The Republican House whip and his 15 assistants made their rounds, pooled their findings and reported back to Speaker Joe Martin with discouraging news: between 40 and 50 G.O.P. Congressmen were ready to throw off party discipline and vote with the Democrats for a $100 increase in personal income tax exemptions. But just four days later, in the showdown last week, Republicans stood as a near-solid phalanx and defeated the move. Reason: a remarkable display of leadership by Joe Martin and his top aides.
Martin's weapon was President Eisenbower's outspoken opposition to the raise in exemptions. While the White House kept its representatives away from Capitol Hill, Martin and his men worked on the mavericks in small conferences and, finally, in a record-breaking caucus attended by 201 House Republicans. Again & again, Martin pounded home some simple facts: Dwight Eisenhower is the party's great political asset and those who go against him on this key tax issue can hardly expect to ride his coattails this fall. The argument was persuasive; one by one most of the strays drifted back into the corral. When the vote came, the move for bigger exemptions went down, 210 to 204. Every G.O.P. Representative was either present or paireda rare occurrence in the Houseand only ten of them stood up with the Democrats. Under the spur of Minority Leader Sam Rayburn, the Democrats' showing was just as impressive: a mere nine Democrats, four of them Rayburn's fellow Texans, sided with the Republicans, and only six were not recorded at all. Not in years had party lines held so firmly on a legislativeas distinguished from a proceduralissue. The vote offered some hope for a return to party regularity and with it, party responsibility.
With the exemption increase out of the way, the House passed, by a rousing 339-to-80 vote, the massive tax-reform bill (TIME, Jan. 25 et seq.) of New York's Representative Dan Reed, chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. It went to the Senate, where Republican leadership has been a sorry joke. It was generally conceded that the Senate would vote to raise tax exemptions.
Last week the Congress also: ¶ Refused, in the House Appropriations Committee, to grant an Administration request for $150,000 to conduct rainmaking studies. ¶ Approved, in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a proposed constitutional amendment for lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. ¶ Passed, in the House, a bill changing the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Dayin recognition of the fact that the U.S. has gone through two major wars since Nov. 11, 1918. ¶ Voted, in the House, to permit former Lieut. Zdzislaw Jazwinski, Polish flyer who escaped to Denmark in a Soviet-built MIG, to live in the U.S. ¶Added, in the Senate Finance Committee, some $50 million in excise tax cuts to the $912 million reduction already called for in a House-passed bill. Included was a move to exempt regular-season college athletic contests and some 70% of movies from the admissions tax.