Congressional Relations

JFK, LBJ, & the Midterm Elections of 1962 and 1966

We've compiled some new transcripts from the 1962 and 1966 mid-term elections.

LBJ and Gerald Ford

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford                  
Introduction:

That morning's Washington Post carried a front page story of several members of Congress critical of the Johnson administration's campaign to bomb the North Vietnamese supply lines in Laos. Interviewed for the radio and television program "Issues and Answers" (ABC), the new House Minority Leader, Gerald Ford (R-MI) (who had recently replaced Charles Halleck), criticized the way in which the administration informed Congress of the Laos expansion as coming in a "piecemeal" fashion. "Now that it has been disclosed piecemeal," Ford said, "I think that the Administration has a responsibility to open up, have some discussion about it, perhaps hold some hearings in the House or Senate in order that we are all better informed as to what our course, what our policies are."

Senator Wayne Morse, Democrat of Oregon, was also critical, accusing the administration of following a "foreign policy of concealment in Southeast Asia." Morse claimed that neither he nor other Americans "know what the Administration is doing in Asia, to what it has committed us, what its objectives are, and how much it is risking to achieve them."

["U.S. Bombing in Laos Stirs Debate," Washington Post, January 19, 1965, p.A1.]

Congratulations . . . and a Request

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford                  
Introduction:

President Johnson places a congratulatory phone call to Rep. Gerald Ford (R-MI), who had defeated Rep. Charles Halleck (R-IN) two weeks earlier for the position of House minority leader. In this snippet, Johnson solicits Ford's involvement in discussions about Vietnam, largely as a way to establish Republican support for Johnson's position. Ford, in turn, offers general support for Johnson's approach and the prospect of a collegial working relationship.

The Politics of Medicare

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Larry O'Brien                  
Introduction:

On the evening of May 18, 1964, President Johnson and his congressional relations liaison Larry O'Brien discussed the progress of the administration's Medicare bill, which would expand the Social Security system to include health care coverage for the elderly. O'Brien had just discussed the legislation with Wilbur Mills, the influential chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which controlled the legislation's fate in the House of Representatives. Representative Mills had fought Medicare legislation since it had first been proposed by President Kennedy in 1961, citing concerns about the consequences of increasing the Social Security payroll tax to fund the coverage, the costs that would be entailed in such a program, and the long-run fiscal soundness of the system. During the spring of 1964, however, Mills still claimed that his committee would report a package of amendments to Social Security that would include a Medicare program, but he had not yet supplied the details of such a plan. Much of the conversation between Johnson and O'Brien involved the question of whether Mills would attempt to bypass Medicare when he finally presented his plan. Mills' maneuvers would defeat the legislation in 1964, but would contribute significantly to its eventual passage in 1965.

The Economic Opportunity Act

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Phil Landrum                  
Introduction:

President Johnson and Representative Phil Landrum of Georgia (the floor leader for the Economic Opportunity Act in the House of Representatives) discuss the attempt by a group of Catholic congressmen to block the Economic Opportunity Act in the House Education and Labor Committee. The Act would remain blocked unless sections of Title II were re-written to include funding for remedial education programs in Catholic schools. Some congressmen also hoped to use the issue as a bargaining chip to prevent the closure of naval bases in their districts. Johnson indicates his willingness to cut the community action provisions of the legislation (Title II) rather than give in to the congressmen's demands - even though this component of the bill constituted one of its most important elements. Nonetheless, the President clearly indicated in this conversation that his primary interest in the antipoverty legislation lay in the Job Corps camps and training centers of Title I, rather than in the Community Action provisions of Title II. The latter programs, however, would soon define the Economic Opportunity Act in the public mind.

Poverty, Religion, and Military Base Closures

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, John McCormack, Bill Moyers                  
Introduction:

This clipping comes from a long conversation in which President Johnson and Speaker of the House John McCormack discussed the intransigence of the House Rules Committee and the controversy surrounding possible federal funding of parochial schools under the economic opportunity bill (which provided the legislative basis for the War on Poverty). The latter issue had emerged when Representative Hugh L. Carey of New York and other northeastern Catholic Democrats offered an amendment that would have authorized direct federal support for parochial schools under the bill's community action titles. The National Education Association, the largest of the two major teachers' unions, bitterly opposed any form of federal aid to religious schools. McCormack, a Massachusetts Democrat and a Catholic, had led an attempt to secure federal aid for parochial schools during the House fight over President Kennedy’s 1961 education bill. In doing so, he had been an ally of the same Catholic congressmen who had inserted the religious issue into the War on Poverty debate in 1964. As Speaker, however, he chose not to challenge the President on such an important piece of legislation. Earlier in the conversation, Johnson had reacted angrily to an attempt by Massachusetts Democrat (and Catholic) Tip O’Neill's to trade support of the poverty bill for a guarantee that the Boston Navy Yard would remain open. In this clip, the President returned to the subject of the navy yards and touched more sympathetically on the pressing economic issue of automation and unemployment in the industrial northeast.

