University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Thomas R. Carper
Congressional Papers

See below for collection citation and reference information.

I.A. TC Personal Files, 1983-1992

+ Series I.A. -- Scope and Content Note
+ Series I.A. -- Contents List

Extent: 6 linear ft.

Boxes: 1-6

Contents: Correspondence, staff notes, schedules, press files, floor statements, memoranda, drafts and final versions of bills and amendments, published reports, news clippings.

Arrangement: Alphabetically by topic and chronologically within topic. Issues that have comprehensive coverage and are extensive in length, such as Central American Issues and Welfare Reform, have been kept together as subseries and are arranged alphabetically, by subtopic within. The files in this series originally came in boxes labeled "TC's Personal Files" and "Congressman Carper's Personal Correspondence." Much of this material is also present in other series but it appears that Carper kept these select files on certain topics in his office, close at hand.


The TC Personal Files series includes correspondence Congressman Carper personally wrote to constituents, colleagues, and friends, as well as subject files. The correspondence spans the dates 1984-1992, while the subject files date from the 101st and 102nd Congresses, 1989-1992. These latter materials represent working files and reference material personally maintained by Carper. The contents of these files duplicate or complement subject files maintained by legislative assistants found in other series throughout the collection. The subject files reflect the spectrum of issues followed by the Congressman during that four year period: included are Welfare Reform, Central American issues, letters to President Reagan, 1990 Oil Spill Legislation, Delaware Insurance, Interstate Banking, MIA/POW issues, and approaches to Balancing the Budget. Similar personal working files from Carper's previous seven years in office were not available with his papers.

Of particular interest in the Series I.A. TC Personal Files is information relating to Amtrak Railways. (See also Series I.C.2. Issue Files--Amtrak). With over 1,200 employees in Delaware and with Wilmington's role as a major yard on the Eastern Seaboard, the successes and failures of Amtrak ventures were important issues for Carper's Delaware constituents. Numerous memoranda submitted by legislative aide Elizabeth (Liz) Ryan are found in this series; several concern contract negotiations between labor and management. As a daily commuter riding the train between Delaware and Washington, D.C., when Congress was in session, Carper made first-hand observations of Amtrak operations. He was a strong supporter of mass transportation, and after he became governor of Delaware, he served on the nine-member Board of Directors of Amtrak.

A significant number of files in the TC Personal Files relate to Carper's work on the Welfare Reform Act of 1987 (see also Series I.C.13. Issue Files -- HHS -- Poverty/Income Assistance -- Welfare Reform). Included are many "Dear Colleague" letters, correspondence with Carper from those in support of his work on this issue, and side-by-side comparison of proposals from House Democrats (H.R. 1720), House Republicans, Senator Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.), and Congressman Carper. Analyses of each proposal addressed net cost, financing, daycare standards, transitional health care, transitional daycare, and similar issues. Carper's proposal was a compromise between the Democratic and Republican resolutions, costing $2.5 billion versus the $5.2 billion proposed by the Democrats in H.R. 1720, or the $1.1 billion proposed by the Republicans. Carper's bill allowed exemptions for mothers of children under the age of two but required percentages of each state's welfare recipients to participate in work and training programs, and to accept jobs paying minimum wage. Although turned down by the House Rules Committee, Carper's proposal offered several ideas incorporated in H.R. 1720 and gained him favorable notice from many Democrats in the House.

The largest sequence in the TC Personal Files concerns Central America, where the political struggles of the Contras in Nicaragua dominated much of the news in the 1980s and early 1990s. With United States military advisement and financial backing, the Contras sought to overthrow Nicaragua's leftist regime, the Sandanistas. Both factions committed many crimes. At issue for Congress and the American people was the separation of economic and humanitarian aid from military aid to the Contras. The Reagan administration's advocacy of increased military aid was widely criticized.

In 1987, Carper voted for the Skelton-Edwards amendment to the Military Construction Appropriations bill and, with other representatives, petitioned President Reagan to limit aid to the Contras. The goal of the Skelton-Edwards amendment, by limiting aid to the Contras, was to encourage the Sandinistas to negotiate a peaceful solution and for the U.S. government to lead by example. Carper's support for peace in this regional conflict continued in 1988 when he served as one of a five-member U.S. delegation observing the Costa Rican Summit between the presidents of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador.

