215. 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 concern, and in the spirit of compromise I have drafted something. [Page 761] 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 Seante. 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.

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

[Page 762]

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. Schweiker5 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 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.

[Page 763]

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.6 We will, I hope. The House will.

President: Peter [Brennan]7 said he would do his best.

Jackson: I am trying to calm labor down. Meany and Abel8 are both uptight. 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.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 5. Top Secret. The meeting, held in the Oval Office, began at 10:20 and concluded at 11 a.m. The President’s Daily Diary does not list Scowcroft as one of the attendees. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)
  2. Document 213.
  3. On September 19, the Senate voted against a proposal backed by President Ford that would have deferred the implementation of Federal employee pay raises for 3 months.
  4. On September 15, Soviet authorities demolished an outdoor art exhibition in Moscow with bulldozers and trucks.
  5. Senator Richard Schweiker(R–Pennsylvania).
  6. Nelson Rockefeller’s confirmation as Vice President was pending before Congress.
  7. Brackets are in the original.
  8. Iorwith Wilbur Abel was President of the United Steelworkers of America.