JANUARY 16, 1959
DALLAS—The filibuster-rule compromise that Senator Lyndon Johnson put through as a substitute for what liberals really wanted may be considered a step forward, but it certainly is not a very sure way of ending a filibuster and getting the vote on something that a minority wishes to have come to a vote.
The old rule required two-thirds of the full Senate membership, or 66 votes, to do this, and of course one could never muster that number. The new rule requires two-thirds of the Senators present and voting to cut off or force the close of debate.
In addition, the Johnson plan will permit cloture on debates over changes of Senate rules by two-thirds of the members present and voting. The old rule made it impossible to cut off debate on rule changes. And under the new order it is also understood that rules will "continue from one Congress to the next" unless they are changed in accordance with the other rules, including the requirement for a two-thirds vote to close debate on rules changes.
It all seems a pretty mild compromise and one wonders if the Southerners who want unlimited debate will not always be able to muster the requisite number of votes to prevent a change.
One also wonders whether the Southerners whom Senator Johnson is trying to placate will be happy with this compromise. Certainly, the West and the North and certain parts of the East cannot be pleased with anything as uncertain to bring results as this new rule. The gains for the Democratic party were made by the liberals outside of the South in the last election, and I am afraid it is on them—and not on conservative or even middle-of-the-road compromisers—that the hoped-for victory might depend in 1960.
I think a Democratic victory is valuable only if it brings into office people capable of fresh, new thinking on many of our domestic and foreign problems. My husband was both a politician and a statesman and I am neither, but I think I know how a great many average people feel in the United States at present. They are worried about the world situation. They are worried about our situation at home. They feel that we have lacked real guidance and real education in our responsibilities as part of a changing world.
They sense the fact that new decisions may have to be made in the next few years that will require statesmanship, understanding and flexibility, and they are uncertain as to where to turn.
They are asking for information and inspiration, and the answers so far have not been very clear, even from the Democratic party to which they turned in great numbers in the last election.
The leaders of the Democratic party should give, I think, a good deal of thought to the answers they must give to great numbers of people in this country who find it hard to express their thinking in words but who are nevertheless stirring in every community in the nation.
Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas I. Mikoyan will have seen rather superficially but at least with a knowing eye a great deal of the United States when he returns to Washington this weekend. He is a shrewd negotiator, and he has not been touring our country just for a vacation, though he may have described this trip as partly a vacation.
This is not the kind of vacation that is looked upon as rest and relaxation by the Soviet leaders, and he will surely go into his meetings in Washington with greater knowledge of the U.S. than he had on his arrival. His proposals will be of interest to many of us, for they will indicate what he learned or thought he learned by traveling among us.