Aid bill set for debate (1-31-41)

Reading Eagle (January 31, 1941)

Legislation okayed by House committee which urges prompt action
Washington, Jan. 31 (AP) –
The administration’s British-aid bill was sent to the House floor today for a momentous debate starting Monday.

After a brief gearing the House Rules Committee gave the bill a legislative right-of-way under procedure calling for three days of general debate and permitting the unlimited offering of amendments.

Committee members said the action was by voice vote. Advocating such a course, Chairman Bloom (D-NY), of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has stated frankly that the United States was “not neutral” but “just as neutral as any other nation.

The legislation went to the Rules Committee carrying the strongly-phrased endorsement of the majority members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who declared that its prompt enactment “is of the highest importance to the vital interests of or country – and even of our civilization.”

5,000-word report

The majority set forth its views in a 5,000-word formal report issued last night after the committee approved the bill by a 17-to-8 vote.

The report made these three claims for the bill:

  • It would not get the United States into war;
  • It provided the best method of giving aid to nations resisting aggression, and
  • It accomplished that purpose in the manner best suited for national defense.

Representative Fish (R-NY), who voted against reporting the bill, promptly announced that a minority report would be issued as soon as possible, summarizing the case against the legislation.

Martin wants amendments

The Republican floor leader, Representative Martin (MA), emphatically aligned himself with the opposition when the bill was reported and demanded “substantial” amendments. He said he wanted to aid Britain “thoroughly,” but objected to the broad powers the bill conferred on the President. He spoke approvingly of an alternate suggestion to give Britain $2,000,000,000 to spend here.

The report of the House Foreign Affairs Committee majority, informed sources said, was designed to spike in advance many of the minority’s anticipated contentions.

The majority asserted, for example, that hearings and public discussion had convinced its members that the two-fold policy of the United States was and should be to keep out of war, and “to aid Britain and those other nations whose defense is vital to the defense of the United States.”

Committee’s opinion

The report declared:

In the considered opinion of your committee, the bill, as amended, squarely meets these objectives of our national policy. It is the considered view of your committee, insofar as human minds can evaluate the situation, that the probable effect of the bill will be to keep us out of war rather than get us into it.

It also is the judgment of your committee that the bill provides the most efficient way of supplying all possible material aid to those countries which are resisting aggression. It accomplishes this objective in a manner which is best for or national defense and wholly consistent with the Constitution and international law.

The lengthy report discussed the bill section by section. Singled out as the “most important” was the provision to empower the President to transfer, sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of any defense material.

Provisions discussed

It authorizes the disposition by this government, to any nation whose defense is vital to the defense of the United States, of any defense article upon those terms and conditions which the President deems satisfactory.

As to defense article which are not specifically manufactured or procured on behalf of such a foreign government, the disposition can be made only after consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army or the Chief of Naval Operations of the Navy, or both.

This provision, in a manner wholly consistent with our Constitution, gives the flexibility necessary to meet the fast-changing situation in the war abroad in order that our own national defense interests may be served best. It places this power of negotiation and disposition in the President, the chief executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy.