LBJ: The Great Society And The 89th Congress – 1967 -Past Daily Reference Room
The crazy-quilt of Politics. In 1967 it was the end of the 89th Congress and the beginning of the 90th Congress. It was the Johnson Era – of groundbreaking legislation that improved lives and shaped futures. It was also a war in Vietnam; one that was losing support on a daily basis, but which clung on to the archaic notion that Vietnam was but one element in a series of potential dominoes, collapsing into the lap of Chinese Communism. It was a period of infinite and possibilities and a myopic vision of history. Where social programs improved and enhanced the quality of American life, while the possibilities of a protracted war limited and destroyed so many of those lives.
So as the 89th Congress was to pass into history and the 90th Congress was poised to carry on, a discussion took place between William B. Prendergast, Republican sergeant-at-arms for the House Of Representatives and William G. Phillips, former Staff director of The Democratic Study Group of the House of Representatives and, at the time of the broadcast, a consultant to it. They are asked what they felt was the best and what was the worst of the 89th Congress. Philips makes the case that the 89th Congress was probably responsible for some of the more significant output of Progressive legislation that benefitted the people of America in all history. In 1964, LBJ was given a mandate, as well as a 2-1 Democratic Majority to pass legislation that benefitted the People in terms of both quantity and quality. The 89th Congress was referred by many as The Education Congress, while others called it A Conservation Congress. It was Philips contention that the accomplishments of the 89th Congress would be remembered for a long time in history. Prendergast, for the most part agreed and added that he felt the most significant piece of Legislation to come was the Medicare Bill. Prendergast reminds the moderator, Roger Mudd, that the Medicare Bill was truly a bi-partisan effort and that many of the provisions in that bill were crafted by Republicans. As for the worst, Prendergast cites what he felt was the failure of the 89th Congress to act as a deliberative body – to carefully consider legislative proposals. To investigate fully what it was doing before it took action. To engage in reasoned debate on legislation that had passed. Prendergast went on to say that the 89th had often been referred to as a “rubber stamp” Congress, too eager to approve whatever legislation the White House was proposing.
For the better part of a half-hour, the debate goes back and forth and you get an idea that politics in 1967 bears virtually no resemblance to politics in 2019.
And as a reminder of how far we’ve slipped, in that respect, here is that episode of CBS Radio’s Capitol Cloakroom from approximately January 1, 1967.