Election 1944: House reorganization (8-18-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (August 18, 1944)


Background of news –
House reorganization

By Bertram Benedict

Rep. Rowe, freshman Congressman from Ohio, is withholding his resolution for a Republican reorganization of the House because Minority Leader Martin considers it “inappropriate at this time.” If a poll of Republican members shows that a majority of them wish to proceed. Mr. Rowe says he will demand a party caucus on his project to have the Republicans take over.

Reorganization of the House of Representatives by the Republicans would involve (1) the unseating of Speaker Rayburn and the probable election of Republican Leader Martin as his successor; (2) dismissal of the present Democratic chairmen of all House committees and award of their places to Republicans; (3) transfer of majority control in all committees from Democrats to Republicans.

The Republicans hope to accomplish all this, and much more, in January 1945, for there is a firm belief among them that the voters will give them control of the House in the November election. The Republican leadership has good reason to doubt, however, that such a reorganization can be carried out at any time in the immediate future.

Democratic bolts doubted

It is true, as Mr. Rowe points out, that the Democrats no longer have a majority in the House; also that legislative action at the 1944 session has been dominated by the Republican membership, aided by anti-New Deal Democrats from the south. What is open to grave doubt is whether any member elected as a Democrat would vote with the opposition party to give it control of the lower branch of Congress.

The present party alignment in the House is 216 Democrats, 212 Republicans, two Progressives, one Farmer Laborite, one American Laborite (three of the 435 seats are vacant).

Farmer Laborite Rep. Hagen can probably be counted as a Republican, for he has been nominated as a Republican in this year’s primary in Minnesota, but American Laborite Rep. Marcantonio can certainly be counted with the Democrats.

The two Progressives from Wisconsin have Republican backgrounds, but during the present Congress they have voted about as often with the Democrats as with their closer political kin.

Assuming that a Republican resolution for reorganization of the House would command the support of three of the members of minor parties – but no member of the Democratic Party – the Republicans would fall three votes short of mustering an absolute majority for its adoption.

Close division in 1917

The present division of party strength in the House is the closest since the 65th Congress met in special session in April 1917 to declare war on Germany. As a result of the November 1916 election, 216 Republicans, 210 Democrats, and 9 members of minor parties held seats in the House. The Republicans had a plurality, but fell two short of a majority. The candidates for Speaker were Rep. Mann of Illinois, the Republican leader, and Champ Clark of Missouri, who had held the office since 1911.

On the opening day of the session, Mr. Clark’s name was placed in nomination by a Republican – Rep. Schall, the blind Congressman from Minnesota. The members of the minor parties voted with the Democrats and Mr. Clark was chosen Speaker with a total of 217 votes to 205 for Mr. Mann. Two Republicans voted “present,” others did not answer roll, and four scattered their votes.

President Wilson delivered his war message at 8:30 o’clock that evening and on the following day, the Democratic committee slates were ratified by the House, thus insuring legislative cooperation with the Executive for the duration of the war, notwithstanding the lack of a Democratic majority.