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MINETA, Norman Y.

MINETA, Norman Y.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
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Thirty years after being imprisoned by the United States government because of the happenstance of his ancestry, Norman Y. Mineta helped change forever the inner workings of the United States House of Representatives. Over a 20-year career in the House, the San Jose Congressman worked to make the federal lawmaking process more accountable. From the federal budget to the nation’s highway system, Mineta and his generation of reform-minded legislators redefined expectations on Capitol Hill. With the moral authority derived from having been unjustly incarcerated as a child, Mineta convinced Congress to address wartime internment and helped the country understand the sins of its past.

Norman Yoshio Mineta was born in San Jose, California, on November 12, 1931, the youngest of five children, to Kunisaku and Kane Mineta. His father, Kunisaku, had arrived from Japan by himself as a teenager 29 years earlier, finding work in a number of jobs before saving up enough money to start his own insurance business in San Jose.1 Mineta’s family settled in the heart of the city’s largely Japanese neighborhood. Because California law prevented Asian immigrants from owning property in the state, a local attorney held the house in his name until he signed everything over to Mineta’s eldest sister, who was a U.S. citizen by birth, when she turned 21.2

Growing up, Mineta attended the San Jose public schools, and every day after class he spent an hour learning Japanese. Over dinner the Minetas would discuss the day’s events, and at night their neighbors would often come over to talk about issues facing the community. “My dad was the breadwinner, the community leader, the father who encouraged all of us to participate in community activities,” Mineta later remembered. His mother, Kane, was equally active in San Jose’s social life, serving on the Parent-Teacher Association, volunteering with the church, and raising money for the American Red Cross.3

But the San Jose community his parents had nurtured was ripped apart on December 7, 1941, when Japan bombed the American military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Federal officials panicked and ordered the U.S. military to relocate 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the mainland to prison camps often hundreds of miles away from their homes.4

Within six months after Pearl Harbor, the government had suspended the Minetas’ business license, seized their bank accounts, and moved them out of San Jose. Neighbors disappeared. Mineta’s father worried he would never see his family or his home again. Dressed in his Cub Scout uniform, Mineta and his parents were first sent to the Santa Anita racetrack outside Los Angeles, forced to live in small barracks and shower near the horse stables. Even as a boy, Mineta felt the heavy weight of injustice, questioning the presence of armed guards. In the fall of 1942, the government moved the Minetas to a new site in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, their home for the next three years. It was cold and cramped, but they carved out some semblance of a community.5

After the war, the Minetas returned to San Jose and began the arduous task of rebuilding their lives. Slowly they and their neighbors reopened businesses and, as the Congressman said years later, “[regained] our standing in the community.” They worked to move on from their imprisonment, focusing their energy on the future. Mineta estimated that it took 20 years for his community to recapture what it had lost in 1942.6 Sixty years later, he was asked if his internment influenced his decision to go into public service. “No question it did,” he replied.7

Back home, Mineta enrolled at San Jose High School and served as student body president during his senior year. He stayed close to home for college, graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1953 before serving three years as an Army intelligence officer during the Korean War.8 When he returned to San Jose, Mineta joined his father’s insurance firm and began exploring a possible entry into local politics.9 Mineta had two sons, David and Stuart, with his first wife. When he married his second wife, Danealia, the Congressman welcomed two stepsons, Bob and Mark Brantner.

Early in his life, Mineta had been a staunch Republican. After all, he later said, “It was the damn Democrats that stuck us in those damn camps.”10 But in the 1960s, Mineta grew frustrated with the GOP’s approach to the great social issues of the day and left the party.11 From 1962 to 1964, Mineta served on San Jose’s human relations commission, and from 1966 to 1967, he sat on the board of directors of the city’s housing authority. That year he jumped to the city council, where he served double duty as vice mayor from 1968 to 1971.12

In the spring of 1971, Mineta entered a crowded 15-candidate field to succeed San Jose’s outgoing mayor. Mineta’s career in local government gave him wide name recognition, and he won the support of a number of San Jose’s service organizations. In the two decades since Mineta finished college, San Jose and surrounding Santa Clara County had transformed from farm country into a textbook case of suburban sprawl. Its population had tripled, stressing the public services provided by local government.13 On Election Day, Mineta took an early lead and never lost it, tallying 62 percent of the vote despite anemic turnout.14 “It’s been full circle,” Mineta said of his victory 30 years after being interned.15

As mayor, Mineta clamped down on San Jose’s runaway development. He worked to funnel growth back toward the city’s center, tightening zoning requirements and passing a “pay-as-you-grow” tax to cover the cost of additional public services.16

By the early 1970s, Mineta had become part of a new generation of leaders working to redefine political power in America, calling for greater transparency and accountability. He belonged to a number of national organizations, negotiating with the federal government to protect grants to public housing and transportation initiatives. In July 1972, he was one of 16 mayors to meet with President Richard M. Nixon about the costs of rapid development and the possibility that the federal government would kick back billions in revenue to the cities.17

Like his jump to the mayor’s office, Mineta moved to the House after the incumbent, Republican Charles S. Gubser, decided to retire. And once again Mineta’s work in San Jose’s local government gave him an early advantage. California’s 13th District leaned Republican, but Mineta’s success in managing the city’s growth, paired with his work on the national circuit, made him widely popular at home. The district stretched south and east away from San Francisco Bay, encompassing Santa Clara County. It also sat astride the southeastern edge of Silicon Valley, the creative tech corridor that became an economic juggernaut by the time Mineta retired. His Republican challenger, George W. Milias, was a well-liked former state assemblyman who had the misfortune of once serving in the Nixon administration. With the Watergate scandal dominating the headlines, Milias could not escape from Nixon’s shadow, and Mineta won with almost 53 percent of the vote. Mineta’s first election was the closest of his career. He took anywhere from 58 percent (in 1978) to 70 percent (in 1986) of the vote in every subsequent election.18

