. so we dropped the cake. and then it was disaster. walter said, you stay here and i will fix it. so i said -- i remember exactly what i was doing. i held out -- in case anybody wanted to walk by so they couldn't see the cake. and he then got a glass of hot water and a knife and fixed it. fast forward not that many years , i comeback to cover congress. walter little is sitting outside the door of the ways and means committee. he looks up at me and says, -- [indiscernible] and then realizes my advanced stage. i had more information about what was going on in this committee than anybody else in the press corps and nobody could
figure it out. it was fabulous. in fact, he became my secret source for many, many years. that was perfect. i do things that nobody else could figure out. of course, we used russell, from the other body, is to say that all anyone was doing was just waiting until mills made up his mind and try to figure that out. and it was to that for a long time will bear mills -- wilbur mills was chairman forever. by the way alexander hamilton, just a little aside, all that business about the $10 bill? it is fine to have him gone. he cheated on his wife and left her destitute.
so, you know, let's just get him out of there. i mean, he was cute. i will give him cute. but when the bicentennial of the committee were celebrated -- and you are talking about the history that was written at this time -- that's time, mr. chairman, he was. that i actually talked about wilbur mills, but yesterday a guitar to the immediate past chairman, mr. camp, and he told me this wonderful story of he had come on the committee and -- and he was being summoned by the chairman to talk about trade. and he goes into the back office and he here's danny -- hears danny screaming at someone over the phone. at his language was never polite. and cap -- camp said, oh, dear
god, what is going to happen to me? entities as to the chairman, who were you talking to? that he said, the president of mexico. this is the chairman you have, after. i must say, i'm eternally grateful to him because when summer, through a whole series of events, a younger came to work as his page and it was the same summer that my son was working as a page and they are now the parents of three of my grandchildren. but it is true that from the beginning you have had powerful and colorful chairman. and i really have to say, you really don't want to emulate john randolph. yes, he had hunting dogs, but he was queasy. and he constantly challenged
people to duels. he challenged -- his cousin was thomas jefferson, who was his enemy, and two of thomas jefferson sons-in-law -- thomas jefferson's son's in-laws, he challenged both of them to duels. dolly madison managed to stave off one of them, because it would've been a disaster for her husband, but that doesn't stop john randolph of accusing her of being overly sexed and the result of that was that she had on -- un-sexed her husband. it was charming in those days. and he threatened to name the names of her amor's. so things have not changed in the terms of the way things play out. and there was stevens, whose wig was never on straight.
you are got to know him in the lincoln movie, which is a good movie. under him, the ways and means committee pushed through the act of 1862 to print greenbacks to pay for the civil war. and it was just as women were arriving in washington anyway because their husbands were often at war and maybe the jobs. -- they needed jobs. so the government starts printing money. and then as now, the money came off the printing presses in these enormous sheets of paper. now it is cut up by machines, it is one of the most fun things to do in washington to watch, but then you actually had to cut the greenbacks out with a pair of scissors. bill by bill by bill. and so the treasure of the united states, general skynyrd hired women to do that. saying quite simply, women are
just better with scissors than men are. he could also pay them less. it took nancy johnson and barbara to try to fix that. for women in america. thank you to both. but -- and then there was, of course, a huge investigation about the women in the treasury department. headed by a member of the ways and means committee named james garfield. and he -- his investigation had people say it was a perfect deal at the treasury department with members of congress stashing their women there. it was a majority report any minority report. in case you think -- they case you think things have changed. and the minority report got all the attention because it described the treasury as a mass of immorality. do we think they were trying to embarrass them? just a chance. but the good news out of that is
that the women stayed in washington and their allies became much, much better as a result of that. i love that story because it is a wonderful historical washington story. but it tells you something more than the partisan posturing that was happening then, as well as now. it tells you that the committee did come together to pay for the war. and to win it. as the committee did on all kinds of important things. louisiana purchase, something very important to me. and in modern times, social security medicare, all of the major trade legislation, welfare reform, and on and on. as dave camp said to me yesterday, so much goes through this committee that is so substantive that you have to deal. and it is really like being in congress and then there is like
