Congress is a place that has had many interesting characters and some outright bizarre incidents. The two people in this particular affair were Congressmen John Taber (R-N.Y.) and Leonard Schuetz (D-Ill.). Taber served in Congress from New York for forty years, and he didn’t change much during that time. From 1923 to 1963 he became known for his uncompromising conservatism (he voted against Social Security), his “meat axe” approach to budget cutting when he was chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and finally, his booming voice. Taber had one of the loudest voices in Congress and made sure his opposition to the New Deal was heard. His voice was described by observers to be “as loud as fifty other men” (Time, 1940). This ability had an unexpected benefit.
Taber was predictably strongly against a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage in 1940, and was going to give it his vocal all. Present was Schuetz, a supporter of the New Deal who since birth had been deaf in his left ear. As Taber shouted against raising the minimum wage, it impacted Schuetz like no one else. He began shaking convulsively, staggered to the cloakroom, and collapsed on a couch (Goodwin, 34). As he recovered from this reaction, he realized that he could hear with his left ear, and as a physician confirmed, better than with his right. Schuetz thanked Taber, and for him, this was affirmation from God that he was right to shout down the New Deal!
Goodwin, D.K. (1994). No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Time Magazine. (20 May 1940). Congress. How to Cure Deafness.