"The Greatest Man In The World"

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey                  
Introduction:

On May 1, 1964, the Baltimore Sun had reported that President Johnson "dressed down" Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (the Democratic floor leader on the Senate civil rights bill) for suggesting that President Johnson might be willing to accept amendments to the version of the bill passed by the House. The Sun indicated that upon hearing of Humphrey's comments, Johnson called the senator and gave him "unshirted hell." Following the call from the President, Humphrey issued a clarification in which he stated that the President "is for the House bill." Later in the day, however, Humphrey turned to the Senate press gallery, smiled, and pulled on the tops of his ears. Reporters who saw the gesture interpreted it as an imitation of a beagle being lifted by the President, a reference to a controversial incident in which Johnson had picked up his dogs by their ears at a recent White House event as well as an indication that Johnson had disciplined the civil rights floor leader for his earlier comments.
In this conversation, Johnson and Humphrey discuss the source of the "unshirted hell" story. Two passages are particularly noteworthy. First, Johnson observed that in contrast to Humphrey, he had little credibility with civil rights activists as a result of his southern background. Second, Johnson attempted to convince Humphrey that he was primarily concerned with developing the senator's status and reputation, rather than demeaning him. The comments reflected not only the crucial North-South divide in the battle over the civil rights legislation, but also the President’s effort to control a senator who was already a leading candidate for the vice presidential nomination.

Congressional Coordination

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, George Smathers                  
Introduction:

George Smathers, a Florida Democrat and Secretary for the Senate Democratic Conference, was a close friend of the President and his family who often had frank exchanges with Johnson. In this call, President Johnson gave Smathers a colorful analysis of the workings of Capitol Hill, voicing his concern about the parliamentary skills of fellow Democrats. Johnson was extremely upset about the Senate's handling of yesterday’s Food Stamp bill passage, particularly the Senate Democratic leadership's inability to derail Republican Jack Miller's amendment to prohibit the use of Food Stamps to purchase Australian meat. This addition to the bill meant that the legislation now had to go back to Judge Smith's House Rules Committee before it could go to the floor for concurrence. Smith kept it bottled up until August 11. The House passed it that same day. Johnson signed it into law on August 31.

Larry O'Brien's Secret to Legislative Success

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Larry O'Brien                  
Introduction:

With a vote imminent in the House of Representatives on the signature legislation of the War on Poverty, Special Assistant to the President for Congressional Affairs (and Johnson's 1964 campaign director) Larry O'Brien revealed his secret to legislative success: "if we can just keep the boys that should be sober, sober, and the ones that should be drinking, drinking, that's our job for the afternoon."

The House had just passed the Southeast Asia Resolution (also known as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution) by 414-0.

Hiring People to Hurt Him

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, John Macy                  
Introduction:

Johnson complained to Civil Service Commission Chairman John Macy about leaks of information related to hiring for the newly created Department of Transportation.

Senator Edward Kennedy and the JFK, LBJ, and Nixon White House Tapes

We have posted a collection of transcripts of conversations involving and directly related to the long Senate career of Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy. Drawing from the JFK, LBJ, and Nixon tapes, it includes calls between the newly elected Senator and his older brother, President John F. Kennedy; calls with President Johnson during the 1964 election campaign while bedridden recovering from a broken back suffered during a plane crash; and President Nixon's efforts to spy on Kennedy in the leadup to the 1972 election.

 

Albert Thomas gets the "Johnson Treatment"

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Albert Thomas                  
Introduction:

Congressman Albert ThomasLBJ was famous for his powers of persuasion, dispensing them with what became known as "the Johnson Treatment." He used his imposing physical size and intimidating personality to emphasize his point. In this call, LBJ is in full "Johnson Treatment" mode with Representative Albert Thomas (Democrat, Texas) on the receiving end.

In this call, with characteristic bluntness, President Johnson berates Representative Albert Thomas (Democrat, Texas) over a clause forcing the President to publicly report to Congress on wheat sales to the Soviet Union and argues that it would resonate poorly with the American public.

NB: This clips contains language that may not be suitable for children.

LBJ and Senator Richard Russell on the Community Action Program

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Russell                  
Introduction:

In this conversation excerpt, President Johnson and Georgia Senator Richard Russell (R) express their shared dislike and distrust of the War on Poverty's Community Action Program.

LBJ Appoints Gerald Ford to the Warren Commission

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford                  
Introduction:

Of all the congressional members on the Warren Commission, Ford was the least known to President Johnson. He had been first elected to the House in 1948, the same year Johnson won his Senate seat. Ford's first and only intensive encournter with Lyndon Johnson had occurred in 1957, when both men served on a bipartisan House-Senate committee formed to draft the legislation creating NASA.

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