35. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President
  • Senator Henry Jackson
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

President: It’s now down to the last stakes. I appreciate your letter2 and I have asked Secretary Kissinger to study your suggestion.

The practical problem we face as Americans is that we both want the Trade Bill and Jewish Emigration as high as possible. I think we face two alternatives; one is very good and one is very bad. The worst is if there is no Trade Bill—we would not be able to negotiate with other nations around the world—and to have Jewish emigration turned off. The best thing is the Trade Bill and emigration without harassment with a friendly attitude from the Soviets.

Kissinger: And this you could confirm again with Gromyko.

President: I have had it from Brezhnev through Dobrynin and will do it this morning.

We would have the right to negotiate and to give them MFN without the uncertainty as to what Congress will do substantively and procedurally. But there are smart people up there who can use parliamentary details to stall things. Yours is complicated and highly technical and people would invariably take advantage of it.

The furthest I can go is to submit a report each year straight from the shoulder. If it isn’t up to standard I will cut it off, but if I don’t, Congress could come with an affirmative vote that the report is not adequate.

Jackson: The ExIm Bank has passed the information around saying we can have credits without the Trade Bill.

To go back a moment, after I sent the letter I went to the Parliamentarian and I think I have a rascal-proof arrangement. I know your con[Page 93]cern, and in the spirit of compromise I have drafted something. What this could change is to have our expiration date of April 1, 1976—that would give you a full 18 months. We have limited debate, etc., and provided for a final debate by which it must be voted up or down. This would force adjudication by the House and Senate. I think this would do it. Labor is out to kill the bill, and they will do it if we don’t retain some authority.

The only other item is the length of time they can delay in “national security” cases. I would like to have it three years but I could go to four.

Kissinger: The Soviet Union has said it wouldn’t be more than one percent of the total. I mentioned three years to them and they haven’t answered.

Jackson: Let’s leave it at three. I suggest we sit down and hammer out this draft. We must retain some authority. I’ve gone as far as I can. I am under pressure. I agree there must be a final date for action.

President: That gets back to this: If they modify the rules to accommodate this, they can change the rules back. I can’t veto rules changes. I would have nothing to say about rules.

The Congress would have control under our proposal. They can move in in a set period to veto my recommendation. Look what happened yesterday on the pay matter.3 I want to make both Houses veto, but I will accept a one-House veto but can’t accept affirmative action by Congress. That produces too much uncertainty and indecision.

To show our flexibility, I would accept a one-House veto. I am going a long way by this. Look what they did yesterday. This shows they can certainly do it on MFN. You can be guaranteed a veto and I will go half way and say only one House. This is an established procedure. Congress understands and accepts this way.

Jackson: I want to get it settled. Look at the Soviet Union running bulldozers through the art exhibit.4 I see trouble ahead on this. I see clashes, and the question of duress, and harassment. I see problems for both of us.

Kissinger: I agree with Scoop.

President: You could have a hell of a speech defending my plan and using the example of yesterday.

[Page 94]

Jackson: We need more than one half the Congress on ExIm.5 We took away the veto.

Kissinger: The ceiling bothered us more than the veto.

Jackson: We really worked on this; we had a terrible time. We took out the veto. You have to submit it to the Senate. That veto really would have limited your flexibility. Another would have killed the whole thing. Schweiker6 wanted the going interest rate. The mood is bad and I must deal with it. What we need to finish in the draft is a final date certain. I see complaints that we have delegated our authority. It is a question of the will of Congress. I understand your position, but I think you are in need of having your hand strengthened by my proposal.

President: I don’t mind the heat. I’ll take it when I submit the report with my recommendation. Congress would keep control. Look at the pay thing. All I can do is recommend. Congress has negated what I proposed. This is an established procedure and it works. It guarantees a veto and, following this concept, insures that we don’t put something over on you.

Jackson: Our concern in the Senate is retaining control. This would give an 18-month trial period; we have protected the credits, and I think we should give my plan a trial. We are so close to a solution.

President: I agree, and we could end up with the worst of both.

Jackson: The feeling on credits in this country is really bad; with the credit situation in this country. Word of the projects proposed would really rile the country. It cuts party lines across the board. The Soviet Union will get credits, and then this bulldozer thing.

Kissinger: You will see Schmidt offering large credits when he goes to Moscow.

Jackson: There is a gap between us and Europe. They can’t get our technical forces in Europe.

President: I would hate to have this collapse over the Soviet Union and credits when we need it for broader progress. We can control the [Page 95] credits. Don’t forget the Soviet Union can turn off emigration tomorrow.

Jackson: The Soviet Union is in deep economic trouble. We have the chips—the gap between us in science, technology, and business management. It is terrible.

Kissinger: But that is not remedied by any amount of help. You know, their system requires them to specify production goals of, say, locomotives by weight or by number. They base everything on quotas, and so they produce as little as possible to keep quota low, and they stockpile materials.

Jackson: They still have terrible agricultural problems.

I have tried to get movement with this proposal. Let me think over the weekend if there is anything else we can do.

Kissinger: It would be good to do it while Gromyko is here.

Jackson: I hope we can act. We ought to act on Rockefeller too.7 We will, I hope. The House will.

President: Peter [Brennan]8 said he would do his best.

Jackson: I am trying to calm labor down. Meany and Abel9 are both up tight. It is a Commie issue. The clothing workers—that affects Javits. They want a Congressional tether.

President: Why don’t you take credit for having it so that it only takes action by just one House?

Jackson: That isn’t really the issue. Most of them think the Soviet Union just can’t do those things and they want a short string on it. I think we’ll have problems—not with people who get headlines—but the little people.

President: But they can turn it on and off. They will be tough if one doesn’t take some affirmative action.

Jackson: Tell Gromyko I played a key role in keeping out with the veto on credits. The credits are what matters—MFN is just face. This gives you the opportunity to negotiate with the Soviet Union.

President: Please think it over. We have made a big concession.

Jackson: I think I have too. We will talk over the weekend.10

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 5. Top Secret. Brackets are in the original. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Ford met with Jackson and Kissinger until 11 a.m. (Ibid., White House Office Files)
  2. See the attachment to Document 33.
  3. On September 19, the Senate rejected the President’s proposal to combat inflation by delaying for 3 months a pay increase for Federal government employees.
  4. On September 15, Soviet officials used bulldozers and other vehicles to disperse an unauthorized outdoor exhibit of non-conformist art in Moscow.
  5. In a memorandum to Kissinger on September 17, Linwood Holton, Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations, reported that Jackson and other Senators had reached agreement on draft legislation to authorize an extension of the Export-Import Bank, abandoning a Congressional veto on credits but imposing a $300 million sub-ceiling on loans to the Soviet Union for two years. “It is our judgment,” Holton concluded, “that this is the best we can hope for out of the Senate and, in fact, is better than we expected to get. We retain our freedom of action in the conference and are strengthened by the fact that the House conferees are well disposed toward our position. There is a reasonable chance, for example, that the sub-ceiling for the Soviet Union can be dropped in the conference.” (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 8, Trade Bill, Sept–Dec 1974) The Senate passed the legislation on September 19.
  6. Senator Richard S. Schweiker (Republican, Pennsylvania).
  7. On August 20, Ford nominated Nelson A. Rockefeller, Governor of New York, to be his Vice President. After extended hearings in Congress, the Senate approved the nomination on December 11; the House on December 19. Rockefeller was sworn in later that day.
  8. Secretary of Labor.
  9. I. W. Abel, President of the United Steel Workers of America.
  10. No record of a meeting has been found.