• U.S.

THE CONGRESS: Work Done, Aug. 7, 1939

4 minute read

Last week The House:

>Followed the Senate’s sudden economy mood toward the “Great White Rabbit of 1939” (Spend-Lend Bill). Before the Rabbit reached the House floor, the Banking and Currency Committee began practicing for the coming butchery by slashing $850,000,000 from its version of the bill. The committee cut highways from $750,000,000 to $500,000,000; rail loans from $500,000,000 to $250,000,000; rural electrification from $500,000,000 to $350,000,000; farm tenancy from $600,000,000 to $400,000,000. This action came after a night Democratic caucus had pledged “continued support” to Franklin Roosevelt, but had avoided specific promises. Apparently on ice was the Administration’s bill to authorize another $800,000,000 lending capacity for USHA.

>Refused in conference to accept the Senate’s revision of the Chandler railroad relief bill so as to apply it only to the Lehigh Valley and Baltimore & Ohio roads; compromised by extending for one year to all roads not bankrupt or in receivership permission to seek voluntary agreements with their bondholders to postpone bond maturity dates, reduce interest rates. The report cleared both Houses, went to the President, who signed it.

>Passed a bill placing interstate water carriers under regulation of the I.C.C., sent it to conference on amendments.

>Killed a bill to permit curb service of beer in the District of Columbia.

>Passed an omnibus bill to regulate aliens, put together by Virginia’s Smith. Deportation was provided for aliens who: enter the U. S. illegally, spy for foreign powers, carry weapons illegally, are sentenced for crimes in moral turpitude, engage in white-slaving or prostitution, advocate overthrowing the Government. This last provision, as a result of the Strecker and Bridges cases (TIME, Feb. 20 et seq.), was made strong and broad enough to cover membership in the Communist Party “no matter how short the duration or how far in the past.” The bill went to the Senate by a vote of 273 to 48. Chief opponent: Manhattan’s Vito Marcantonio of the American Labor Party.

> Deadlocked in conference with the Senate on the Connally amendment to Social Security, whereby the U. S. would contribute $2 for every $1 by the States for old-age pensions, up to $15. Jeopardized were tax-savings to employers and employes of $1,700,000,000 over the next three years, sought in an amendment which would freeze old-age insurance levies at 1% for 1940-42.

> Passed and sent to the Senate a joint resolution authorizing the Secretaries of War and the Navy to assist other American republics in strengthening their defenses, by making for them in Federal yards and plants, or selling to them for cash at cost, all manner of warboats, guns, ammunition.

The Senate:

> Continued in its mood of last fortnight in bitter night sessions to disembowel Franklin Roosevelt’s “Great White Rabbit of 1939.” The Republocratic coalition, working as smoothly as surgeons, cut open the $2,490,000,000 Spend-Lend Bill and extracted $500,000,000 for toll roads, tunnels and bridges, $350,000,000 for RFC railroad equipment loans, knifed $25,000,000 from a proposed increase in the loan authorization of the Export-Import Bank, then passed it, sending the emaciated Rabbit to the House. The bill, once totaling $3,860,000,000, now stood at $1,615,000,000. California’s bulky oldtimer, Hiram Johnson, took the floor to characterize the New Deal’s spending philosophy as that of the cow-camp cook: “Come and get it! Come and get it!”

> Shelved in committee its $407,855,600 Rivers & Harbors (pork) bill, because on second thought it hadn’t the heart to spend that much money ($324,000,000 more than the House voted) and didn’t want to give Franklin Roosevelt such a set-up for a veto.

>Ratified (65 to 15) the long-delayed new treaty with Panama,* clarifying the U. S right to defend the Canal, upping Canal Zone rental from 250,000 to 430,000 balboas per annum. One balboa equals the gold value of one Roosevelt dollar (59.06¢). The effect: Panama won her demand to get her canal rent from 1934 in old (100¢) dollars instead of devalued (59¢) dollars, became the only creditor on whom the U. S. has not succeeded in welching by devaluation.

>Received from Senator La Follette a bill to outlaw spies, strikebreakers, guns and gas in industrial disputes. Fruit of two and one-half years of investigating, $100,000 expense, this bill was called by its author, with unconscious humor “several decades overdue.”

>Received from New Hampshire’s misfiring Senator Bridges notice that he would ask an investigation of Mexico’s seizures of U. S. oil properties. Over angry Democratic protests Republican Bridges read aloud “weird” newspaper stories hooking up the name of Pennsylvania’s Senator Guffey with sales of oil from the seized properties. Mr. Guffey visited Mexico just before seizures began. Said Mr. Guffey “I have no objection … I have nothing to conceal.”

*Panama ratified this treaty in 1936.

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