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CHAPTER XVII THE MISSING BILL
The all-night session of the House of Representatives and the dramatic passage of the Postal Savings bill had a stimulating effect upon all the members of Congress. There was no longer a disposition to lag, and the policy of marking time was abandoned in favor of the new programme of progress. As a consequence, committee meetings were being held in all parts of the Capitol and bills that had been slumbering for many months were taken from pigeon holes and given the consideration to which they were entitled.

On the third morning after the night session a notice went out that a meeting of the Committee on Naval Affairs would be held at four o'clock that afternoon, for the purpose of taking up the final consideration of the bills that were pending before the Committee.

[Pg 232]

The notice was like a call to arms to John Carlton. He sent out notices at once to the members of the Committee whom he knew to be friendly, asking them to make it a point to be present for the purpose of helping his bill. Barry happened to come in just about that time, and he utilized the boy in a number of ways.

"I know that you want to be on the field when this battle takes place," he said, laughingly. "I look on you as my mascot, and if we win you will get all the glory."

Barry protested, but Mr. Carlton humorously insisted that he must have his own way in matters of this kind.

There was no doubt about the interest in the Naval Repair Station bill. Copies of the measure had been printed some time before, but the demand for them was so great that the supply had already been exhausted. Several members called during the course of the morning and asked for duplicates of the bill,[Pg 233] but Mr. Carlton was unable to accommodate them.

Just about noon time Mr. Benedict, one of his close friends, entered the office and said in a mysterious way:

"John, I hear that your bill is coming up for consideration today?"

"That's correct," was the response, "and I hope you'll be on hand."

"Sure," was the response, "but see here, I heard last night that some change had been made in the phraseology of the Act. If that is so, it will have to go over to be printed and that will cause a delay of at least two weeks in your bill."

"I think you must be mistaken," was the reply. "The bill was in perfect shape at the last meeting of the Committee, and I am positive that no amendments of any kind were offered."

"That may be," was the response, "but if I were in your place I'd make sure of it."

[Pg 234]

Carlton thought that this was good advice, and he summoned Barry to his side.

"My boy," he said, "I want you to go over to the headquarters of the Committee on Naval Affairs. You'll find Mr. Joel Phipps, the Committee clerk, in charge. Tell him I want to see the Committee's copy of the Naval Station bill."

Barry hurried off at once. He found the room without any difficulty. Joel Phipps was there very busily engaged with several Congressmen. Barry had to wait his turn and finally when the clerk was at leisure, explained his mission. Phipps did not take his visit kindly; in fact, he was distinctly disagreeable.

"I am too busy to bother with matters of this kind today," he said.

"Shall I give that message to Mr. Carlton," cried Barry, in a challenging tone.

"No," was the grumbling reply. "Just sit down there and I'll find the bill for you."

He dug down amongst the papers and finally fished out the desired document. He handed[Pg 235] it to the boy with very bad grace, and then turned to attend to the wants of several other visitors who had arrived in the meantime. Barry felt very angry at Joel Phipps, but he was forced to admit that the clerk was an extremely busy man, and that probably there was some justification for his irritation. A man that has to attend to a dozen things within as many minutes can scarcely be blamed if he is not blessed with an angelic temperament.

Carlton read the bill over very carefully and found that it was flawless. He handed it back to Barry.

"Leave it with the clerk of the Committee when you go to your lunch," he said. "It's all a false alarm. The bill is all right."

For the next two or three hours Mr. Carlton found his time fully occupied. He had a large mail to answer, and after that he attended a Committee meeting. As soon as he had finished he hastened to attend the regular session of the House. At half-past three he looked at his watch and realized that he would[Pg 236] have to leave his seat if he expected to get a bite of lunch before the meeting of the Committee on Naval Affairs. On the way out he was stopped by one or two friends who wanted him to do favors for them.

The clock was striking four when the Congressman entered the room occupied by the Committee; the Chairman had just summoned the members to order, and the clerk was engaged in calling the roll. While these preliminaries were going on John Carlton made a hasty count of noses. He found that there were seventeen members present, and by a careful calculation he felt sure that at least ten of these would vote in favor of the Cleverly bill. To make sure of it, he quietly slipped around from one to the other and confirmed his first estimate. The clerk had finished the roll call, and the Congressman arose in his seat with a great deal of confidence.

