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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 15 and 24, 1975. Interview A-0331-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Comparing political authority as senator versus governor

Talmadge compares the nature of the political power he held as governor of Georgia and as a United States senator. According to Talmadge, the executive role of governor, along with the widespread support he enjoyed among the General Assembly and his constituents, allowed him to make more authoritative decisions than he was able to as a senator. He offers a brief anecdote here about efforts to pass a farming bill through Congress in 1973 in order to illustrate what he perceived as his "diluted" power in the Senate. His comments reveal the nature of authority at various levels of government.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 15 and 24, 1975. Interview A-0331-1. 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

I was going to ask you, though, you said one time when you were governor that you could make a decision and execute it and that as a Senator, "I can make a decision and talk about it." Would you elaborate on that just a little bit?
Yes, there is only one governor of Georgia. Under the constitution and laws of Georgia, a vast power is vested in the governor. Most of the General Assembly of Georgia was friendly to me, supporters of mine elected by my supporters and they would go along with virtually any program that I suggested. Well, I could make a decision and pretty well assured that I could get it carried out and made into law and executed by either myself or my department heads. But in the United States Senate, you have 100 individuals. You have to reach a conscensus not only of the 100 individuals in the Senate, but you also have to have a conscensus of the majority of the 435 members of the house and in addition to that, it requires the President's signature. So, your authority, even if you are chairman of a committee and possess enormous power, it is somewhat limited.
You are saying that even if you are chairman of a committee, it is still a very frustrating experience sometimes to get any action, I suppose.
Well, I can give you an example. This year, we decided that the Farm Bill needed revision. We had written it in 1973. Subsequent to that, we had had the Arab Embargo, fertilizer had doubled and sometimes trebled. Prices of herbicides and insecticides and pesticides had doubled or quadrupled. Farm machinery and diesel fuel had gone up tremendously, so we made an effort to raise the target prices and loan levels. It was mostly my bill. We put it through the Senate by an overwhelming majority, well over two to one and then we had to go to conference with the House. The House had a much more modest bill than we had. In an effort to get the President's signature, number one and number two, failing to get the President's signature, hopefully to override the President's veto, we scaled it back to the much more modest version of the House bill and still it failed to override the President's veto in the House by twenty-five votes. That's what I mean by frustrating experiences. Now, we had the votes in my committee and we had the votes in the Senate, but we didn't have the votes in the conference committee and the House didn't have the votes to override the President's veto. So, coming from being cheif executive of the state, I came to be one of 100 Senators. So, my authority was considerably diluted.