In his first term, Democratic leadership placed Mineta on the Public Works and Transportation Committee, a seat he held for his entire career; he became chairman during the 103rd Congress (1993–1995). During the 94th Congress (1975–1977), Mineta also served on the Post Office and Civil Service Committee before transferring to the Budget Committee, where he spent the next six years (1977–1983). In only his second term, Mineta was appointed by new Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill of Massachusetts to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, serving on the highly secretive panel until he stepped down in 1985. Beginning in 1983, Mineta also spent a decade on the Science and Technology Committee (later named the Science, Space, and Technology Committee), a key assignment for a Member representing part of Silicon Valley. In 1993 Mineta stepped down from Science, Space, and Technology to take over the gavel of the Public Works Committee.19

As part of the largest Democratic wave in years, Mineta was one of the most promising prospects in a crowd of bright lawmakers. On average, the Watergate Babies, as his highly motivated class of 1975 was called, were 15 years younger than the existing membership. They saw themselves as a political vanguard, and collectively they embodied the deep distrust voters had toward their government.20 Mineta’s generation of lawmakers valued accountability and accessibility, but perhaps none more so than him. “It goes back to my own experience in terms of the evacuation and the internment of those of Japanese ancestry,” he said years later. “We didn’t have access to our political leaders at the time.”21

In the 1970s, however, it was the criminal activities of the Nixon White House, the ongoing war in Vietnam, and the old, impenetrable seniority system on Capitol Hill. The new Members promised to reform all of it and to restore confidence in the government.22 “We came to Congress on a tide of change,” Mineta told the Los Angeles Times in the summer of 1975, “and there was a sense of euphoria about the Age of Aquarius having hit Capitol Hill.”23

For the first 30 days of the new Congress, the reformminded freshmen seemed on course to redefine the art of the possible. They ousted three long-standing committee chairs, brought other chairmen to heel, and weakened the influence of the Ways and Means Committee.24 In June, after House Democrats failed to override a series of presidential vetoes, Mineta’s cohort elected him president of the Democratic freshman class for a six-month term, hoping the former military intelligence analyst and “selfdescribed activist” could organize the freshmen into a potent voting bloc.25 “Procedural changes have nothing to do with whether the lot of the unemployed gets better or if education gets better,” he said. “In terms of what we have been able to get through, it bothers me that we haven’t had the programs that benefit people out in the streets.”26

In one of his first acts as leader of the freshman class, Mineta drew up a “six-point plan” he hoped would harness the restless energy of the young legislators. Nearly every recommendation sought to empower the rank and file. Mineta called for fact-finding roundtables with policy experts and “opinion leaders,” regular meetings between freshman officers and the Democratic leadership, stricter oversight of committee activities, a commitment to developing policy in the Democratic Caucus, the creation of national “truth squads” to promote Democratic legislation, and the publication of a freshman newsletter.27 It was “a pledge,” he said, “not to allow things to go on as usual, to reassert Congress as a coequal branch of government.”28

Mineta helped manage expectations and built rapport between the older and younger generations. While some freshmen talked about removing Carl Albert of Oklahoma from the speakership, Mineta was one of a handful of new California Democrats to reaffirm his commitment to the existing leadership.29 Mineta was known around the Hill as “energetic, competent, and levelheaded” without being overbearing. He and Speaker Albert had a personal history that dated back to the 1950s. Mineta’s brother-in-law knew the Speaker “real well,” and Mineta’s sister babysat for the Albert family.30 Midway through his first term as he was running for re-election in June of 1976, Mineta had Majority Leader O’Neill come out to California to help campaign. During a lull in the trip, while O’Neill and a group of legislators relaxed around a hotel pool in San Jose, Mineta broke some surprising news: “Tip,” he said, “I just heard on the radio that Carl Albert is retiring. Let me be the first one to support you for Speaker.”31

Still, he kept leadership on its toes. The way Mineta saw it, years of Democratic control in the House had nurtured a class of party leaders who lost touch with the rank and file. “When was the last time Carl Albert or Tip O’Neill had opposition?” Mineta was quoted as saying in a frontpage article in the New York Times.32

Television, which pulled back the curtain on the political system, became a sticking point between the two generations. “Albert and O’Neill did not grow up in television land,” Mineta pointed out. “They can go in and tell a few jokes and buy a few rounds of drinks and people love them and they get re-elected. But we’re the products of a different era and a different system.” It was a system that rewarded new ways of thinking.33 “More and more demands are being made by the public,” Mineta said. “Watergate heightened the accountability syndrome.”34

Mineta’s early congressional career illustrated just how successful his class was at reforming internal House procedure, especially the committee system. With O’Neill serving as Speaker and the seniority system under attack, Mineta’s leadership prospects improved rapidly. In only his second term during the 95th Congress (1977–1979), Mineta was appointed chairman of the Public Works and Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds, marking the start of a long reign as a subcommittee chairman. In fact, from 1977 until he became chairman of the full Public Works and Transportation Committee in 1993, Mineta served as chairman of four Public Works subcommittees over the course of eight consecutive Congresses : the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds (95th Congress), the Subcommittee on Oversight and Review (96th Congress [1979–1981]), the Subcommittee on Aviation (97th–100th Congresses [1981–1989]), and the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation (101st–102nd Congresses [1991–1995]).

