Daniel P. Moynihan on center stage during...


August 16, 1993|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

WATCHING SEN. Daniel P. Moynihan on center stage during the conference committee deliberations on the deficit reduction bill, listening to Sen. Edward Kennedy announce the compromise he worked out to save the National Service bill, noting Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell time and again describing where he was leading reminds me just how dramatically the Senate has changed since they all first came to Washington 30 years ago.

In the early 1960s, Senator Moynihan was a sub-cabinet officer in the Labor Department, Senator Kennedy was a freshman in the Senate and Senator Mitchell was a young aide on a Senate staff. It surely did not seem to them that they could have much of a long term future in the Senate.

Why? Because they are Easterners. Moynihan is a New Yorker, Kennedy from Massachusetts, Mitchell from Maine. And the Senate then was properly known as "the South's revenge for Appomattox." For decades it had been run by Democratic sons of the states of the old Confederacy and their allies, senators from the sparsely populated West.

There were then 16 standing committees in the Senate. In the Congress elected in 1960, two Senate committee chairmen were from Alabama (John Sparkman, Lister Hill), two were from Arkansas (William Fulbright and John McClellan), one was from Georgia (Richard Russell), one from Louisiana (Allen Ellender), one from Mississippi (James Eastland), one from North Carolina (Everett Jordan), two from Virginia (Harry Byrd and Willis Robertson). The other six were from Arizona (Carl Hayden), Nevada (Alan Bible), New Mexico (Clinton Anderson and Dennis Chavez), Oklahoma (Robert Kerr) and Washington (Warren Magnuson). The Senate majority leader was from Montana (Mike Mansfield).

The East and the industrial Middle West were shut out.

But today, those same committees or their successors (the Senate reorganized its committee structure) have the following line-up of chairmen:

One from Delaware (Biden), one from Georgia (Sam Nunn), one from Kentucky (Wendell Ford), one from Louisiana (Bennett Johnston), one from Massachusetts (Kennedy), one from Michigan (Donald Riegle) one from Montana (Max Baucus), one from New York (Moynihan), one from Ohio (John Glenn), one from Rhode Island (Claiborne Pell), one from South Carolina (Ernest Hollings), one from Tennessee (Jim Sasser), one from West Virginia (Robert Byrd) and one from Vermont (Patrick Leahy).

So, only three from the old Confederacy and one from the West. And the majority leader, as noted, is a Maine Yankee (Mitchell).

It may seem ironic that the East and Middle West have increased their power during three decades in which population has shifted to the South and West. But, of course, the Senate was never meant to represent the populace. It was set up to protect small states.

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