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tv   Reel America A Day in Congress - 1949  CSPAN  March 15, 2021 11:42am-12:03pm EDT

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president" is a u.s. information agency film. the film was distributed in many languages overseas, but by law could not be shown in the united states for at least 12 years. it's now part of the national archives motion picture collections. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. >> you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3, explore america's past on c-span3, created by america's cable television companies. today we're brought to you by these companies that provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. every two years in early january, congress opens with many senators and representatives new to capitol hill. up next on "reel america," a
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1949 educational film explaining the workings of capitol hill during a day in congress. they have committees, house and senate compromise and a picture of harry truman making the bill a law. >> washington, rallying center of the democratic world today. and at the heart of washington is the government of the united states of america, spreading through the city and along the mall. the white house, home of the president and of the executive power of government. the supreme court, which interprets the laws. the capitol, the home of
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congress which makes the laws of the united states. and the shadow of this sdoem divided much in the desty any of our times. ♪♪
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♪♪ the first thing that happens in the morning on capitol hill is school in the attic of the library of congress across from the square of the capitol. school begins at 6:15 for the 70 page boys who work in congress. if you are one of these page boys, you will see more intimate details of lawmaking than anyone in congress itself. but first you would have to go to classes. you would study many subjects: history, government, literature, and yes, anatomy. the page boys call this a dummy oscar. your classmates would be boys of high school age, carefully selected from all over the united states for their ability, courtesy and personality.
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you would receive one of the best educations available in american schools, and all of this in spite of the fact that every day you would have a big job to do, often having to work late into the night. you would study your own country and many other lands. but all of your studies would brood the spirit of power of the institution of which you are a part, where history-making events are a daily routine, the congress of the united states. the day starts early at the capitol. the president of the senate, the vice president of the united states is at his desk to study the program for the day and to lay out the schedule for the senate so that everything will move smoothly. in recent years, the responsibilities of the vice president have become much heavier. the congressional machinery is beginning to move all around the square to the east of the capitol, an area much like a
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great college quadrangle which might be called capitol square. here is the plan of the square. the capitol itself has two wings, one for the senate and one for the house of representatives. in general, the two chambers of congress have equal powers, and the majority of members of each must approve before a law can be made. the senate has special powers in the ratification of treaties and presidential appointments and acts as a court in case of impeachment. there are 96 senators, two from each state. the house of representatives has 435 members elected by the people of the states. they house elects appropriation bills. only half the work takes place under its dome. here is where congress has their
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offices and do most of their work. there are also meeting rooms for committees, large and small. this is the library of congress which holds one of the world's largest collections of reference books. to the north is a senator office building where senators have suites of offices for themselves and for their assistants. let us go in and lockdown one of the curators. senator green of rhode island, senator taft of ohio. he is a senator himself. half of his day is spent reading and answering letters from his constituents. this is as it should be, because these constituents are his neighbors, and the voter who t who received.
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many come and ask favors or to make proposals. letters must be given a certain attention. many letters must have answers, and if they come, they have answers. >> a million here, a billion there. >> in newspapers whether read in the news or editorial columns. and television brings praise nor criticism to senator stalin. this freedom of press is the very kpornt. every two years, congressman,
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and every six years but every voter his conscience. here enshrined in the library of congress is one of the most important documents in the history of freedom. it controls these elections and the law making processes which flow from them, the written constitution of the united states. so that the laws which are made may be constitutional and useful, lawmakers must constantly study. to meet this need a fact-gathering agency which operates on an assembly line scale. the legislative reference service, with 150 full-time employees to keep congress fully informed. here is a member of the house of representatives' foreign affairs
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committee seeking information about china from the director of the service. the congressman wants more facts about a recent government report so that he can draft a bill more intelligently. this particular request for information is but one of thousands received each month. some of them can be answered with a word and some of them require weeks of research and book-length reports. regular or special congressional committees like the armed services committee often start fireworks. the committee works over bills before they are debated or voted upon. it is another way in which congress seeks to get all the facts before it acts on a bill. some committee hearings can be very tense and sometimes they are used to air political views which are embarrassing to one of the parties in congress. congressional committees have the power under law to compel the attendance of witnesses and
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have them testify under oath. the chairman and members of the committee may question witnesses, open committee hearings on important questions often attract large attendance. of course, the newspaper reporters are there. here are some high-ranking naval officers who have been called to testify. they are checking over the statements which they are going to make to the committee. other meetings are private and quite informal, often involving members of the two opposing political parties, trying to straighten out some difference of opinion so that law making will not be blocked. back in the capitol, under the dome, the statuary hall in the center of all of this law making activity. it is filled with relics of the past to remind congressmen of the precious heritage which they hold in trust. the page boys have been at work since school was over at 9:30, running errands, carrying
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messages, delivering copies of bills. and of the congressional record. they're a little excited today for they sense, as do the members of congress, an approaching climax, the expected vote on the farm bill, which has been debated for weeks. senator lucas, the senate majority leader, has called a hurried conference of two senators who have been active in the battle to pass the administration's farm bill to see what they can do to get a favoral vote. senator anderson of new mexico, author of the bill, and senator from wyoming, influential senate leader. they must decide the final tactics to be deployed on the floor of the senate. the bill is teetering in the balance. it could be defeated. just as they have made their decision, a pageboy enters to call them and they leave through a private door to the senate chamber where debate on the farm bill is already in full swing. senator aiken, senator morris,
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senator hoye, senator amani, the opposition whip refuse futures. will the debate on the farm bill is under way, there is also activity on the house side. joe martin has learned the majority party is making a desperate effort to pass its bill through the senate. congressman martin favors legislation to aid the farmers, but he is very much opposed to the method it is proposed in the administration's bill. he is determined to block this bill in the house, plan a countermove or force a compromise. he has his secretary summon the republican whip for the house. a party whip like a quarterbacks directs the actual maneuvers on the floor. they decide they need the -- and he is then decided to join the conference. they must think this out carefully. they must bring to bear all the strategy they have learned through many years of legislative experience to stop the majority bill in the house.
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this constant struggle between the majority and the minority, the two parties in congress, the republicans and the democrats, is the very's sense of democratic law making. it ensures every bill that is made into a law shall be subjected to the most vigorous examination and debate. meanwhile, lobbyists from the farm group the way in the corridor to get in a last-minute plug. lobbying is now a recognized part of legislative processes. the house agricultural committee has learned the senate has passed its version of the farm bill, just as senator lucas and his colleagues planned this morning. to meet the situation chairman cooley has called a special meeting. it is apparent that the bill which was passed by the senate would never be approved by the house. if there were not some way out, legislation would be blocked. since both houses of congress must approve. the house committee believes a
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compromise might break the deadlock. finally, an agreement is reached and the chairman is instructed to submit a compromise it a joint committee representing both the house and the senate to be called in the senate office building. on his way over with the compromise, chairman cooley stops in at the office of the speaker of the house to get his blessing. congressman whittington of mississippi happens to be with mr. rayburn. the speaker of the house is always a powerful legislative leader and his support is always important. speaker rayburn says a compromise is a good idea. a warning bell calls the speaker to the house. chairman cooley takes a little electric railway train to the senate office building. during any day, senators and congressmen often have to move about a great deal, from one meeting to another. and this unusual little railway saves a great deal of time and effort. the pageboys seem to like it, too.
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chairman cooley arrives at the joint session with the compromised plan. other members of his committee are already there. he tells the senators that it is his opinion that the house will never pass the farm bill in the form in which it has been approved by the senate. the members of the joint committee discuss the compromise, which they hope will make the passage of a good bill possible. congressman cooley has presented his case and has one approval. and just in time, too, for there is the imperative quorum bill. its three rings demand the attendance on the floor of every legislator for a showdown vote on an important bill. from all over capitol hill they respond immediately. from the cafeteria, from their offices, everywhere work is dropped. from everywhere they come. the final debate is reaching its climax.
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>> the gentleman from kansas, the gentleman from arkansas, the gentleman from alabama, the gentleman from minnesota, the gentleman from wisconsin, the pages are as interested in the voting as the congressmen. the vote is announced. the bill is passed. it's been an important bill. debate has been intense. the public is interested. reporters rush to it the phone booths to flash the news to their papers. this instant and full information to the public is also a part of the democratic processes of making law. speaker rayburn signs the bill, which has already been signed by the president of the senate. both houses have now approved.
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but it is not yet a law. it must go to the white house for signature by the president of the united states. jack watson, the house courier, drives to the white house. he passes the guarded gates. along the drive to the west wing, which is the center of executive power and where the president transacts his business. the president signs the bill and it becomes a law of the land. however, sometimes the president refuses to sign a bill of which he does not approve. this is called a veto, and the president usually prepares a veto message which explains his reasons. the vetoed bill and message are sent back to congress. and this ends the matter unless congress can pass the bill over the veto by a two-thirds vote of both houses. and then it becomes a law without the president's signature.
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the president can also appear in person before a joint session of congress to explain a veto or to propose new legislation. congress is then free to accept or reject the president's suggestions. and then it starts all over again. the great law making assembly line goes on, passing bills, creating laws as diversified as the nation's life itself. harbor construction, labor, national defense, government departments, regulation of transportation, foreign trade, taxes, bills, bills, bills. and every act to the written constitution of the united states, which fixes the rules. rules made by the people themselves, acting through representatives of the people, rultz for the people, rules which govern the great enterprise of democracy that is america.
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♪♪ weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight an american history tv reel america series. richard m. nixon, the new president, is the 1968 film produced for international audiences by the u.s. information agency. focusing primarily on president-elect nixon's life story and released prior to his inauguration. the film was distributed in many languages overseas, but by law, could not be shown in the united states for at least 12 years. it's now part of the national archives motion pictures collection. watch tonight at 8:00 p.m.
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eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. next on "history bookshelf," texas christian university professor kara dixon vuic talks about her book "the girls next door: bringing the home front to the front lines" which examines the women who have volunteered to entertain american soldiers overseas. we recorded this at the fdr presidential library and museum in hyde park, new york. it's now pleasure to introduce this session's author, kara dixon vuic, lance corporal benjamin schmidt war conflict and society 20th century at texas christian university. she's the author of "the girls next door: bringing the home front to the front lines" and officer, nurse, woman, the army nurse corps in vi

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