Mineta’s leadership extended to the Budget Committee as well. Traditionally, the White House managed the federal budget, but after entitlement spending exploded and the Vietnam War dragged on, Congress began formally monitoring legislation that affected the ebb and flow of the country’s finances.35 Almost from the start, Mineta was at the forefront of the House’s new oversight responsibility. In the 96th and 97th Congresses, he held the gavel of Budget’s Task Force on the Budget Process (the committee called its subcommittees Task Forces), giving him a powerful bird’s-eye view of how the federal government managed its money.36

Even with his growing profile, Mineta did not hesitate to keep the pressure on his own party. “I see a vacuum right now,” he told the Washington Post just a few days after the 96th Congress convened. “Just a lot of tinkering and holding patterns.”37

It was around that time that Mineta saw his stock rise considerably. In early 1979, he was part of a “damage assessment squad” that squeezed House leadership for answers as to why California Democrats missed out on preferred committee assignments.38 Later that year the Washington Post named Mineta as a likely candidate for Transportation Secretary.39 By 1980, he was short-listed for either chairman of the House Budget Committee or the Democratic Whip’s office.40 Writing a year later, David Broder, one of the country’s leading political journalists, noted that, “At 49, Norman Mineta of California is perhaps the most widely admired Democrat to enter the House of Representatives in the 1970s. . . . Many of his contemporaries regard him as a future prospect for Speaker of the House.”41

Mineta was soon ensconced in party leadership. He was a utility player on the Democratic Whip team, having been named Deputy Whip-at-Large in the 97th Congress (1981–1983); he quickly moved up a rank and spent the rest of his House career as Deputy Whip.42 Moreover, in late 1980, Speaker O’Neill appointed Mineta to the powerful Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, where he helped shape the House’s legislative agenda.43 The California Democrat later had roles in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and flirted with a run for party Whip.44

If Mineta’s early entry into leadership signaled a new era in party mechanics, his work in committees reinforced his generation’s influence on policy. The Budget Committee, created a few years earlier in 1974, was somewhat uncharted territory for the House, but that sort of independence seemed to fit Mineta’s legislative style. “The new members are very selective,” he said in May 1977. “A number of us feel that we don’t have to go along with the New Deal approach of throwing money at a problem, hoping it will go away. We want to target our resources.”45

The federal budget process was an arcane, but immensely powerful, mechanism, and over the course of his four years as chairman of the Budget Process Task Force, Mineta became an ardent supporter of Congress’s oversight responsibilities. On Capitol Hill, he became a counterweight to the budget philosophy in the Ronald Reagan administration, warning that if Congress didn’t assert itself and make a few changes to the budget process it risked being replaced by White House economists or what he called “a toothless balanced budget constitutional amendment.” Mineta’s solutions included a mix of reforms to binding resolutions, the reconciliation and appropriations processes, and the act of impounding unspent funds.46

As Task Force chairman, Mineta loathed the idea of a balanced budget amendment. “The Constitution is a marvelously simple document, defining only the most basic human rights and the most fundamental structures of government,” he observed in testimony submitted to the House Judiciary Committee. A balanced budget amendment was neither of those things, he said, and would “only … cheapen the highest law of our Nation.” In fact, Mineta argued that a balanced budget amendment would strip Congress of the very control it wanted (the ability to run deficits was key).47 Instead, Mineta advocated for sunset laws giving legislators the ability to phase out spending and tax programs deemed unnecessary.48 “It’s more the badness, not the bigness, of government that is bothering people,” Mineta said as far back as 1976.49

Mineta was front and center during budget negotiations with the Reagan administration. In 1979 he helped shepherd the Democrats’ budget through the House. A year later, he was a member of the “Gang of Five” and, in 1982, part of the “Gang of Four,” leading the House effort to protect domestic spending. As Speaker O’Neill readily admitted in 1980, a no vote from Mineta could sway any number of other Democrats.50

When Mineta’s term on Budget expired, he moved to the Science and Technology Committee. Smartphones and laptops were still decades away, but many of the products coming out of his district were going increasingly mainstream. Mineta was at the forefront of changes to intellectual property law as it applied to the tech industry. As early as 1983, back when Silicon Valley was known as “California’s so-called Silicon Valley,” he introduced legislation to protect the revolutionary designs of computer chips being made in his district.51 “Technology is moving so fast the government has no ability to keep track of it,” Mineta said a few years later.52 By the early 1990s, Mineta and his Republican colleague from nearby Stanford, Thomas Campbell, had won “reputations as torch-bearers for Silicon Valley companies.”53 Mineta, Vice President Al Gore once said, “was Silicon Valley before Silicon Valley was cool.”54

Mineta, however, made his most lasting contributions on the Public Works and Transportation Committee, first at the head of its Aviation and Surface and Transportation Subcommittees and then as full committee chairman. Mineta had pioneered smart-growth policies back in San Jose, making Public Works something of a natural home for the former mayor. The committee was also deceptively powerful. With control over the nation’s infrastructure, it could authorize any number of new projects—roads, federal buildings, airports—which meant a fresh source of jobs for each district.55

Mineta first led the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds, but jumped to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Review after one term, bringing with him the drive for openness and accountability. “Oversight requires patient and detailed and continuing effort,” he said during the subcommittee’s organizational meeting in early 1979, “but I am absolutely convinced that it need not be dull or unimaginative.”56 His jurisdiction spread far and wide across every policy area of every one of the subcommittees : water pollution, public mass transit, aviation safety, flood control, America’s highways, disaster relief, and public buildings and grounds. The subcommittee held 12 open hearings and heard from nearly 240 witnesses over a combined 34 days.57

Mineta jumped to the Subcommittee on Aviation in the next Congress, starting what would become an eight-year reign as chairman. His subcommittee work reads like a deeply researched market summary of the airline industry, one that prioritized safety and its long-term viability. More than anything, Mineta wanted to make sure the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory agencies had the resources they needed to ensure the safety of airline passengers.

