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in order, by a very large majority, a vote that clearly indicated the purpose of the Senate to adopt that amendment. The Chair feels himself bound by that ruling unless, as the Senator from Massachusetts says, it has been since overruled. The Chair can find no case where the subject has been brought before the Senate since; but the Chair feels bound to regard that as a precedent and therefore is compelled to hold that the instructions are not in order, but a motion to commit is clearly in order.
It appears that after the instructions had been disposed of in the case referred to, the Presiding Officer said: The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question recurs on agreeing to the report of the committee of conference. Mr. WRIGHT. I now move to recommit the report without instruction. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The senator from Iowa moves that the report be recommitted to the committee of conference.
Mr. WRIGHT. On that question I call for the yeas and nays.
Then follows a long debate on the question of recommitting. Finally, by common consent the question was put on the motion to agree, but it was held there that the motion to recommit was in order.
Mr. HOAR. I am unable to affirm with any positiveness of recollection wbat the Senate did in the recent case, and I am not able to state what that case was, but I have a very distinct impression that within the last year or two this question came up, and that I searched for the precedents and found the argument inade by the Senator from Vermont.
The Senator from Vermont, at the next session of Congress, the following December, or whenever the next session was, renewed the subject and fortified his ruling by a citation of authorities from the beginning, and on appealing to that my impression is, though I confess it is a vague recollection on which I should not think for a moment to ask the Chair to depend, that the particular measure on which this particular motion to commit with instructions was made was admitted, and it was so committed on the authority of that collection of precedents.
The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The opinion of the Senator from Vermont is here in a speech, but the question has not been decided by the Senate since.
Mr. FRYE. I take no appeal from the ruling of the Chair. I now move to recommit. As I understand it, if this motion should prevail then it will be competent for the Senate to instruct as it pleases.
Mr. EDMUNDS. The Chair holds not.
The PRESIDENT pro tempore. That question has not yet arisen. If the motion to recommit is adopted, the Chair will consider it.
Mr. FRYE. I move to recommit this report.
Mr. EDMUNDS. In reply to what the Chair has said, as I seem to be the general scape-goat of everything that goes wrong in the Senate, I wish to remind the Chair that the point that was before me when I happened to be occupying the place that Vice-President Colfax was entitled to, but had gone out for a moment, was not any question as to the propriety of a motion to recommit, but it solely turned on the question, the other point not being raised at all (and I confess it was not drawn to my attention) of the right to instruct a committee of conference on the part of the Senate when it was proper to have a committee of conference at all.
On that point alone I ruled, and I ruled, as I showed at the next session, according to the uniform precedents both of the Senate and House of Representatives, as was demonstrated by the investigation made by my friend, Mr. Murphy, who is now taking the notes of what I am saying, himself the most careful and impartial and best-informed gentleman in respect to parliamentary history that there is in this Capitol, or, as far as I know, anywhere else.
Nobody undertook to stand up and deny that proposition, that given the case where the matter was in a condition to be considered by a committee you might instruct that committee to do what you chose to instruct them to do. But the Chair now holds that a simple motion to recommit is in order; but where does that leave it? When we send a m'essage to the House that this matter is recommitted to our committee on conference—we can not commit to the others—where does it leave it? The House has not possession of the papers; and when ye send them over this notice, where does that leave it? There is nothing that the House can do because there is no pending proposition between the two Houses on the last vote of the Senate except simply to recommit this report to our conferees. We do not express to the House whether we stand by what we have done before or do not stand by it, and there is the difficulty.
So then, with great respect-and I do not mean to appeal or do anything else, because we shall come to the substance of this thing by and by, in spite of all the technicalities and difficulties that may be presented—when we come to the end of this matter after all, whatever the Chair may rule according to his judgment, we come to the substantial question of whether this thing is to be set at sea again or whether we are to take, as some people suppose, our lives in our hands and go on with what we have.
Therefore, every Senator who is willing to trust to this experiment, as it is, will be willing to stand by it and vote against a motion to recommit simply, which the Chair holds to be in order; and every Senator who wants to go to sea in a bowl, and see how in thirty days we can manage to do something better or different, which, when it comes forth, will be open to the same criticisms of language as we have now no matter how clearly you, or 1, or anybody else may state it, will come back to the same difficulties of interpretation we have now; so I do not think it is of any practical importance in what way we get at it except as a precedent for the future.
