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By Mary Mueller Winget

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That was the first time he had seen the House in session. This time he was on the floor of the chamber about to become a participant. He looked back at the gallery and spotted Betty looking down proudly. In the House and Senate, members have to work their way into positions of power. Much depends on seniority, or how long a member of Congress has served. Senior members get assigned to the most important committees. Ford’s first committee assignment was the Committee on Public Works. But in the middle of his first term, 1949–1951, a Republican congressman from Michigan left the House and Ford was appointed to take his place on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

T H E T U M U L T U O U S Y E A R S 57 Ford believed Mitchell. Thinking he had settled the issue, Ford asked Mitchell to assure him that CREEP would work with the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee to elect a Republican majority in the House and Senate. Then on July 1, Mitchell resigned as director of CREEP. Others at the organization did not provide congressional support. They were interested only in reelecting Nixon. In the meantime, two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, were assigned to the Watergate story.

Ford made his way to the bridge only to find that one of the planes on the hangar deck had broken loose from its cables. Each time the ship rolled on the wild waves, the plane crashed into other planes, loosening their cables and puncturing gas tanks. Sparks flew. Soon a fire broke out. The engine and boiler rooms below deck filled with smoke. One sailor died, and thirty-three were injured. Three of the four boilers stopped working. The fire on deck burned out of control. If the last boiler went out, the fire hoses would lose pressure.

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