Mineta tallied a number of early legislative victories on Aviation, often using his expertise in the budget process to his advantage. As part of the budget reconciliation in 1981, Congress agreed to the Airport Development Authorization Act, which included $450 million for new and improved airports. A year later, Mineta helped attach the Airport and Airway Improvement Act to the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, providing nearly $20 billion from an industry trust to help limit “wide-spread congestion and delays” at America’s airports.58 Over the next six years, two dozen bills that went before Mineta’s Aviation Subcommittee became law.

When Mineta took over the gavel of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation during the 101st Congress (1989–1991), the future of America’s roads in “the post-Interstate period” became his most immediate concern. Mineta also considered “high speed transportation corridors,” pipeline safety, sanitary food, and hazardous waste transportation. After two days of hearings, Mineta also worked to include transportation protections in the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.59 “The Americans With Disabilities Act gives us a unique opportunity to complete the work that we first started when we passed the Civil Rights Act some twenty-five years ago,” he said in his opening statement during the bill’s first hearing.60

Along with a number of smaller bills that became law during the next Congress, Mineta’s major legislative victory in 1991 was the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which addressed an issue he had wrestled with since his time as mayor.61 It was a huge, “revolutionary” law that gave state and local governments more control over the roadways in their districts and authorized vast amounts of money—$151 billion over six years—for a number of different projects. It set the foundation for the National Highway System (NHS) by combining the interstate highway system with a web of other federally funded roads.62

After years of success at the subcommittee level, Mineta sought the chairmanship of the full committee before the start of the 102nd Congress (1991–1993), challenging the sitting chairman, 77-year-old Glenn M. Anderson of California, who had represented the Long Beach area since 1969. Mineta’s bid was partly successful: The Democratic Caucus voted Anderson out, but handed the committee to Robert Roe of New Jersey instead. Roe, however, was not keen on fighting Mineta and retired after just one term as committee chairman.63

Mineta pooled his two decades of experience on Public Works and Transportation and took over the gavel as chairman of the committee for the 103rd Congress. Having led four different subcommittees during his tenure on Public Works, he was fluent in the policy and deeply connected to the issues.

As chairman, Mineta ruled a vast and influential empire. Public Works and Transportation was the largest committee in the House during the 103rd Congress, bigger than either the spending or tax-writing committees. Seven other Californians served with him (three Democrats and four Republicans), and 30 of the 50 states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia were represented on the committee.64 His jurisdiction included flood control, roads, bridges, dams, public buildings—everything from airports to post offices to the Smithsonian Institution.

Mineta’s focus as committee chairman was to prepare the government to meet the sure-to-be weighty demands of the upcoming 21st century. More than anything, he felt the need to make up for lost time. The Cold War had dominated America’s discretionary spending for decades, and money that might have gone to improve the country’s infrastructure went elsewhere. “Maintenance, new technologies, and leadership suffered often because, in real terms, we had to try to do more with less,” Mineta remembered.

Looking forward, he identified two lingering hurdles. “The first challenge,” he reiterated, “is to make up for a quarter century of trending downward in infrastructure investments, a trend which has seen the Federal commitment as a share of Gross Domestic Product decline by half. The second challenge is to look ahead to plan for the future with flexibility, with less interference from Washington into local decision-making, and with justification and public scrutiny at the national level for the policies we recommend and enact.”65

Given the size and scope of the committee’s jurisdiction, Mineta saw a tsunami of legislation during the 103rd Congress. House Parliamentarians referred almost 400 bills to Public Works and Transportation, which resulted in 165 hearings and markups; 53 of the 62 bills the committee reported to the full House became law. The panel also approved 168 committee resolutions covering everything from erosion control studies to improvements to federal buildings.66

While some of the legislation was as simple as naming post offices or courthouses, Mineta’s committee could generate large amounts of goodwill simply by approving a new road or bridge for a Member’s district. Mineta guarded this jurisdiction closely, and in 1993, during the annual appropriations process, he got into a very public turf war with Representative Bob Carr of Michigan, who chaired the Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Transportation. Congressional authorizers like Mineta determine which agencies and which programs receive federal funding, while appropriators like Carr dole out money for the upcoming fiscal year.

