140. Minutes of a Cabinet Meeting1


Monday, February 6, 1978

The fortieth meeting of the Cabinet was called to order by the President at 9:01 a.m., Monday, February 6, 1978. All Cabinet members were present except Ms. Harris, who was represented by HUD Under Secretary Jay Janis. Other persons present were:

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Joe Aragon John Kester
John Blake Bob Lipshutz
(for Stansfield Turner) Bunny Mitchell
Barbara Blum Frank Moore
Peter Bourne Esther Peterson
Zbigniew Brzezinski Dick Pettigrew
Midge Costanza Frank Press
Hugh Carter Charlie Schultze
Stu Eizenstat Jay Solomon
Jane Frank Charles Warren
Rex Granum John White
Richard Harden Jack Watson

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

10. The Vice President said that debate on the Panama Canal treaties begins in the Senate on Wednesday.2 He said that the issue is “fundamental to the Carter Presidency” and that “losing would be a disaster.” There are still ten to twenty undecided votes; he urged each Cabinet member to review a list of the undecided Senators with Frank Moore to see if they could be of any help.

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

19. The President said that the vote on the Panama Canal treaties is critically important to the Administration. He asked several Cabinet members to stay after the meeting to discuss ways they might help in discussing the matter with key, undecided Senators. He noted that we have climbed from a position of virtually no support for the treaties to a slight plurality. He has personally attended more than twenty briefings at the White House with various groups from around the country. In addition to the Administration’s efforts, key people from the business community and state and local government are now advocating ratification of the treaties with various Senators.3 He noted that former President Ford and former Secretary of State Kissinger are helping with Republican Senators. Despite all these efforts, there are still too many undecided votes.

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—The Vice President noted that the fight may be long. The Senate procedures for ratifying treaties are archaic and give every advantage to opponents.

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC: 330–81–0202, 337 Cabinet (Jan-June) 1978. No classification marking. The meeting ended at 11:05 a.m. A stamped notation on the document indicates it was received by Brown on February 10.
  2. February 8.
  3. A November 30, 1977, memorandum from Aragon to Jordan listed the efforts of Carter and other members of the administration in support of the treaties, including personal briefings of over 1,000 leaders from 25 states, personal briefings of the heads of 70 national women’s organizations and personal briefings by Carter of over 250 key editors and news directors. (Carter Library, Congressional Liaison Office, Jeff Neuchterlein Subject Files, Box 237, (Panama Canal Treaty Negotiations, 1/3/77–4/2/77 (CF, O/A 193))