CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - SENATE
JULY 31, 1961
DEBATE ON THE PROXMIRE AMENDMENT TO H.R.7445, THE INDEPENDENT OFFICES APPROPRIATIONS, 1962
The Senate resumed the consideration of the bill (H.R. 7445) making appropriations for sundry independent executive bureaus, boards, commissions, corporations, agencies, and offices, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1962, and for other purposes.
Mr. PROXMIRE. Madam President, I yield 8 minutes to the Senator from Maine [Mr. MUSKIE].
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maine is recognized.
Mr. MUSKIE. Madam President, I support the amendment of the Senator from Wisconsin [Mr. PROXMIRE] to restore the $300,000 appropriation for the General Services Administration for the preparation and presentation of evidence and arguments on behalf of the Government before Federal and State regulatory agencies. The amendment also strikes the restrictive language contained in H.R. 7445, as amended by the Appropriations Committee.
Under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, the General Services Administration is charged with the responsibility of representing the executive agencies "in negotiations with carriers and other public utilities, and in proceedings involving carriers and other Public utilities before
Federal and State regulatory bodies." The bill, as reported by the Appropriations Committee, would repeal, in effect, this section of the act.
The appropriations bill not only removes funds necessary to prepare and present material to the regulatory agencies, it would prohibit the General Services Administration from preparing or presenting evidence or arguments before Federal and State regulatory agencies concerning the regulatory policies of such agencies on overall earnings level or total property evaluation of transportation of utility companies.
The effect of this section of the bill, as reported by the committee, would be to deny General Services Administration the authority or facilities to participate in rate cases. If GSA cannot discuss rates or evaluations, there would be no meaningful evidence or arguments. Such a restriction would make a mockery of General Services Administration participation in such cases. It would have the effect of denying to the Government its right to protect itself in rate making cases.
The Government is a major consumer in the public utility field. In fact, it is the biggest consumer in the United States. I cannot favor legislation which would tie the hands of the Government in protecting its own interests and would force the taxpayer to pay more for Government service than he should.
I believe that the record of the General Services Administration, in saving taxpayers an estimated $160 million in 10 years in rate making cases, has amply demonstrated the value of its work in this area. A $300,000 annual investment is a fair cost on a $16 million return.
We have established regulatory agencies to adjudicate, among other things, public utility rate disputes. These agencies have been created to perform quasi-judicial functions. We do not establish them to represent one side or the ether in regulatory cases.
The Government has a legitimate interest in the outcome of rate making cases. It would not be proper, however, to rely on the regulatory agencies to represent the Government in such cases. Such an action would destroy the integrity of the regulatory agencies. General Services Administration represents the logical facility for presenting the case on behalf of the taxpayers. I urge that we reject the attempt to remove that protection and pass the Proxmire amendment.
In the course of the debate some questions have been raised as to the position of State regulatory agencies with respect to the provision of law which we are discussing in the Proxmire amendment. I have some documentation on this score which I think ought to be made a part of the RECORD of this debate.
In November 1960 the National Association of Railroad and Utilities Commissioners convening in Las Vegas adopted a resolution entitled "Resolution Concerning the Unrestricted Intervention of the General Services Administration in the Jurisdiction of State and Federal Regulatory Commissions."
That resolution in effect would support the provision in H.R. 7445, which the Proxmire amendment would strike out. I think it is interesting to note that the resolution was opposed by several State regulatory agencies.
I should like to refer to an article which was published in the December 10, 1960, issue of "Traffic World." I read from that publication:
When Commissioner Peter E. Mitchell, of the California Public Utilities Commission (newly elected president of NARUC) as chairman of the executive committee, had finished reading the amended resolution on the GSA, he announced that he wished the record to show that he did not approve of it. He was joined in this disapproval by other State commissioners, including his fellow Californian, Commissioner Theodore H. Jenner; Commissioner Richard J. McMahon, of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, and Commissioner Ralph L. Fusco, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utility Commissioners.
The article comments on the action before the national association, as follows:
Commissioner McMahon, in support of the GSA and in opposition to the resolution, said the Federal agency had been helpful in certain water cases in Maine and that it had furnished the State commission technical information for the production of which the State did not have the necessary experts. He said the State preferred one central service representing the U.S. Government in proceedings.
Commissioner Jenner, in a vigorous presentation, said California opposed adoption of the GSA resolution and that its adoption would embarrass the Federal agency. In the west coast State, he said, the commission had permitted GSA appearances in many proceedings. It was the State commission's policy, he said, to recognize anyone who had a presentation to make, and the commission did not want to curb this right.
