FROM: JOURNEYS, by Edmund S. Muskie
My relations with Lyndon Johnson have fluctuated widely. I know he admired some of my work, and he depended heavily on me from time to time, but he did not always think that I did everything well, or that I treated him as I should, particularly when I first appeared as a freshman senator and went to pay a courtesy call on the Majority Leader.
Lyndon Johnson then, as later, was a big man: in body, in vision, and in ambition. He talked to me for a while about the difficulty of adjusting as a new senator, especially as a senator who had been a governor. He said that the tough times were when you had to vote, when you went on record.
"Many times, Ed," he said, "you won't know how you're going to vote until the clerk who's
calling the roll gets to the M's."
This made sense to me and I appreciated the advice. He was my leader and I needed advice.
Senator Johnson then turned to the legislative program for the coming session. He took great pains to explain to me--and I will admit to feeling some pressure--that there was a vote coming up on the filibuster. Lyndon wanted me to vote with his compromise measure, one that would call for the end of a debate when voted by two thirds of the members present in the Senate. I thought that another plan, a compromise that called for a three-fifths vote, was probably preferable, but I wasn't, at that moment, entirely sure. When he had finished explaining and, in effect, giving me some rather strong guidelines on how to vote, he remarked:
"Well, Ed, you don't seem to have much to say."
"Lyndon," I answered, "the clerk hasn't gotten to the M's yet."
I was not trying to be rude or impertinent, but I suppose he took it that way. I just wanted him to know I wasn't quite ready to buy and that I had not committed myself to any other proposal, either. I was reserving judgment. When I decided, I voted against the Majority Leader and for the "liberal" plan.
The committee assignments I drew as a new senator were not considered to be exactly plums. I was kept off the committees which I had indicated as my first choices: Foreign Relations, Interstate and Foreign Commerce, and Judiciary. Banking and Currency was one I had indicated an interest in--it was my fourth choice--and I was so assigned, but the other two committees, Public Works and Government Operations, were not a major interest at that time.
In the long run, perhaps it was just as well. Such committees gave me the chance to work on problems of increasing importance to the country. In fact, the combination of Banking and Currency, Government Operations, and Public Works was unique in the Senate, and working in and between those committees I was caught up in most of the legislative efforts to improve the quality of urban life in America. Senator Johnson had done me a favor, although I don't think he had planned it that way.
Journeys, pp. 8-9