House passes British aid bill 260-165 (2-9-41)

Reading Eagle (February 9, 1941)

All provisions are included in final vote
$1,300,000,000 limit set on defense items to be sent to England
Washington, Feb. 9 (AP) –
By a vote of 260 to 165, the House today passed the momentous bill empowering President Roosevelt rto lease, lend or otherwise transfer the sinews of war to embattled Britain and other nations whose defense he deems “vital” to the defense of the United States.

The measure went through,m and on to the Senate, at the climax of an historic

Consequently, the bill as passed contained all its original provisions but also these restrictions:

  • A limit of $1,300,000,000 on the value of American defense items already on hand or under appropriation which may be sent abroad (the chamber refused, however, to place a $7,000,000,000 limitation on the overall cost of the program).

  • A time limit of two years on the President’s power to make contracts for delivering military equipment to other nations, and of five years on the execution of these contracts.

  • A proviso that Congress may rescind, by a simple majority vote in both Houses, any of the powers granted under the measure.

  • A stipulation that the bill contains no new authority for assigning naval vessels to convoy duty or sending American merchant ships into the zones of war. And a proviso that before sending any Army and Navy equipment abroad, Mr. Roosevelt must consult, though not necessarily have the approval of the ranking officers of the Army and Navy.

Having backed all these restrictions – except the one providing for Congressional repeal of the powers given, which went through when they were napping – administration leaders refused to grant any more concessions. Steadfastly they opposed and uniformly defeated all such amendments as the Republicans offered them. Thus, the House rejected it.

Rejected proposals

  • A proposal that assistance to Britain be put on a strictly money-loan basis.

  • That its cost be limited – two figures, $2,000,000,000 and $7,000,000,000, were advanced and rejected.

  • That the President be specifically forbidden to transfer any part of the navy to another country – the $1,300,000,000 limit on the disposition of present defenses was intended to cover partially this much controverted point.

  • That Russia be excluded from the nations to be benefited – administration leaders argued that to adopt it would drive Stalin and Hitler closer together.

  • …and many more changes of a minor or greater nature.

Throughout most of the battling, the administration had its way. As for the $1,300,000,000 limitation amendment they said after it was passed that they had no objection to it.

At the last minute, in fact, Majority Leader McCormack (D-MA), still seeking a maximum vote, formally assured the House that no effort would be made to remove it from the bill.

The effort to place a $2,000,000,000 overall limit on the program was made by Representative Eaton (R-NJ) and was beaten, 177 to 120. Representative Wadsworth (R-NY) sought to apply the $7,000,000,000 “ceiling” and was turned down, 122 to 38.

Objects to limit

Asserting that it was impossible to estimate how much money would be needed to effectuate the administration’s policy of helping Britain, Representative Whittington (D-MS) has declared:

I believe that a limit now, when no one knows the answer, would hinder and not help.

Wadsworth, who is for the bill, had argued that $7,000,000,000 would “be adequate and not extravagant.” In addition, he said such a restriction would relieve “apprehensions felt in the minds and hearts of a great many people” who have called the bill a “blank check” and a prelude to dictatorship.

It strikes me that any limitation which is reasonable should be included. If it makes people feel a little better about it, it helps our program.

Also rejected were an amendment to Representative Fish (R-NY), prohibiting the use of American ports for repairing belligerent warships, and another by Representative Van Zandt (R-PA) which would have forbidden the President to send troops outside the Western Hemisphere.

After nearly a full week of debate on the measure, tempers were near the snapping point. Charges of the use of improper language were shouted and denied, and at one point Representative Fish (R-NY), the leader of the Republican opposition, heatedly accused the administration leadership of applying a “gag rule.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee received from Alf M. Landon, the 1936 Republican presidential nominee, a statement that he would not “conceive of any danger to our American democracy greater than that created by this bill.” He urged that a cash grant to England be substituted for the provisions empowering the President to procure war materials and lease, alend or otherwise dispose of them to nations whose defense he considered essential to the defense of the United States.


Landon sparred for several hours with senators supporting the bill, and once the whole proceeding was interrupted by a young man who stood up among the spectators and shouted:

American young people have sent me here–

He got no farther. Capitol police collared him and hustled him out of the room. But meanwhile, dozens of youths at the rear of the room began making a hullabaloo. The cops started for them too, and ran several of them out. Some of them said they were members of the American Youth Congress now meeting there. The youngster who started it all gave his name as Jack McMichael.

A proposal similar to Landon’s was brought before the House by Representative Eaton (R-NJ), who suggested placing a top limit of $2,000,000,000 on the coat of arms furnished to Britain or other nations.

The bill, Eaton contended, imposed too great a responsibility upon President Roosevelt. Under his amendment, money would be lent outright to Great Britain, she would make her own purchases and the President, he said, would be free to devote himself to pressing domestic affairs.

In reply, Representative Richards (D-SC) told the House that enough limitations had been placed in the bill especially regarding the leasing, lending or transfer of defense items already in the hands of the Army and Navy, or already appropriated for.

He referred to an amendment adopted late yesterday and perfected the first thing this morning forbidding the President to send more than $1,300,000,000 worth of such equipment abroad.

Eaton’s amendment was rejected by a teller vote of 177 to 120.