"Regulation in the United States," he declared, "is in its infancy and is a typical American institution based on private enterprise. If regulation does not work -- I emphasize that point -- it is one more step toward socialism. Regulation will not work unless we recognize this right of parties to appear before us.'
I have further documentation on this question in the form of a letter from Commissioner Richard J. McMahon of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which letter is dated April 7, 1961. In commenting on the resolutions to which I have been referring he said:
Why should a national association such as NARUC say that the agency representing the largest customer (GSA representing the Federal Government) of most utilities be restricted in their appearances and the type of evidence that they can submit before regulatory commissions?
Mr. McMahon offers the following answer to the question. He said:
This is basically a fight between American Telephone & Telegraph Co. and the Federal Government. In most regulatory commissions the commission policy is that anybody who has any complaints or evidence to offer is given his day and allowed to enter his appearance and have his say in opposition to any utility. In Maine we have listened to testimony by the hour from individuals who have had very little to offer in real substantial evidence but they have always been given their day in court before us. I don't think that any customer of any utility should be restricted in the type of evidence they wish to present and certainly it has been my experience that the Federal Government through GSA has never abused their right to appear.
GSA has appeared in Maine and helped the Maine commission with its preparation of evidence in the Bangor water case. We have worked with them in Presque Isle on water problems and they appeared on behalf of the Navy in the problems affecting the Brunswick Water District. In the last 2 years they have presented evidence in regard to the Air Force problems with American Telephone & Telegraph Co. on the rates affecting SAGE here in Maine.
I think it would be of interest for the purpose of the RECORD to have printed at this point Commissioner McMahon's account of what happened at the meeting of National Association of Railroad and Utilities Commissioners when the resolution was adopted in November of 1960.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The time of the Senator has expired.
Mr. MUSKIE. Madam President, may I have 2 additional minutes?
Mr. PROXMIRE. I yield 2 additional minutes to the Senator from Maine.
Mr. MUSKIE. He said:
When this resolution was adopted, there was only a voice vote. When the vote was taken there were several individuals standing, asking for a call of the States by roll call and by commission, but the president announced the results before he would recognize anybody on the floor. What he did -- he allowed a motion to reconsider, but that was voted down by voice vote, and he announced that result and moved on to the next resolution before anything could be done to determine what States and commissions were in favor of the adoption of this resolution. In the room at the time were possibly 100 commissioners representing most of the States and Federal commissions. Also, another 200 guests of the convention representing the affected industries of all the resolutions passed at that session were present.
It seems to me that this is important documentation as we consider the important, issue before the Senate. I hope the Senate will support the amendment of the distinguished Senator from Wisconsin [Mr. PROXMIRE].
Mr. CARROLL. Madam President, Will the Senator yield?
Mr. MUSKIE. I am happy to yield.
Mr. CARROLL. I have heard from the chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Colorado. He reaffirms in detail what the able Senator from Maine has said. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind what happened when the NARUC passed the resolution against the GSA. There was strong opposition to the NARUC resolution in its convention. The Colorado commission is on record as having opposed the NARUC Position.
This is not a large amount the administration has asked for to fight for fair utility rates. How much is it? $300,000?
Mr. MUSKIE. The Senator is correct
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The time of the Senator has expired.
Mr. CARROLL. Madam President, may I have an additional minute?
Mr. PROXMIRE. I yield 1 more minute.
Mr. CARROLL. Three hundred thousand dollars. This is an important agency representing the Government as a consumer and therefore the taxpayers of the United States. How would GSA use the money? It would use it to prepare briefs, to intervene in rate cases with arguments on the fairness of proposed rates. I should think Senators would want to save the taxpayers some money. This is an economy measure. What we will be doing by supporting this amendment will be to save money for the Government as a utility consumer and it is therefore in the interest of the taxpayers.
The Government spends $3 billion a year in utility payments. This is taxpayers' money. If $300,000 in GSA legal services can trim millions out of that $3 billion it is money well spent.
I cannot understand how any reasonable person dedicated to economy could object to the Proxmire amendment. I do not mean to cast any reflection on any Senator. We are entitled to our own motives. However, I do not see how it could be misunderstood. This is a measure that will help assure the Government of fair utility rates. It is in the public interest.
I commend the able Senator from Maine for calling to the attention of the Senate the wide division of opinion within the NARUC.
Mr. MUSKIE. I thank the Senator.
Mr. LAUSCHE. Madam President, will the Senator yield me some time?
Mr. PROXMIRE. I believe the opposition time has now arrived.