John F. Kennedy photo

Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy, San Francisco, CA, Airport

September 03, 1960

Senator KENNEDY. I want to thank the Governor for being here, and I will be glad to answer any questions anyone will have.

QUESTION. Senator, the Republicans have cited this just ended session of Congress as an example of, according to them, your inability to push through your own legislation, even with a majority in both Houses. Will you comment on that?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I think that the session of Congress--

QUESTION. Will you repeat the question?

Senator KENNEDY. I don't like to repeat it, but I will. [Laughter.] The Republicans have cited this session of Congress, according to the questioner, and I think accurately, as an example of my inability to put through our program. My answer to that is that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put through any program, particularly if the program is controversial and new, if the opposing party uses all of the parliamentary devices that are available to Members of the House and Senate, and if we are opposed by the President of the United States.

Now, in the case of medical care for the aged, as I said in my statement, being tied to social security, which I thought was extremely important, as you know in the Senate we secured the support of only one Republican, and we were informed by the minority leader, Mr. Dirksen, when the matter came to a vote, that if we passed social security, it would be vetoed by the President.

In the case of the $1.25 minimum wage, which was my bill, which we did pass in the Senate by a vote of 2 to 1, we failed in the conference with the House, after Mr. Dirksen, the minority leader, announced that the President of the United States would veto any bill that had $1.25 minimum wage. There were two other bills that I thought of importance. One was the housing bill and one was the aid to education. Both of those bills were tied up in the Rules Committee. Of the four members, Republican members of the Rules Committee, not one of the four members would vote to permit those bills to come to the floor of the House. We had passed both of those bills in the U.S. Senate.

Now, there isn't any doubt in my mind that if the President of the United States states he is going to veto a bill, if the minority party associates completely with that effort to block it, in a short bobtail session, it is possible to hold up or emasculate any controversial piece of legislation. So I feel that this session has indicated that the Republican Party is not fit to lead the United States in a very difficult and dangerous and revolutionary time; that it is committed to the status quo, that it is opposed to all of these programs, which involve, I think, very basic necessities for the American people. That is the experience which we had in the August session. If the American people do not want action in the next session of Congress, then I think they should vote for the Republicans.

QUESTION. Senator, are you saying, then, that this program could have been put through Congress if there had been a Democratic or favorable President?

Senator KENNEDY. I am completely convinced of it. As I said, we did secure the passage in the Senate of the minimum wage 2 to 1, which was a bill that I sponsored. We missed on medical care for the aged in the Senate only by five votes. We missed passing $1.25 an hour minimum wage in the House. A change of five votes in the House would have given us $1.25. So we came very close. It was with the threat of a veto hanging over any piece of legislation that does not fit the Republican program that it is extremely difficult to pass legislation.

QUESTION. Senator, I understand that the Governor said the other day he expected you to win in California by approximately the same margin by which he won in 1958, roughly 1,100,000. Would you comment on your prospects in California

Senator KENNEDY. I would say that the Governor is being kind and generous. I don't expect to match his record at all. I think there is going to be a very hard fight in the State of California. I hope that we are going to win. I will be very happy if we do win. But I appreciate what the Governor said. But he knows California better than I do. However, I think he may have been optimistic.

QUESTION. Do you have any comment on the Southern States, how you think Johnson will help you at all?

Senator KENNEDY. I think we are going to have a hard fight. I would say the fight is going to be hard in all parts of the United States. I look with some hope for the election, but I think that many of the Southern States are going to have a close contest. The Vice President has been down there, and has gotten a warm reception. Senator Goldwater has been campaigning effectively in several Southern States. Of course, he has been taking a position entirely different from the position which has been taken by the Republican platform and the Democratic platform.

We are going to have a formidable fight, I would say, in the Southern States. I think we will be successful finally.

QUESTION. Do you think you will carry all of them?

Senator KENNEDY. I would not make a guess on that.

QUESTION. What was the question?

Senator KENNEDY. The question was, Do I think we will carry all of them and I said "I could not make a judgment on that at this time. I have not been down South yet."

QUESTION. Senator, what would you do as President in regard to Mr. Khrushchev's forthcoming visit to the United States?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I would make a judgment which only the President of the United States can make as to whether he should attend, himself. This session is going to he extremely important. There are a good number of African nations which are going to be seated in the United Nations. Mr. Khrushchev has stated that he is going to make a special appeal to them. We are going to have a discussion of disarmament. But I do think that in the final analysis that the President should make a judgment as to whether he should attend the United Nations. I think it would be a mistake for anyone lacking his responsibility to attempt to advise him.

QUESTION. Senator, if you were the President, what would you do about it? Would you attend?

Senator KENNEDY. My judgment is that I would attend, but I would not attempt to advise the President or criticize him for not attending. I think in the final analysis he should make the judgment.

QUESTION. Would you attend at the time Khrushchev was there or would you wait until later?

Senator KENNEDY. Well, I think I would have made my decision probably - I don't think I would tie my decision to Mr. Khrushchev's decision, but I do think that this is going to be an extremely important session of the United Nations. I do think that the United Nations is going to represent a stronger, even in spite of its difficulties in the Congo and perhaps because of them - is going to represent a stronger force for peace than it has in the past, I would like to see the United States, therefore, associate itself as strongly as it can with the efforts of the United Nations and give it the support it can. I would not go there to respond in a debate to Mr. Khrushchev. I would not attempt to make a summit meeting out of the United Nations.

I would feel that we should use every means at our command to indicate to the members of the United Nations the great hopes we have of it, and the confidence we have in it. I do want to make it clear, however, that this is a matter that involves a Presidential decision, and if he decides differently I would not criticize that.

QUESTION. Senator Kennedy, I have a rather disagreeable question. Do you feel that the anti-Catholic literature and statements appearing throughout the Nation are being either inspired or encouraged by State or National Republican officials?

Senator KENNEDY. I have no idea of what is the source of these and, having no idea, I would not attempt to lay them at anyone's door.

QUESTION. Senator, do you plan to return to San Francisco during the campaign?

Senator KENNEDY. I do. I think we will spend probably more time in California than any other State of the Union.

QUESTION. Thank you, Senator.


John F. Kennedy, Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy, San Francisco, CA, Airport Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives