Jim Wright the Steering Committee members specific commitments these men had made to me. Fortunately for me, they were making the same verbal pledges to other members of the panel, and so members who voted for the appointments were not relying solely on my good faith commitment. But I did feel absolutely betrayed. Phil Gramm promised me, and others, that if he were favored by a Budget Committee assignment, he would make his arguments within the committee and then would close ranks and back whatever bud ALAN POGUE get resolution the committee majority crafted. I thought that a fair proposition. When he deserted the committee bill and succumbed to Reagan’s blandishments of top billing on the Gramm-Latta substitute, I reminded him of his earlier commitment to me and to his other colleagues on the Steering Committee. `You said you would support the bill produced by the majority in the committee,’ I said. ‘Oh, you misunderstood me, Jim,’ replied Phil. ‘I meant I would support whatever was produced by a majority in the Committee of the Whole.’ That, of course, would have been an absurd and totally meaningless commitment. The Committee of the Whole is the whole House. When it has acted, that is the end of the process. Kent Hance at least had a sense of humor about his baldfaced defection. Kent was a clever and likeable fellow, more popular with his colleagues than Phil. He had come to me imploring my help for an ‘important’ committee assignment. ‘Those folks up in Lubbock and on the South Plains had been accustomed to having George Mahon represent them all these years as chairman of the Appropriation Committee,’ Kent stressed. `They don’t understand why I have no such prestige. If I can show them that the Democratic leadership has helped me get this very choice assignment on Ways and Means, then they’ll forgive me for supporting the leadership. In fact, they’ll expect me to do so.’ … Kent was wooed by the White House. Just as they had gotten to Gramm to break ranks and give them one name of a putative Democratic by which they could claim a degree of bipartisanship for their ravages of the House budget, they wanted one Ways and Means Democrat to lend his name to their enormous tax cuts for the wealthiest. Several times Kent came by my office telling me of their numerous invitations to come and talk with the President at the White House. ‘They want me to desert the committee and join forces with them,’ he would say, ‘but I’m not going to do it, Mr. Leader. I gave you my word and I gave my word to Chairman Rostenkowski.’ When finally Kent caved, settling for his day in the sun as advertised co-author of Hance-Conable, he came by the office, grinned, and said, “You have one consolation, Mr. Leader. Just remember that time wounds all heels.’ At least that was better than Phil’s rationale. No, I do not blame Texans who voted the other way on these bills. Each has to answer to his own conscience. No doubt most thought they were doing the right thing. During my 12 years in the leadership, I helped a lot of Texans get the committee assignments which they thought most useful to their district and where they thought they could make the greatest contribution for our country. I helped Henry Gonzalez hold the Chairmanship of the Banking Committee and Kika de la Garza ascend the ladder in the Agriculture Committee. Jack Brooks would have become Chairman of Judiciary without my help, but I am proud of all three. As Speaker, I appointed Mickey Leland to be Chairman of the Special Committee on Hunger. The most coveted committees in the House are Rules, Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Commerce. All in all, I claim a good batting average. I helped Ron Coleman and Jim Chapman get on Appropriations. I sold THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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