The PRESIDENT pro tempore. If Senators will indulge the Chair a moment more, the Chair, upon the question of the motion to commit, finds this rule: When a question is pending no motion shall be received but
The motion which the Chair has already read, including the motion to commit, and the Chair does not know from his own experience any question that ever came before the Senate of the United States that was not open to a motion to commit. A motion to commit is a favorite motion in parliamentary rules, to refer a matter to a committee for information.
In regard to the committee of conference, the committee of conference is still in existence. The report of the committee of conference has not been acted on in either House. The committee remains in existence until the conclusion of the action of the two Houses on the report of the committee.
Mr. HARRIS. If this motion shall prevail, how does the Senate
get in communication with the House of Representatives to act on this matter?
The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Chair would think the papers, with the action of the Senate, would be at once communicated to the House of Representatives
Mr. HARRIS. The papers go to the committee if they are committed, and to the Senate committee, and the Senate has no papers to send to the House of Representatives.
Now, exactly how, by this very unusual proceeding. we are ever to get in communication with the House of Representatives on this subject, unless we take action one way or the other, agreeing or disagreeing to the report, and then send a message to the House informing them of the action we have taken, accompanied by the papers, I confess that I can not see.
Mr. DAWES. I should like to inquire of the Senator what occasion there is to send any message to the House of Representatives until there is final action upon the report of the committee? Suppose a motion is made to lay this on the table and it is carried, you do not send a message to the House. The House waits for final action by the Senate upon the report of the committee of conference before they take it op. When final action is had, a message is sent to the House communicating that fact.
Mr. HARRIS. That is all very true; but if the Senator from Massachusetts will allow me, the two Houses have appointed managers; they have met and conferred; they have made their report to both Houses. How are you going to communicate with the House of Representatives?
Mr. DĂWES. The committee on the part of the other branch do not make a report until they hear of final action here, for we have possession of the papers, and we deal with our committee, having possession of the papers. When we have taken some final vote it makes an end of this matter, and they get a communication to that effect, and then the report is made there.
Mr. HARRIS. I do not propose to appeal from the ruling of the Chair, though I am satisfied that it is wholly inconsistent with parliamentary law and every proper parliamentary usage; but I do desire to say that, in view of the weeks which have already been spent in conference on these disagreeing votes, and in view of the additional fact that I chance to know that two of the managers on the part of the House are each more than a thousand miles from here, and probably will be away for a week or two, or three or four, I am satisfied as to what the effect of recommittal is to be ifa majority of the Senate shall recommit. It is an indirect method of killing this bill. Why, I would greatly prefer myself to confront the responsibility and either agree to it or kill it direct rather than by shrinking from that responsibility and slaughtering it by indirection.
But I think the conferees, three of the House of Representative and three of the Senate, who spent two or three weeks day by day and almost every day in considering this question, would, without one dissenting voice, agree with me when I say we never got to an agreement that approximates more nearly the views of the Senate as expressed by the bill which passed than the measure now before us. This motion, if adopted, whether so intended or not, will inevitably have the effect of killing the bill; and I desire that every Senator should vote upon the question with a knowledge of the fact that his vote to recommit is a vote to destroy and a vote to defeat legislation on this subject.
Mr. HAWLEY. I understand that the motion to recommit is the one immediately before us.
The PRESIDENT pro tempore. That is the question before the Senate.
Mr. HAWLEY. I object very decidedly to being told that if I vote for that I am to be justly chargeable with the defeat of the bill, should such a defeat ensue. I do not indulge in that distrust of the Senate manifested by the Senator from Illinois.
I admire him for his zeal in this matter, for the interest he has displayed in the investigation, the vigor with which he has advocated the measure; but I think I am justified in saying that a majority of the members of the Senate believe that the bill must be amended. I think a majority believe there are serious defects in it; defects wel: worth consideration and well worth another attempt at adjustment; I am led to believe that quite a number of Senators will vote against it. I know from conversation that there are many who will vote for it who criticise it very severely, and you have an illustrious example of that in the speech of the Senator from Kansas [Mr. INGALLS).