The amendment to keep American troops inside the Western Hemisphere grew out of a speech by silver-haired Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-MI), who, as a member of the House in 1917, tearfully voted against the declaration of war. Today, she proposed that no American armed forces leave this hemisphere. The propaganda of 1917 was rife, she said, and many members of Congress who supported the declaration of war at that time did so in the belief the use of American troops was not to be involved.

Recalls promises

She said, softly:

We were told then that if we voted for war that would be all, Germany would fall. No soldier would cross the ocean.

When administration leaders objected that her amendment would keep Naval and Marine Corps personnel within the limits of the hemisphere, she withdrew it. However, Representative Van Zandt (R-PA) took the amendment, reduced it to cover only Army troops, and submitted it. The proposal was defeated on a voice vote.

Details of foreign-help policy outlined in amended measure
Washington, Feb. 9 (AP) –
Here is the text of the British-aid bill as amended by the House:

Further to promote the defense of the United States, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as “An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States.”

As used in this Act –
a) The term “defense article” means–

  1. Any weapon, munition, aircraft, vessel, or boat;
  2. Any machinery, facility, tool, material, or supply necessary for the manufacture, production, processing, repair, servicing, or operation of any article described in this subsection;
  3. Any component material or part of or equipment for any article described in this subsection;
  4. Any agricultural, industrial or other commodity or article for defense. Such term “defense article” includes any article described in this subsection: Manufactured or procured pursuant to Section 3, or to which the United States or any foreign government has or hereafter acquires title, possession, or control.

b) The term “defense information” means any plan, specification, design, prototype, or information pertaining to any defense article.

a) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, the President may, from time to time, when he deems it in the interest of national defense, authorize the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, or the head of any other department or agency of the Government –

  1. To manufacture in arsenals, factories, and shipyards under their jurisdiction, or otherwise procure, to the extent to which funds are made available therefor, or contracts are authorized from time to time by the Congress, or both, any defense article for the government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.

  2. To sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of, to any such government any defense article.

  3. To test, inspect, prove, repair, outfit, recondition, or otherwise to place in good working order, to the extent to which funds are made available therefor, or contracts are authorized from time to time by the Congress, or both, any defense article for any such government, or to procure any or all such services by private contract.

  4. To communicate to any such government any defense information, pertaining to any defense article furnished to such government under paragraph (2) of this subsection.

  5. To release for export any defense article to any such government.

b) The terms and conditions upon which any such foreign government receives any aid authorized under subsection (a) shall be those which the President deems satisfactory, and the benefit to the United States may be payment or repayment in kind or property, or any other direct or indirect benefit which the President deems satisfactory.

c) After June 30, 1943, or after the passage of a concurrent resolution by the two Houses before June 30, 1943, which declares that the powers conferred by or pursuant to subsection (a) are no longer necessary to promote the defense of the United States, neither the President nor the head of any department or agency shall exercise any of the powers conferred by or pursuant to subsection (a) except that until July 1, 1946, any of such powers may be exercised to the extent necessary to carry out a contract or agreement with such a foreign government made before July 1,1943, or before the passage of such concurrent resolution, whichever is the earlier.

d) Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or to permit the authorization of convoying vessels by naval vessels of the United States.

e) Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or to permit the authorization of the entry of any American vessel into a combat area in violation of Section 3 of the Neutrality Act of 1939.

All contracts or agreements made for the disposition of any defense article or defense information pursuant to Section 3 shall contain a clause by which the foreign government undertakes that it will not, without the consent of the President, transfer title to or possession of such defense article or defense information by gift, sale, or otherwise, or permit its use by anyone not an officer, employee, or agent of such foreign government.

a) The Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, or the head of any other department or agency of the Government involved shall, when any such defense article or defense information is exported, immediately inform the department or agency designated by the President to administer Section 6 of the Act of July 2, 1940 (54 Stat. 714), of the quantities, character, value, terms of disposition, and destination of the article and information so exported.

b) The President from time to time, but not less frequently than once every ninety days, shall transmit to the Congress a report of operations under this Act except such information as he deems incompatible with the public interest to disclose. Reports provided for under this subsection shall be transmitted to the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House of representatives, as the case may be, if the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, is not in session.

a) There is hereby authorized to be appropriated from time to time, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, such amounts as may be necessary to carry out the provisions and accomplish the purposes of this Act.

b) All money and all property which is converted into money received under Section 3 from any government shall, with the approval of the Director of the Budget, revert to the respective appropriation or appropriations out of which funds were expended with respect to the defense article or defense information for which such consideration is received. and shall be available for expenditure for the purpose for which such expended funds were appropriated by law, during the fiscal year in which such funds are received and the ensuing fiscal year; but in no event shall any funds so received be available for expenditure after June 30, 1946.

The Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, and the head of the department or agency shall in all contracts or agreements for the disposition of any defense article or defense information fully protect the rights of all citizens of the United States who have patent rights in and to any such article or information which is hereby authorized to be disposed of and the payments collected for royalties on such patents shall be paid to the owners and holders of such patents.

The Secretaries of War and of the Navy are hereby authorized to purchase or otherwise acquire arms, ammunition, and implements of war produced within the jurisdiction of any country to which Section 3 is applicable, whenever the President deems such purchase or acquisition to be necessary in the interests of the defense of the United States.

The President may, from time to time, promulgate such rules and regulations as may be necessary and proper to carry out any of the provisions of this Act; and he may exercise any power or authority conferred on him by this Act through such department, agency, or officer as he shall direct.

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