In the House, it is considered bad form for appropriators to clear funding for projects that have not been vetted by an authorizing committee. But in late June, Mineta accused Carr of including hundreds of millions of dollars for the upcoming fiscal year that the Public Works and Transportation Committee had never approved. Mineta quickly convinced the Rules Committee to remove all unauthorized earmarks from the funding bill. Within the month, House leaders were forced to pull it from the floor completely after Mineta doubled down on what he called “backroom political deal-making.”67 House leaders eventually sent the bill back to the Appropriations Committee for changes.68

By September tensions were still high, and the House had yet to vote on the transportation bill. Mineta cast the fight as one about “process and rules”; Carr said it was all about “ego.”69 Unable to forge a compromise between the two lawmakers, Speaker Tom Foley of Washington and House leadership ultimately sided with Mineta.70 “The episode,” wrote the Congress-watchers at CQ Almanac, “appeared to give the Public Works Committee veto power over new highway projects, allowing it to block funding for any specific project not included in one of the committee’s authorization bills.” It was, CQ said, “a sweeping victory.” Mineta agreed to reform part of how his committee approved projects, but for the most part the chairman from San Jose had substantially increased his influence.71

The very next year Mineta ran headlong into an obstinate Senate over a popular highway bill. Back when he chaired the Surface Transportation Subcommittee during the 102nd Congress, Mineta had cleared a bill that created the National Highway System, which targeted federal funding for the most heavily used and most commercially important roads in America. Congress had until 1995 to determine which highways would fall under the NHS, and while most routes had already been selected, Mineta’s committee wanted to add a host of new routes to the system. After sifting through Member requests for nearly 300 new road and transit programs, Mineta unveiled a $2 billion bill in mid-May 1994. Demonstrating just how popular Mineta’s committee was, the full House approved the highway bill two weeks later by a huge 400-vote majority. The Senate, however, balked at the bill, and talks between the two chambers failed.72

Outside his immediate committee jurisdiction, Mineta worked to correct what he considered one of America’s worst injustices : the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. For Mineta, this was about as personal an issue as he dealt with in Congress. In the late 1970s, Mineta passed a bill crediting the time internees spent in the camps toward their civil service retirement benefits. Around the same time, a grassroots movement started to pressure the government to formally apologize for its policy of internment and ask for redress. Working alongside Hawaiian Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Spark M. Matsunaga, and California Representative Robert T. Matsui, Mineta helped pass a bill to study the wartime relocation and internment to generate awareness and develop policy.73

Out of that study came the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, authorizing the government to pay $20,000 to every surviving internee ($1.2 billion total). It also required a formal apology for the policy of internment, had the Justice Department clear criminal records from internment, and set aside millions to fund public education initiatives.74 Mineta was the first person to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about the effect of internment, underscoring the “shame” and “damaged honor” felt by two generations of Japanese Americans for being wrongfully imprisoned.75 It was an intensely personal bill, but Mineta voted present during its final passage to avoid a conflict of interest.76

After Republicans swept the 1994 elections and took the majority in the House for the first time in decades, Mineta retired from Congress on October 10, 1995. He worked in the policy shop of a major defense contractor after leaving the House, and in 2000 President Bill Clinton named him Commerce Secretary. After two years in the Clinton administration, Mineta joined the George W. Bush administration as Transportation Secretary—the only Democrat in Bush’s Cabinet—serving from 2001 until 2006. “There are no Democratic or Republican highways,” Mineta liked to say, “no such thing as Republican or Democratic traffic congestion.”77 Shortly after Mineta stepped down, President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his years of public service. Norman Mineta died on May 3, 2022, in Edgewater, Md.


1Hearings before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Administrative Law and Governmental Relations, Civil Liberties Act of 1985 and the Aleutian And Pribilof Islands Restitution Act, Part I, 99th Cong., 2nd sess. (28 April 1986): 35; E. Michael Myers, “Congressman Mineta Recalls the Days When the Constitution Failed,” 22 May 1988, Los Angeles Times: 2; Ken Ringle, “The Patriot: Norm Mineta Was Interned by His Country, but Still He Loved It. Then He Changed It,” 21 August 2000, Washington Post: C1.

2Sam Chu Lin, “Working For the People: Norm Mineta Wraps Up More Than Two Decades of Public Service,” 6 October 1995, AsianWeek: 10; Johanna Neuman, “Profile: Norm Mineta; What Moves Him?,” 25 April 2005, Los Angeles Times: B2.

3Chu Lin, “Working For the People: Norm Mineta Wraps Up More Than Two Decades of Public Service.”

4David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999): 748–760.

5Neuman, “Profile: Norm Mineta; What Moves Him?”; Betty Cuniberti, “Internment: Personal Voices, Powerful Choices,” 4 October 1987, Los Angeles Times: 1. See also Irvin Molotsky, “Washington Talk: Friendships, The Heat of War Welds a Bond That Endures Across Aisles and Years,” 26 April 1988, New York Times: A22; Frank Davies, “Mineta, Ex-Senator Forged Ties at Internment Camp,” 2 May 2008, San Jose Mercury News: n.p.

6Hearings before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Administrative Law and Government Relations, Japanese American and Aleutian Wartime Relocation, 98th Cong., 2nd sess. (20 June 1984): 74.

7Norman Mineta, oral history interview by Ronald Sarasin, 11 September 2006, accessed 8 April 2016, transcript, U.S. Capitol Historical Society, Washington, DC: 4, uschs_mineta.htm (site discontinued).

8Chu Lin, “Working For the People: Norm Mineta Wraps Up More Than Two Decades of Public Service.”

9“3,000 (Over 18, Under 21) Cast First Ballot Today in Maryland,” 13 April 1971, New York Times: 26; “Little Sway by Young in Md. Vote,” 15 April 1971, Boston Globe: 31.

10David S. Broder, Changing of the Guard: Power and Leadership in America (New York: Penguin, 1981): 54.

11Norman Mineta, “San Jose Mayor Finds Role of Parties Waning,” 16 December 1971, Washington Post: A14; Broder, Changing of the Guard: 54.

