Historical Papers from the U.S. Senate, 1978-84.

October, 2016

Lincoln and Washington -- Last week I packed up two banker's boxes and sent them to our records room in Lincoln. One was full of working papers from my dissertation. The other contained many files from my years working in the U.S. Senate, 1979-84. It is the latter box that might be of interest to anyone who comes across this blog while looking for a research topic on Congress for a senior thesis or a graduate paper. I'll gladly open up the files for such a purpose.

One of the Senate files contains records from the time I was a Task Force Investigator for the Senate Budget Committee. In 1979, the House and Senate Budget Committees attempted, for the first time ever, to employ the so-called budget reconciliation process to cut the federal deficit. This process is more common now, and it is highly political. But the first time it was used, Senate Budget Committee chairman Edmund Muskie, Democrat of Maine, was actually aligned in support of the process with Republican minority leader in the House John Rhodes. House Budget Committee chairman Robert Giaimo, Democrat of Connecticut, opposed the use of reconciliation, which was highly unpopular with other committee chairmen in both chambers who saw the upstart process as a threat to their powerful domains. Among other contemporary papers, I collected letters of opposition to reconciliation from dozens of interest groups; they are in these files.

When I was legislative director for Senator J. James Exon of Nebraska, I retained many working papers on a variety of legislative initiatives, which are also in these files. One was the Exon-Bradley tax trigger amendment of 1981 which, while it failed on a Senate floor vote, nevertheless presaged what Congress had to do soon thereafter: adjust the Reagan tax cuts to cut the deficit. Another was a bill to create for state governments a federal categorical grant "trade in" process, through which states could forgo certain federal grants in favor of increased federal revenue sharing. The bill actually passed as a pilot program but was never implemented.

There are also papers in these files relating to successfully stopping the Norden Dam on the Niobrara River and a number of other such Nebraska issues. There are several drafts of speeches showing the process of revision, many internal office notes on a wide variety of matters, and lists of staff. The earliest file dates from late 1978; it contains orientation materials on how to set up Senate offices.

I'll be working on these papers but would gladly share them with others as I do so, before they are donated to the Nebraska State Historical Society.