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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, October 24, 1976. Interview A-0321-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gore's key political interests

Gore ran for the Senate because of the many things he wanted to accomplish in the House but could not. Once in the Senate, he discovered new barriers to action, particularly Lyndon Johnson. Nevertheless, he managed to convince the senators to pass some of the policies he found most important, and in this section, he lists those accomplishments.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, October 24, 1976. Interview A-0321-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Moving to a more significant committee insofar as your length of service and contributions perhaps, what about the Finance Committee, on which you served from 1957 to 1970, a long period on a very important committee? Could you reflect upon your service on that committee?
Oh yes, I have many specific memories of that. I wanted on this committee as soon as I arrived at the Senate; of course the freshmen couldn't be assigned to that. I had chaffed at my inability as a congressman to have very much influence on tax legislation. The Ways And Means Committee then, as now, had jurisdiction over tax legislation, and the House of Representatives had a rule which was followed whether in Democratic or Republican administrations, of considering tax bills . . . [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B] [TAPE 2, SIDE A] [START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
The Gag Rule in the House, by which all tax bills were considered, was a rule which prohibited the offering of amendments to a tax bill. Only one amendment, as I recall, could be offered to a tax bill, and that was reserved to the minority side of the committee. So though I was anxious to achieve amendments for tax reform, not one time in fourteen years in the House was I ever permitted to offer an amendment to a tax bill, or even to vote for one except for one that a member of the committee had offered. So I was very frustrated in my desire to work for tax reform in the House of Representatives. Upon election to the Senate I immediately asked to be assigned to the Senate Finance Committee, for the avowed purpose of working tax reform. But I had great difficulty gaining an assignment to that committee. By then Lyndon Johnson was a very powerful leader in the Senate, and as far as he was concerned Albert Gore was wrong on the oil depletion allowance. [laughter] . And if a Senator was wrong on the oil depletion allowance you can imagine with what reluctance the Senate leader, Lyndon Johnson, would assign him to the committee handling tax legislation. So I had difficulty in gaining admission to that committee. But eventually, by hard work establishing myself with my colleagues in the Senate and also with some seniority, I was assigned to the committee. I raised a lot of controversy, had a great deal of enjoyment, but also I created a great many enemies.
Thinking back over those fourteen years on that committee, could you summarize your contributions or the areas of your greatest interest and involvement?
Well, the Senate Finance Committee handles several things other than tax reforms: international trade was one, Social Security was another. It was because of my membership on that committee that I had the opportunity to introduce and to bring to passage in the Senate several international trade matters, the whole reciprocal trade program, for instance. I was a delegate to the International Conference on Trade and Agreements two or three times in Geneva. So as a member of that committee, and because of my interest in the subject, I guess it would be fair to say that I became the leading advocate of international trade in the Senate. It was because of my membership on that committee and my interest in social legislation that I was the author of a number of amendments to the Social Security law, that I was the author of the first Medicare bill to pass the Senate. There are other things, revenue collections affairs and others that the Senate Finance Committee handled. My most controversial work, I suppose, was in the field of tax reform. At the time I was assigned to the committee it was almost an unheard of occurrence (in fact it hadn't occurred for many years) that the Senate Finance Committee was defeated on an amendment to a bill on the floor of the Senate. It was a kind of closed shop, and the committee's bills and positions on amendments was almost ipso facto adopted in the Senate. Well, I proposed to alter all that, because the majority of the Senate Finance Committee when I was assigned to it and throughout my tenure on it was an ultra-conservative group closely aligned with vested special interests. Most of my amendments received only about four votes in the Senate Finance Committee, with eight against them. But I think my legislative gun has twelve marks on it. I defeated the Senate Finance Committee twelve times on the floor of the Senate. Some of my colleagues on the committee became a little ruffled at it, particularly the chairman, Russell Long. But I went in and represented the spirit of tax reform, the movement of tax reform. I was its principal spokesman. And a majority of the Senate came to be aligned with me, as did much of the public sentiment in the country. I became nationally known as a champion of tax reform. That was in the form of percentage oil depletions and many of the so-called loopholes. I need not trouble you with recalling the details of the many many fights waged there.