12“Norman Yoshio Mineta,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present,

13Almanac of American Politics, 1976 (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1975): 75; “Around the Nation,” 15 April 1971, Washington Post: A5; Wallace Turner, “Idyllic Valley Now Urban Anthill, Planner Charges,” 7 September 1970, New York Times: 12; “San Jose Mayor Is a Japanese-American,” 15 April 1971, New York Times: 21; “3,000 (Over 18, Under 21) Cast First Ballot Today in Maryland.”

14“3,000 (Over 18, Under 21) Cast First Ballot Today in Maryland”; “Nisei Is in Lead,” 14 April 1971, New York Times: 25; “Mineta is First,” 15 April 1971, Atlanta Constitution: A20; “San Jose Mayor Is a Japanese-American.” For vote totals, see “Little Sway By Young in Md. Vote.”

15“Men and Events,” 18 April 1971, Los Angeles Times: C5.

16Almanac of American Politics, 1976: 75; Art McGinn, “Can Towns Bar Their Gates?,” 10 February 1974, Atlanta Constitution: C6; Gary Blonston, “Houses Achangin’, Not for Better,” 16 February 1975, Baltimore Sun: F1; David Homstrom, “Mayors Strike Gold—Citizen Involvement,” 1 December 1971, Christian Science Monitor: 1.

17John Herbers, “Despite Problems, Cities Produce Vigorous Mayors,” 14 June 1971, New York Times: 18; “Revenue Share Consideration Set in Congress, Mayors Told,” 18 January 1972, Atlanta Constitution: A9; “Mills Quoted as Predicting Action on Revenue Sharing,” 9 March 1972, New York Times: 33; Peter Negronida, “Daley Leader: Mayors Back Nixon Policy,” 22 June 1972, Chicago Tribune: 2; John Herbers, “Mayors, In Shift, Back War Policy,” 22 June 1972, New York Times: 1; “16 Mayors Meet With Nixon,” 25 July 1972, Los Angeles Times: 2; Martin F. Nolan, “Mayors Fear Bankruptcies Spreading in Public Housing,” 7 September 1972, Boston Globe: 8; Maurice Carroll, “Mayors Tour City and Assail Nixon For Cuts in Funds,” 5 February 1973, New York Times: 1; Richard L. Strout, “Mayors Call Nixon Budget Cuts ‘Double Cross of City Poor,’” 24 February 1973, Christian Science Monitor: 2. For a general account of this generational change, see Broder, Changing of the Guard.

18Almanac of American Politics, 1976: 76; Almanac of American Politics, 1984 (Washington, DC: National Journal, 1983): 109–110; Kenneth C. Martis, The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789–1989 (New York: Macmillian Publishing Company, 1989): 237; Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

19Garrison Nelson, Committees in the U.S. Congress, 1947–1992, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1994): 620–621; Garrison Nelson and Charles Stewart III, Committees in the U.S. Congress, 1993–2010 (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011): 854.

20Richard L. Lyons, “The New House: Members Mostly Lawyers, More Liberal, Younger,” 1 December 1974, Atlanta Constitution: 2K; “New Members Bring Slice of Life to House,” 11 November 1974, Chicago Tribune: 7.

21Mineta, oral history interview: 8.

22John A. Farrell, Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2001): 384–386; John A. Lawrence, “The Democrats’ High-Water Mark,” Politico Magazine, http:// mark-came-40-years-ago-112492_Page2.html (accessed 13 January 2017).

23Paul Houston, “Hopes Dimmed: Set Backs Give Freshman New View of House,” 22 June 1975, Los Angeles Times: A1.

24Robert Reinhold, “12 Go to Harvard to Study for Jobs in New Congress,” 14 December 1974, New York Times: 31; Farrell, Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century: 400–402.

25Richard Lyons, “Caucus Chief Mineta Adopts Activist Role,” 5 July 1975, Washington Post: A3.

26Houston, “Hopes Dimmed.”

27Paul Houston, “Mineta Offers Six-Point Plan to Democrats,” 26 June 1975, Los Angeles Times: B4; Lyons, “Caucus Chief Mineta Adopts Activist Role.”

28Houston, “Mineta Offers Six-Point Plan to Democrats.”

29Paul Houston, “5 Newcomers Give Vote of Confidence to Albert,” 17 June 1975, Los Angeles Times: A19.

30Lyons, “Caucus Chief Mineta Adopts Activist Role”; Mineta, oral history interview: 3–4.

31Tip O’Neill with William Novak, Man of the House: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O’Neill (New York: Random House, 1987): 272; Martin Nolan, “O’Neill Views Speaker’s Role,” 14 June 1976, Boston Globe: 1.

32Majorie Hunter and David E. Rosenbaum, “Defeats Split Bitter House Democrats,” 2 July 1975, New York Times: A1.

33Hunter and Rosenbaum, “Defeats Split Bitter House Democrats”; Mary Russell, “Freshmen Feel Frustration,” 27 October 1975, Washington Post: A1.

34Jerry Cohen, “Public Is Watching Politics Closer Now,” 1 January 1976, Los Angeles Times: OC1.

35Donald C. Bacon, Roger H. Davidson, and Morton Keller, eds., The Encyclopedia of the United States Congress, vol. 1 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995): 209; Eric Patashnik, “Congress and the Budget since 1974,” in The American Congress: The Building of Democracy, ed. Julian E. Zelizer (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2004): 671–672.