I am not to be driven by the intimation that I am to be considered an enemy of action on this subject because I vote for recommittal. The New York Chamber of Commerce made it known to us that, while in favor of the general proposition of the bill, there were two serious objections to it. Now, the Board of Trade send us a communication to-day urging us to vote for the bill, but they also intimate that there are objections, because they say it is the best we can get. I prefer to make another attempt to disappoint the New York Board of Trade, and show them it is not the best we can get.
I think it would have been an extraordinary, an illogical proceeding if we had been compelled to come to a vote direct upon concurrence without first making an attempt to improve. I might have felt bound then to vote against the report, and then I should have been recorded upon the final vote passing the bill as opposed to the measure, which I am not. I very much prefer the original Senate bill. I think that all the Senators who voted for the original Senate bill (and they were all but four of the Senate, I believe) to-day prefer that original bill. Now, why, for what reason in the world, shall we hesitate to see if we can not improve it?
I shall vote very cheerfully, very gladly, for the motion to recommit, and while I expect to vote for the measure, I will not proinise until the last moment. I reserve my judgment till the end.
Mr. EVARTS. Mr. President, what is desired now is that we should come as promptly as possible to the passage of the best bill regulating this subject so far as it should be regulated. We are nearer now to the passage of such a bill than Congress has ever been before, and we are nearer to being able to remove the objectionable features of this legislation and passing a bill that in substance shall not only be compatible with the public interest, but in furtherance of the special interest that has stimulated this kind of legislation, and nearer to having it in a shape that shall be received without repugnance and with a general desire to advance and complete the legislation in the sense for which it has been sought.
I shall vote, therefore, to recommit, believing by that vote I shall bring the Congress and the country nearer to a good bill than by any other vote; and I insist that under the discussion of the last few days it is apparent that we are getting nearer to the passage of a bill by giring our concurrence at once to recommit. We have not come as near to a good bill as we shall come if we adopt the proposition to recommit.
Mr. CULLOM. I only desire to say one word. I am not disposed to take an appeal from the decision of the Chair, and I am not disposed to charge that any Senator who votes for a recommittal is against any legislation on the subject; but I do desire to say that I regard, and I think every Senator must regard, this vote to recommit as a test vote on the question.
Mr. HAWLEY. I protest that it is not.
Mr. HOAR. We have forty-nine days more of this session, a period of time in which the Senate and the House many times have dealt with, matured, and considered in every part thirteen great appropriation bills; and it is utterly ridiculous, it seems to me, with all due respect, to say that the doubtful question of construction as to the meaning of this bill which has been raised here can not be settled between these conferees unless any body means to say, which is not to be supposed for a moment, that they will not make an attempt to have this bill made clear in accordance with their claim as to its meaning.
Mr. CONGER. Mr. President, I think for about seventeen years, in the House and in the Senate, the attempt has been made, from session to session, almost continuously, to have passed some interstate-commerce bill. The Committee on Commerce of the House for years undertook to prepare such a bill and secure its passage, the best bill that could be prepared, with seemingly a majority in the House and in the Senate approaching unanimity almost, as we thought at the period of its adoption, and yet by one process or another it has been cast aside, and there has never been an actual passage of any bill whatever. That has been so in the House for years, and so in the Senate.
I voted for this bill as it passed the Senate. I preferred and should prefer now to vote for the present bill if it could be amended so as to be just as it was when it passed the Senate. I have received from my own State communications from very respectable and intelligent people familiar with these subjects, advising me that, in their opinion, some of the provisions of this bill are dangerous to the business interests of the country. I took all that into my consideration; but I believe from the observations I have made in the long years that have passed; from the facility with which the passage of any bill of this kind has been prevented, that unless we accept this report of the committee of conference and pass this bill there will be no bill passed during this session of Congress.
I shall therefore vote against recommittal. I shall therefore vote to agree to the report of the committee, although I might desire that some of the provisions of the bill might be changed. And, sir, I consider that the passage of this bill, in its effect upon the public mind, in its effect upon railroad administration, will be very beneficial and desirable, not only to the railroads themselves as indicating what the will of Congress is in that direction, but in quieting the apprehensions of the vast body of the people of the United States that the Congress of the United States has refused to give them the relief which they have demanded so imperatively heretofore, and never with more positive affirmation than now.