For AP Students who were’t paying attention during the movie and who are googling what mistakes Sauders made when describing how a bill becomes a law to Jeff Smith in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
(laughing a little)
Oh—dinner. Yes. Well, I’m hungry,
too. I thought—maybe—we could have
something brought in—you know, like
big executives who eat off trays.
You see, we’ve got to light into
this and get it going—
Uh-huh. Well, dinner comes in on
trays. We’re executives. And we light
into this. It is dawn. Your Bill is
ready. You go over there and introduce
You get to your feet in the Senate
and present it. Then you take the
Bill and put it in a little box—
like a letter box—on the side of
the rostrum. Just hold it between
thumb and forefinger and drop it in.
Clerks read it and refer it to the
That’s how Congress—or any large
body—is run. All work has to be
done by committee.
Look—committees—small groups of
Senators—have to sift a Bill down—
look into it—study it—and report
to the whole Senate. You can’t take
a Bill no one knows anything about
and discuss it among ninety-six men.
Where would you get?
Yes, I see that.
Good. Where are we?
Some committee’s got it.
Yes. They give it to a *sub*-
committee, where they really give it
a going over—hold hearings—call in
people and ask questions—then report
back to the bigger committee—where
it’s considered some more, changed,
amended, or whatever. Days are going
by, Senator. Days—weeks. Finally,
they think it’s quite a Bill. It
goes over to the House of
Representatives for debate and a
vote. *But* it’s got to wait its
turn on the calendar—
That’s the order of business. Your
Bill has to stand *way* back there
in line unless the Steering Committee
decides it is important enough to be—
The Steering Committee.
Do you really think we’re getting
Yes. Sure. What’s a Steering
A committee of the majority party
leaders. They decide when a Bill is
important enough to be moved up toward
the head of the list—
Pardon me—*this* is. Where are we
We’re over in the House.
Yes. House. More amendments—more
changes—and the Bill goes back to
the Senate—and *waits its turn on
the calendar again*. The Senate
doesn’t like what the house did to
the Bill. They make more changes.
The House doesn’t like *those*
changes. Stymie. So they appoint men
from each house to go into a huddle
called a conference and battle it
out. Besides that, all the lobbyists
interested give cocktail parties for
and against—government departments
get in their two cents’ worth—cabinet
Finally, if the Bill is alive after
all this vivisection, it comes to a
vote. Yes, sir—the big day finally
arrives. And—nine times out of ten,
they vote it down.
(Taking a deep breath)
Are you catching on, Senator?
Yes. Shall we start on it right now—
or order dinner first?
(mouth drops open)
I said—shall we get started *now*
Yes—sure. Why not?
(Then, very tired)
You don’t mind if I take the time to
get a pencil?
She turns mechanically and heads for the outer office.
Remember, that omitting a detail is not necessarily a mistake. Saunders was summarizing.