Jefferson Smith (Jimmy
Stewart), a small town patriot, gets appointed to the U.S. Senate by
the political machine in his state whose masterminds think they can control
him. Upon arriving in Washington, the new senator is so enthralled at his
first visit to the nation's capital that he decides to go sightseeing.
"I don't think I've ever been so thrilled in my whole
life, and that Lincoln Memorial! Gee Whiz! And Mr. Lincoln, there he is.
He's just lookin' right straight at ya as you come up those steps. Just,
just sitting there like he was waiting for somebody to come along."--
a film clip of Senator
Smith's first press conference.
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Senator Smith and his worldly-wise secretary, Miss Saunders
(Jean Arthur) prepare to
write a bill sponsoring a National Boys Camp to be situated in Smith's
Saunders Explains to Senator Smith the Legislative Process:
Saunders: Well... a senator has a bill in mind
like your camp, right?
Saunders: Fine. Now what does he do? He has
to sit down first and write it up: the why, when, where, how and everything
else. Now that takes time.
Smith: Well this one's so simple.
Oh, I see. This one's simple...
Smith: Yeah, and with your help...
Saunders: Oh, I'm helping. Yeah... Simple and
I'm helping so we knock it off in record breaking time of, let's say, three,
Smith: Oh a day!
Saunders: A day?!
Yes. Just tonight.
Saunders: Tonight... I don't want to seem like
I'm complaining, Senator, but in all civilized countries there's an institution
Smith: Oh... I'm sort of hungry myself. Well,
couldn't we sort of have some stuff brought in on trays... you know, like
big executives or something?
Saunders: Oh sure.... Okay.... Dinner comes
in...on trays. We're big executives. We light into this...
Smith: ...and we finish the bill before morning!
Saunders: Yeah... It's dawn. Your bill is ready.
You take it over there and introduce it.
You get to your feet in the Senate,
take a long breath, and start spouting, but not too loud because a couple
of the Senators might want to sleep. Then a curly-headed page boy takes
it up to the desk where a long-faced clerk reads it, refers it to the right
Smith: Committee huh?
Saunders: Look, committees ...small groups
of Senators have to sit the bill down, look into it, study it and report
to the whole Senate. You can't take a bill nobody ever heard about and
discuss it among ninety-six men. Where would you get?
Smith: Yeah. I see that.
Saunders: Good. Now where are we?
Smith: Some committee's got it.
Saunders: Oh yeah....Now 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 has to wait
it's turn on the calendar
Smith: Calendar huh?
Saunders: Yeah...That's the order of business.
Your bill has to stand way back there in line unless the steering committee
thinks it's important.
Smith: What's that?
Smith: Steering committee.
Saunders: ...Do you really think we're getting
Smith: Oh yes, Miss Saunders. Now tell me,
what's the steering committee?
Saunders: 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.
Smith: Well, this is!
Saunders: Pardon me...this is...Where are we
Smith: We're over in the House.
Saunders: Oh yeah, House. More amendments,
more changes and the bill goes back to the Senate. If the Senate doesn't
like what the House did to the bill, they make more changes. If the House
doesn't like those changes, stymied.
Saunders: So they appoint men from each House
to go into a huddle called a conference and they battle it out. Finally,
if your bill is still alive after all this vivisection, it comes to a vote.
Yes sir, the big day finally arrives........... and Congress adjourns.
Catching on, Senator?
Smith: Uh huh....... Shall we start on it right
away or order dinner first?