a copy ways and means committee. -- like being on the ways and means committee. i would also say something beyond that. and what i'm going to say now both the left and the right will disagree with. but that is what i kind of do for a living. this committee, in my view shaped post world war ii america in a way that it was a society where government, business, and nonprofit institutions could come together to try to affect change for the better. that happened in this committee. as europe was going about its rebuilding after the war through government programs, which is now over taxed and i just don't mean that by taxing but overtaxed and all kinds of
ways, the u.s. decided on this hybrid where tax incentives would stimulate private action. now, there was lots of opposition and the remains lots of opposition to that on the left. say that it should go through the appropriations process. you should set priorities. it should be more rational. and this should not get the kinds of breaks as sometimes happened. -- happens. and it has been a lot of opposition on the right, saying that government should not be involved at all. it is not the government passed -- government's role to decide what is worthy and what is not worthy. but i think the ways and means committee has used the tax code to create an enormous, and
initially after the war, a huge postwar economy with research and development occurs, -- encouraged, with fostering the best in the world, with an entire network of social services agencies supported by a combination of charitable contributions and in some cases government assistance. it is far from perfect. it always needs recalibrating. it needs to be adapted to changing times and circumstances. but in my view, it has served the country much better than any alternative would have. so, that is why i was pleased to be asked to keynote and celebrate with you tonight. i am also really happy to celebrate your coming together. as sandy talked about about those trips, they are always so important. dave camp said to me yesterday again, he said you have regular meals together so that the
committee gets to know each other better than other committees on the house. but he told me the republicans eat with the republicans and the democrats even the democrats. i would suggest that maybe every fourth one or so of those meals you actually eat with each other and get to know each other. you know, as you are doing tonight, even john randolph discovered he had to go to dolly madison's squeezes, as they were called, because that is where political information got exchanged and political deals got made. and she despite the evil things he had said in the public press about her, received him. because she knew that that was how people could come together to make the country operate at a time when it was very fragile and threatening to fall apart. so i think you might also find
that there is value in that, as well. information to be exchanged and obtained, good fellowship to be enjoyed, and a smoothing of the path to get things done so that the ways and means committee can continue to serve the country in the way it has done by and large admirably since the beginning of the republic. thank you very much. >> [applause] >> cokie, thank you very, very much. ladies and gentlemen, just a quick explanation of the u.s. historical society and what we try to accomplish with this dinner. we were created by a member of congress 50 some years ago, the senator from iowa, who was a history teacher. and came to congress and
realized there was really no organization saying nice things about the congress. and thought there ought to be somebody who did that. and created the u.s. capital historical society as a way to create an organization whose responsibility would be to educate the public about the capital, the capitol building the people who served here, the art and the architecture that is here, and so forth. for over 50 years, we have been doing this. with publications, our quarterly publication, with books, guide books, calendars that we have produced, and other ways. we were formed by congress, but we are not a federal agency. we are a 501 c3. we have to raise all of our own dollars. the people who helped sponsor this evening tonight are a part of that organization of people who help us stay in business.
and every year, we try to honor a committee of the congress. this year, the (202) 748-8001 for. -- this year the ways and means committee. we are not talking about because it is going to be the 90th anniversary that that might be a good we are looking at the possibility of organizing something around that. we thank you all for being here. for the members who have the opportunity for paul ryan and sandy, and cokie roberts, we have some gives ifts for you. cokey, a crystal ball and engraved with the capital building. it does not say -- [laughter] [laughter] it does not say rod on it but
had i thought of that, i would have done it. [applause] it is not out of the house stationery office, it is out of the historical society gift shop. for paul and sandy, we have a gift for them. we appreciate your efforts and thank you for your contribution to this evening. we appreciate the leadership of this committee. thank you all for being here. our program has ended. god bless. enjoy your evening. have one of the people take the centerpieces home with you. thank you. this concludes our program.
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