Federal File: Maturity; Legislative Humor

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A record 14 members of the Congress made at least a brief appearance last week at the Committee for Education Funding's sixth annual dinner celebration, which was also the group's most successful fundraising affair to date.

The maturing of the umbrella lobbying organization was also evident in an elaborately printed program and a new banner above the speaker's podium.

This year, awards were bestowed on three Democrats: Senator Tim Wirth of Colorado, Representative William D. Ford of Michigan, and John Brademas, a former representative from Indiana.

Mr. Ford, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, earned the most appreciative response with some typically partisan humor.

"This could only happen in America," he said after a glowing introduction by Edward M. Elmendorf, a former assistant secretary for post-secondary education who now handles government relations for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

"You wouldn't know that I met him when he was one of the thugs in the Reagan Administration," Mr. Ford said.

Mr. Ford noted that when the Higher Education Act was created, President Johnson told lawmakers a $600-million bill was not big enough to be taken seriously.

President Nixon "didn't say he wasn't for education, but the budgets weren't," Mr. Ford said. "Now we have an improvement: speeches for education and budgets that are still against it."

Mr. Ford added a jibe at his own reputation for long-windedness, holding up a sheaf of paper and remarking: "i'm not even a quarter of the way through here."

The evenings other big laugh was generated by Representative William H. Natcher, the Kentucky Democrat who is chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education spending. Mr. Nateher, who already has a wall of awards from the C.E.F., introduced Mr. Brademas this year, but mostly poked fun at his own considerable longevity.

When he is asked about the daily journal he has kept faithfully in his 38 years in the House, the 82-year-old Mr. Natcher said, "I tell them I'm on volume 53 now and when it gets up to 100, I'm going to decide to go back to Kentucky."

"In the beginning, I couldn't even see the chairman" of the Appropriations Committee, said Mr. Natcher, who is now second in seniority. "Now I sit next to him and I ask him, 'Mr. Chairman, how do you feel today?"---J.M.

Vol. 11, Issue 05, Page 23

Published in Print: October 2, 1991, as Federal File: Maturity; Legislative Humor
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