"Mr. Chairman," he said, "I move that the Committee now take up for consideration the[Pg 237] bill making an appropriation for a Naval Repair Station at Cleverly."

"The members have heard the motion," said the presiding officer, "all in favor will please say aye."

There was a chorus of ayes, and the Chairman declared the motion carried. "The clerk of the Committee," he said, "will now read the bill."

Joel Phipps turned to the pile of papers in front of him and began turning them over one by one. He reached the bottom of the heap without discovering the Cleverly bill. Then he turned them over and went through the pile again, very carefully and very painstakingly. A look of perplexity gathered on his face. The members were becoming impatient. The Chairman seemed to voice the opinion of his colleagues.

"The clerk will read the bill," he said, curtly.

"In a moment, sir," said Phipps, in an agitated voice.

He continued to fumble among the [Pg 238]documents on his desk. He looked very much embarrassed. He moistened his lips with his tongue and then looked about the room helplessly.

"Well," demanded John Carlton, "why don't you read the bill?"

"I am sorry to say that I can't find it."

"How is that?"

"I don't know, sir; but I can't put my hand on it."

"Well," said Carlton, addressing the Chairman, "I have a typewritten copy of the measure in my pocket, and if the Chairman is agreeable, I will have that read in place of the original bill."

Jesse Hudson was on his feet in an instant.

"I object," he shouted. "I object to this method of doing business. We have very important matters to consider before this Committee and we cannot afford to transact them in an irregular and possibly an illegal manner. The only bills that this Committee has a right to consider are the bills that are in its custody.[Pg 239] If you permit the members to substitute other bills at their pleasure, no one can tell where it will lead nor what the consequence may be."

"But," persisted Carlton, "the bill that I am going to hand you is identical with the one that was in the possession of the Committee."

"That may be," was Hudson's smooth retort, "but it is not the identical bill that was before the Committee. I object to its consideration."

His remarks appeared to have made some impression upon the members of the Committee. Indeed, one of the Congressmen, who was known to be friendly to Carlton, arose in his place and said:

"I think there is some merit in what Mr. Hudson says. At any rate it will do no harm to postpone this matter until the public printer can supply the Committee with another copy of the bill."

"Am I to regard that as a motion?" queried the Chairman.

"Yes, sir," was the response.

[Pg 240]

"The members have heard the motion," said the Chairman, "all in favor of postponing the consideration of the Cleverly bill for the present will say aye."

There was a loud chorus of ayes.

"All those who oppose it, say no."

A few scattered voices called out "no."

"The ayes have it," said the Chairman, "and the motion to postpone is carried."

Carlton was plainly nettled at the turn of affairs. He turned to the clerk angrily and said:

"I think it's the business of the clerk to take care of the papers of the Committee, and I think it is a great mistake to make a member of Congress and his constituents suffer from the negligence of an employé."

Joel Phipps became white in the face. At this unexpected thrust, however, he had the courage to rise behind his desk, and said:

"I am very sorry the bill was lost, but it's[Pg 241] not my fault. The members of the Committee unfortunately have gotten into the habit of taking away papers without obtaining the permission of the Chairman or without giving a receipt for the same. Several of them have done this during the past few days, and Mr. Carlton, I regret to say, is one of the chief offenders."

Mr. Carlton gave a half laugh.

"I guess you're right, Joel," he said, "and I will have to plead guilty."

Nevertheless he left the room in a very dissatisfied frame of mind. The measure in which he was so deeply interested had been thrown back for at least two weeks. That was not the worst feature of the case, either. He had enough votes now to pass the bill. He might not have them when the bill came up for consideration again. The thought rankled in his mind and gave him a disagreeable feeling towards his fellow creatures. As he reached the door of the Committee Room a reporter from one of the Cleverly newspapers, who had[Pg 242] heard of the disappearance of the bill, stopped the Congressman and asked him what comments he had to make.

"It's a mighty queer piece of business," was Carlton's reply. "That's all I have got to say."


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