36Hearings before the House Committee on Rules, Task Force on the Budget Process, Congressional Budget Process, 97th Cong., 2nd sess. (15 September 1982): 2.

37David S. Broder, “Democratic Party in Transition, but the Question Is, to What?,” 14 January 1979, Washington Post: A1.

38Richard L. Lyons, “On Capitol Hill,” 25 January 1979, Washington Post: A2.

39Edward Walsh, “Administration Continues Its Search for Appointees to Fill Top Positions,” 25 July 1979, Washington Post: A7.

40David Rogers, “The Scent of Change is Strong,” 16 November 1980, Boston Globe: 49; Mary Russell, “Democrats’ Chairs,” 11 November 1978, Washington Post: A1; Ellen Hume, “California Lawmakers Jockey for Position,” 27 November 1980, Los Angeles Times: C1.

41Broder, Changing of the Guard: 54.

42Congressional Directory, 95th Cong. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1977): 17; Congressional Directory, 97th Cong. (Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1981): 17; “House Committees, 97th Congress, First Session,” CQ Almanac, 1981, 37th ed., (Washington, DC : Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1982): 82,; “House Party Committees, 99th Congress,” CQ Almanac, 1985, 41st ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1986): 73-G–76-G,

43Margot Hornblower and Richard L. Lyons, “House GOP Picks Michel As Leader,” 9 December 1980, Washington Post: A1; John Jacobs, A Rage for Justice: The Passion and Politics of Phillip Burton (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995): 478.

44“Democrats in Full Control for 100th Congress,” CQ Almanac, 1986, 42nd ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1987): 3–7,; Congressional Directory, 103rd Cong. (Washington, DC : Government Printing Office): 478.

45Lou Cannon, “The Independent Democrats,” 23 May 1977, Washington Post: A1.

46Hearings before the House Committee on Rules, Task Force on the Budget Process, Congressional Budget Process, 97th Cong., 2nd sess. (15 September 1982): 2–14; Almanac of American Politics, 1982 (Washington, DC: Barone & Company, 1981): 101. See also Zelizer, The American Congress: 678.

47Hearings before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Monopolies and Commercial Law, Constitutional Amendments to Balance the Federal Budget, 96th Cong., 1st sess. (13 June 1979): 423–426.

48Bacon, Davidson, and Keller, eds., The Encyclopedia of the United States Congress, vol. 4: 1899.

49Albert R. Hunt, “The Watergate Class,” 26 March 1976, Wall Street Journal: 30.

50Almanac of American Politics, 1984: 110; “Fiscal 1980 Budget Targets,” CQ Almanac, 1979, 35th ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1980): 163–175, http://library. For Gang of Five, see “First 1981 Budget Resolution: Slim Surplus,” CQ Almanac, 1980, 36th ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1981): 108–119,; Thomas B. Edsall, “Conflict Between Balancing Budget, Old-line Support Wracks Democrats,” 13 March 1980, Baltimore Sun: A1; William J. Eaton, “House Scuttles Budget Plan,” 30 May 1980, Los Angeles Times: 1; Martin Tolchin, “House Rejects Budget Compromise As Foes of Military Outlay Prevail,” 30 May 1980, New York Times: A1; Steven Rattner, “Conferees Approve Budget Plan for ’81 and ’80 Deficit Rise,” 12 June 1980, New York Times: A1; Andrew J. Glass, “Key House Democrats Prepare Own 1983 Budget,” 9 March 1982, Atlanta Constitution: A11; Helen Dewar, “House Approves Stopgap Spending Till End of Fiscal Year, 299 to 103,” 25 March 1982, Washington Post: A5.

51Dan Morgan, “Battling to Innovate and Emulate : Intel vs. Nippon Electric,” 2 May 1983, Washington Post: A1; “Bills Offer Protection for Chips,” 11 June 1984, New York Times: D1.

52James A. Martin, “Vendors Decry Stiff U.S. Trade Export Controls: Say Laws Protecting Sensitive Technology Cripple Access to Foreign Markets,” 27 April 1987, Computerworld: 85.

53John Hendren, no title, 16 July 1991, States News Service.

54Ringle, “The Patriot: Norm Mineta Was Interned by his Country, but Still He Loved It. Then He Changed It.”

55John M. Barry, The Ambition and the Power: A True Story of Washington (New York: Penguin Books, 1990): 11.

56House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Subcommittee on Oversight and Review, Organizational Meeting, 96th Cong., 1st sess. (27 February 1979): 2–3.

57House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Summary of Activities, 96th Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 1565 (2 January 1981): 43–46.

58House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Summary of Activities, 97th Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 1013 (3 January 1983): 7, 16–18.

59House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Summary of Legislative Activities, 101st Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 1007 (2 January 1991): 3–5, 77–80.

60Hearings before the House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Americans With Disabilities Act, 101st Cong., 1st sess. (20 September 1989): 2.

61Bill Anderson, “Cities and U.S. Tussle over Powers,” 7 December 1973, Chicago Tribune: 16.

62House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Summary of Legislative Activities, 102nd Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 1071 (16 December 1992): 81–89.

63Politics in America, 1992 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1991): 193, 948; Politics in America, 1994 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1993): 147.

64Congressional Directory, 103rd Cong. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1993): 460.

65House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Summary of Legislative Activities, 103rd Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 877 (22 December 1994): 3.

66Ibid., 4.

