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Post-mortems on the performance of the 76th Congress were in order last week. For his Republican followers and their conservative Democratic allies, House Minority Leader Joe Martin took public credit for 14 constructive acts. Majority Leader Rayburn promptly retorted (without reference to the smacking around which Mr. Martin & friends had given Franklin Roosevelt) that the loyal Democrats deserved the session’s credit, if only for revising taxes and Social Security. The contentions of these two disputants were drowned out by a statement which Franklin Roosevelt suddenly issued as he figuratively picked himself up off the floor, where Congress had left him.

The occasion was his signing, just before leaving Washington for Hyde Park, a bill setting up a $10,000-a-year fiscal-&-personnel manager for the Federal judiciary. Present at the signing was Homer Stille Cummings* who, as Attorney General, included a similar court officer in the tricky bill which he wrote for Mr. Roosevelt in 1937 to New-Dealize the Supreme Court by adding six new Justices, which Congress indignantly refused to do. After Mr. Roosevelt signed, Mr. Cummings observed that this measure “puts the capsheaf” on Mr. Roosevelt’s long fight for court reform. “Every objective the President had in mind has now been achieved,” said Mr. Cummings.

Evidently agreeing with this remark, Congress-groggy Franklin Roosevelt presently published an elaboration of it. Said he:

“The country is naturally concerned with the attainment of proper objectives rather than any one of many possible methods proposed for the accomplishment of the end. . . . It is true that the precise method [for New-Dealizing the Court] which I recommended was not adopted, but the objective, as every person in the United States knows today, was achieved. The results are not even open to dispute.”

With this argument two of his bitterest Court Bill opponents promptly took issue last week. Nebraska’s Senator Burke said: “The important consideration is that the Court itself, as an institution, remains intact.” And Montana’s Senator Wheeler, in response to White House pleas, said: “I never disagreed with the objectives. . . . The thing I objected to was the method by which he sought to have it done.”

The air at Hyde Park, a breakfast chat with his wife, and the thought of some 500 members of Congress getting back to their homes to prate about or deplore what the 76th had done in Washington, presently combined to inspire more fighting words from Franklin Roosevelt.

For the first time since becoming President, he let his wife join in at his regular press conference, openly adopted her ideas and figures of speech. In massacring his “Great White Rabbit” (Lend-Spend Bill) and refusing to revise Neutrality, he said a “gambling” Congress had made two enormous bets. One was that private enterprise would do the job that Government pump-priming has been doing; the other, that there would not be war in the world before January. In one case the welfare of 20,000,000 U. S. people was involved, in the other, 1,500,000,000 world inhabitants. He earnestly hoped Congress would win both bets, but plainly showed that he doubted it would.

Regarding the 20,000,000, Eleanor Roosevelt, who had already built bonfires of her own under all home-going Congressmen who voted for Relief restrictions,* said that the sudden cut-off in Government spending was like pushing the country off a precipice. She was reminded of her uncle, Roosevelt I, who used to make herself and other young Roosevelts jump off sandcliffs at Oyster Bay, to teach them how far you slide going downhill and how hard it is to climb back up. Precisely, chimed in her husband; his latest lending program had been devised to create a gentle gradient instead of a cruel precipice.

Coupled with one more statement which he let fly last week, this Court-crowing and Congress-branding revealed Franklin Roosevelt as a President battered but unbowed, and more determined than ever to fight a whole lot more. Third revelation of his mood came in his message to the Young Democrats’ convention at Pittsburgh, darkly threatening to smash the Democratic Party by walking out on it if it does not nominate a Roosevelt-approved liberal in 1940.

≫ Besides taking personal advantage of the public hush that always follows Congress’ adjournment, the President applied himself diligently to completing Congress’ labors. In five days he signed 225 bills, vetoed 40, bringing the total score of the 76th to 719 acts approved, 58 disapproved. Among the last vetoes: salaries for advisers of the Menominee Indians in Wisconsin; $3,000 to relieve Mrs. Bessie Bear Robe, an Indian woman (now dead) who lost her son on a Government reservation; 2¢ postage for Queens County, N. Y.; a five-year extension to the time-limit (Jan. 2, 1940) for War veterans’ compensation claims; permission to the Atlantic Coast States to make compacts regulating fishing; a bill turning over to Nevada twelve square miles of U. S. land near Boulder Dam.†

Signed by the President, with a long statement applauding it, and flaying sales-tax schemes like the Townsend Plan, together with Treasury-raiding schemes like the Connally amendment (two Federal dollars for one State dollar), was the Social Security revision act. To study further Security revision, he added Chairman Arthur J. Altmeyer of the Social Security Board (but, strangely, not Administrator Paul McNutt of the Security Agency) to his Cabinet committee on this subject.

≫ Following his hopeful custom, the President asked all department & bureau heads to butter their expense estimates for fiscal 1941 with statements of anticipated economies. Mr. Roosevelt said: “I believe that substantial savings can be effected.”

≫ Circular letters were received by 10,000 employes of the Department of Agriculture asking contributions to build the Roosevelt Memorial Library at Hyde Park. Replying to criticism, the collector in charge explained: “This is a strictly voluntary proposition.”

≫ Putting the world on notice that, if war should break while he was gone, he would instantly summon Congress into special session to revise Neutrality, Franklin Roosevelt left Hyde Park, went down to the sea in the cruiser Tuscaloosa. He rounded Cape Cod, radioed “Well done” to the Squalus salvagers who last week dragged the sunken submarine two miles toward shore until it stuck in an uncharted mud lump. The President proceeded to his mother’s place at Campobello Island where, 18 years ago, a ducking in the icy water was followed by the infantile paralysis attack which crippled him. His vacation plan: to cruise off Nova Scotia, try for giant tuna.

At his Campobello cottage, Franklin Roosevelt broke his umptieth precedent, and gave a headache to football fans and turkey-growers by moving Thanksgiving Day up this year from November 30 to November 23.

*Whose wife died later last week.

*As a Relief crisis built up daily with scores of thousands being purged from WPA’s rolls, Mrs. Roosevelt last week quoted in her “My Day” column a series of pathetic cases. Snapped she: “Mr. Legislators, what are your answers?’

†Snarled Nevada’s irate Senator Key Pittman: Western lands “are rapidly becoming a barony of the dictator at the head of the Department of Interior!”

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