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17 J. Pub. L. 103 (1968)
A Commentary on the Constitutional Issues in the Powell and Related Cases

handle is hein.journals/emlj17 and id is 105 raw text is: A COMMENTARY ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES IN THE
P. Allan Dionisopoulos*t
IN REFUSING TO SEAT Adam Clayton Powell in 1967 a substantial por-
tion of the House of Representatives felt that authority for such action is
found both in provisions of the Constitution and in precedents. Apparently
it was for the purpose of convincing the academic community that this
action was sanctioned by the Constitution and by precedents that Minority
Leader Ford circulated reprints of two of his House speeches to members
of the American Political Science Association in the spring of 1967.1
But these claims of Ford and others do not tell the whole story. They do
not reveal, for example, how many Congressmen adhere to a contrary
position on the constitutional question, nor do they reflect the disagreement
which has generally attended an incident of the House or Senate denying
membership to a Congressman-elect.
There do appear to be enough precedents, just from the 20th century,
to support the House in the Powell case. Thus, those who wanted to
exclude Powell could cite Brigham Roberts, Reed Smoot, Victor Berger,
William Langer and Theodore Bilbo as Congressmen whose conduct was
judged by the House or Senate. And even though exclusionary efforts did
not succeed in all instances (Smoot and Langer), -the very act of accepting
jurisdiction and the debates in those two cases indicate that most Members
of the Senate believed that they had jurisdiction over such matters and
authority to deny membership to each man.2
On the other hand, and despite these precedents and the certainty with
which congressional leaders claim constitutional authority, there is a con-
- Professor of Political Science, Northern Illinois University.
t Financial support for this study was made possible by a grant from the Council
of Deans, Northern Illinois University.
1 A reprint, We defend the People's House, contained two of Representative
Ford's speeches, March 1 and March 9, 1967, and which originally appeared for
those dates in 113 CONG. REc. H. 1940 & H. 2399 (daily ed. Mar. 1 & 9, 1967).
2 The Smoot case lasted for several years and was finally disposed of, when the
Senate voted down a resolution declaring him not entitled to membership. 41 CoNG.
REc. 3428 (1907). The question about William Langer's eligibility was raised when
he presented his credentials on January 3, 1941, 87 CONG. REc. 3 (1941), and was
finally disposed of in March 1942. 88 CONG. Rnc. 2402 (1942).

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