67Al Kamen, “Chairmen Battle Over Transportation Bill,” 28 June 1993, Washington Post: A17; William DiBenedetto, “House Action on Transport Bill Delayed By Dispute Over Projects,” 7 July 1993, Journal of Commerce: B3; Mark Simon, “Mineta—The Roads Warrior,” 19 July 1993, San Francisco Chronicle: A17. Quotation from Al Kamen, “Stalled in a Transportation Tug of War,” 26 July 1993, Washington Post: A15.

68Mark Simon, “Light Rail, BART Funds Imperiled,” 28 July 1993, San Francisco Chronicle: A17.

69Eric Pianin, “Turf Battle Stalls Transportation Spending in House,” 17 September 1993, Washington Post: A17; Martin Tolchin, “2 Powerful Democrats Battle Over Transportation Projects,” 22 September 1993, New York Times: B9.

70Eric Pianin, “House Frees Transportation Bill After Carr-Mineta Turf Fight,” 23 September 1993, Washington Post: A14.

71“Transportation Programs Score Big Gains,” CQ Almanac, 1993, 49th ed. (Washington, DC : Congressional Quarterly, 1994): 663–670,

72“Highway Funds Meet Roadblocks,” CQ Almanac, 1994, 50th ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1995): 165–168,; Politics in America, 1996 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1995): 118.

73Mineta, oral history interview: 11.

74“House Votes to Make Amends for Internment,” CQ Almanac, 1987, 43rd ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1988): 278,; “Internees Gain Reparations,” CQ Almanac, 1988, 44th ed. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1989): 80–81,; Bill McAllister, “Amends Sought for 1940s Internment,” 12 September 1987, Washington Post: A1; Mick Rood, no title, 16 September 1987, States News Service; Jill Lawrence, no title, 17 September 1987, Associated Press; Nathaniel Nash, “House Votes Payments to Japanese Internees,” 18 September 1987, New York Times: A15; Jill Lawrence, “Mineta Tearfully Recalls 1942 Internment as House Votes Cash Compensation,” 18 September 1987, Associated Press.

75Civil Liberties Act of 1985 and the Aleutian And Pribilof Islands Restitution Act, Part I: 34–36.

76“House Votes to Make Amends for Internment”; “Internees Gain Reparations” ; McAllister, “Amends Sought for 1940s Internment”; Rood, no title, 16 September 1987, States News Service; Jill Lawrence, no title, 17 September 1987, Associated Press; Nash, “House Votes Payments to Japanese Internees”; Lawrence, “Mineta Tearfully Recalls 1942 Internment as House Votes Cash Compensation.”

77Johanna Neuman and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, “The Nation: Mineta, Cabinet’s Sole Democrat, Quits,” 24 June 2006, Los Angeles Times: A6.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Japanese American National Museum

Los Angeles, CA
Papers: 1975-1996, approximately 45 linear feet. This collection consists of correspondence, memoranda, government publications, speeches, newspaper clippings, books, briefings, photographs, video and audio recordings, and meeting notes documenting Congressman Norman Mineta's involvement in the redress movement. Also included are some non-redress materials related to civil rights issues, especially as they pertain to Asian Americans and Americans from the Pacific Islands, as well as materials that document Norman Mineta's campaign activities. Norman Mineta's office staff selected materials to donate to the Japanese American National Museum, therefore, the Museum holds only a part of Mineta's congressional office files. A finding aid is available in the museum and online.

Library of Congress
Asian Division

Washington, DC
Oral History: 2003-2011, .8 linear feet. The Asian Pacific Americans in Congress oral history collection contains video interviews conducted by the United States Capitol Historical Society. It documents Asian and Pacific Islander service in Congress, discussing work in the House and Senate, as well as significant historical events that shaped those interviewed. In addition to the interview media, the collection includes: interview transcripts, photographs, correspondence, press releases, and research and production files.

San Jose State University
Special Collections and Archives

San Jose, CA
Papers: 1961-2001, 428.75 linear feet. The Norman Mineta Papers, 1961-2001 (bulk 1975-1995) document the long-term political career of Norman Mineta. This collection consists of Norman Mineta's Legislative Office files and is arranged into six series: Series I. Administrative files, 1967-1995 (bulk 1975-1995); Series II. Awards & Memorabilia, 1971-1996 (bulk 1980-1996); Series III. Commerce files, 1967-1994 (bulk 1977-1994); Series IV. Public Relations & Press files, 1974-2001 (bulk 1980-1994); Series V. Subject files, 1961-1996 (bulk 1977-1995); and Series VI. Transportation files, 1974-1995 (bulk 1982-1995). Note that his district office files have been placed with the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

University of California, Berkeley
The Bancroft Library

Berkeley, CA
Papers: ca. 1941-1943, 374 pages. This diary contains very few entries while Norman Mineta was in the Heart Mountain Relocation Project.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Mineta, Norman Y. "Power and Seniority in the House of Representatives: A Californian's View." Four Persistent Issues: Essays on California's Land Ownership Concentration, Water Deficits, Sub-State Regionalism, and Congressional Leadership. Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California, 1978.

"Norman Y. Mineta" in Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress, 1900-2017. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of the Historian and the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Publishing Office, 2018.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Budget
    • Task Force on the Budget Process - Chair
  • House Committee - Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
  • House Committee - Post Office and Civil Service
  • House Committee - Public Works and Transportation - Chair
    • Aviation - Chair
    • Oversight and Review - Chair
    • Public Buildings and Grounds - Chair
    • Surface Transportation - Chair
  • House Committee - Science and Technology
  • House Committee - Science, Space, and Technology
  • House Committee - Transportation and Infrastructure
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