The section of the TC Personal Files dealing with letters to President Reagan offers a look into the day-to-day efforts by congressional representatives to persuade the White House on issues in which they had taken marked interest. In this particular collection, all of the letters from Congressman Carper concern Central America, specifically the circumstances of the Contras and the Skelton-Edwards amendment. The amendment called for changes in the fiscal year 1987 Military Construction Appropriations bill in relation to the amount of aid given to the Contras. According to Carper, the hope was that less aid to the Contras would help bring the Sandinistas to the bargaining table and compel them to negotiate in earnest. Included is a list of the representatives who voted for the Skelton-Edwards amendment.

A topic of particular concern to Carper was the status of soldiers declared Missing in Action or Prisoner of War (MIA/POW). Present in the TC Personal Files are copies of House resolutions, articles concerning reported sightings of POWs in Southeast Asia, memoranda from legislative aide Liz Ryan concerning meetings with veterans groups, and information about the 1991 "Truth" bill. The Truth Bill (H.R. 3306) called for the declassification of all reports pertaining to live sightings of Americans still declared missing in action after wars fought in Southeast Asia and Korea, and World War II.

An earnest participant in MIA/POW issues, Carper was part of a congressional delegation (CODEL) that traveled to Southeast Asia on a fact-finding trip in August 1991 (see also Series I.F. Trips). Other delegates were representatives Pete Peterson (D-Fla.), David Skaggs (D-Colo.), John Rhodes (R-Ariz.), Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.), and Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.). Three staff members -- Liz Ryan of Carper's office, Laurie Fenton of Kolbe's office, and Ralph Ibson of the Veterans Affairs Committee -- accompanied the congressmen.

The goal of the trip was to answer longstanding questions pertaining to the MIA/POW situation, with hope of bringing closure for the U.S. government and the families involved. The TC Personal Files contain a formal report written by Carper on the situation in Southeast Asia, as well as testimonies before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs from Major General George R. Christmas, Ann Mills Griffiths, the Executive Director of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, and the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Carl W. Ford, Jr. Of note is the report written by Carper regarding the delegation's findings from the trip. Information on the daily facts of the trip, including itineraries, photos, and correspondence is available in Series I.F. Trips.

Information pertaining to Carper's efforts to bring about a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution is worth noting in the TC Personal Files. The intent of the amendment was not to mandate a balanced budget for every single year per se, but rather to increase the incidence of balanced budgets during periods of sustained economic growth. The amendment accommodated exception to the rule under unusual circumstances. Examples given for modification include war, recession, or state-of-emergency situations, in which case mutation would be justifiable. The overall goal of the Balanced Budget Amendment was to address repeated unfulfillment of presidential promises to balance the budget. In light of accelerated federal spending in the 1980s, even a concerted effort to balance the budget appealed to Carper and his colleagues. In much of his writing on the subject, Carper called for fellow members to tackle this tough task in hopes of strengthening the fiscal situation for the present as well as the future.

Included in the Balanced Budget Amendment section of TC Personal Files are a number of newspaper clippings, charts depicting the different proposals for the Balanced Budget Amendment, statements by Carper, papers voicing objection to the amendment, reports on the problems of government over-spending, handwritten notes from Carper, and copies of the House Resolutions proposed.

Completing this series are several boxes of "Congressman Carper's Personal Correspondence," which were maintained in Carper's personal office. Correspondents range from members of Congress to personal acquaintances to school children. The files include incoming and outgoing correspondence, with many handwritten drafts of letters from Carper. Often, he wrote lengthy responses to constituents explaining an issue and answering their letters, point by point. Carper frequently composed correspondence soon after a meeting or event, often while taking the train back to Delaware. Letters of condolence usually accompany a newspaper article or notation by his staff regarding the recipient.

Related Series:

+ Contents List for Series I.A. TC Personal Files

+ Return to Index Page for Thomas R. Carper Congressional Papers

+ Guide to Other Political Papers at the University of Delaware Library

+ Return to List of Manuscript Finding Aids by Title

citation and reference information:

Thomas R. Carper
Congressional Papers

1979 - 1993
(bulk dates 1982 - 1992)

Manuscript Collection Number: 399
Accessioned: Gift of Thomas R. Carper, 1992, 1998-1999
Extent: 84 linear ft. and oversize material
Content: Legislation, correspondence, reports, documents and publications, memoranda, speeches, photographs, audio-visual material, newsletters, news clippings, and ephemera.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: November 1997 - December 1999 by Rebecca J. Altermatt with assistance from Rob Costello; edited by L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin.

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