Lend-Lease bill debate starts in House; rule on procedure adopted (2-3-41)

Reading Eagle (February 3, 1941)

Discussion is limited to three days under special regulation

Bloom, Foreign Affairs Chairman, pleads for passage of measure
Washington, Feb. 3 (UP) –
The administration’s British-aid bill passed its first test on the House floor today when members approved by voice vote a rule for three days of general debate.

The debate began immediately with a plea for passage by Chairman Sol Bloom (D-NY) of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Bloom described the administration measure as the “best way to safeguard our land and our liberty.”

He argued:

Even without aid to Britain – in other words, by no action at all – the risk of war is greater than it is by giving material aid to Britain.

Predicts passage

Shortly before Bloom went to the House floor with the plea for enactment of the measure, Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX) predicted that the bill would be passed by the end of the week by a majority of 100 or 125 votes.

In his opening remarks, Bloom asked:

If Germany defeats Britain, does anyone doubt that we would have to continue spending more bilions than we are now spending for our own defense?

If Germany wins, will our manpower be fighting them in our lifetime? Britain’s heroic fight is not only giving us time and more time to prepare our defense, but her expansion of our plants and her generous contributions to us of things like the Rolls Royce Merlin aircraft engine, the power-driven turret, and other valuable information has immeasurably helped to push forward our own defense program.

Fish opposes measure

Bloom spoke after Rep. Hamilton Fish (R-NY), leading House opponent of the measure, charged in debate on the rule that the bill could confer such “sweeping and blanket powers” on the President that Congress would have no more authority “that the German Reichstag.”

Fish, in opposing the administration’s program, said he favored extension of credit to Great Britain as a substitute.

The bill would authorize President Roosevelt to put factories to produce armaments for any country in the world whose defense he considers in the best interests of the United States. He would be able to “lend, lease, or transfer” these armaments on terms he deems satisfactory.

The issue is sharply drawn: Opponents charge that the bill would eventually lead to war and dictatorship; supporters contend that it would keep the nation at peace because Britain is “our first line of defense.”

It is the third time in a little more than two years that Congress has debated a major bill pertaining to foreign policy or defense. In the fall of 1939, it voted to repeal the embargo against arms shipments at a special session; last summer, it enacted the first peacetime conscription law in history.

House Democratic Leader John W. McCormack, co-author of the measure, speaking before the University of Chicago Club of Washington last night, said that those who claimed the bill would lead to war or would create a dictatorship in this country were “false prophets” and “blind partisan opponents.”

Let us not forget that some of these same persons (who now predict war) predicted that the repeal of the arms embargo would result in war. They were wrong then. They are wrong now…. Be wary of the utterances of the false prophets of today.

House opponents will seek to get on the floor the restrictive amendments they failed to get in committee.

The House committee amendments, which Republicans have charged are “mere window-dressing,” fix June 30, 1943, for the expiration of the powers to be voted the President; requires the President to consult Army and Navy officials before transferring weapons produced for this country and report to Congress at least every 90 days; and declares the bill shall not be construed as authorizing the use of naval vessels in convoys.

The bill has bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition, but most House Republicans feel that it grants too great authority to the President. They will fight on the floor for a more stringent ban on convoys, for a prohibition against the transfer of naval vessels as in the case of the 50 destroyers given Great Britain, without consent of Congress, and for a ban on the use of American ports to repair belligerent ships, which would be permitted under the bill.

If they don’t get these restrictive amendments, the opposition plans to offer a substitute bill, that would provide $2,000,000,000 in credits to Great Britain. They maintained that it would give Britain the one thing she needs – dollar exchange with which to continue buying weapons of war in this country.

At a mass meeting last night sponsored by the America First Committee, Philip F. La Follette, John T. Flynn, columnist, and the wives of two Senators opposing the bill – Mrs. Robert A. Taft and Mrs. Bennett C. Clark – expressed sympathy for Britain, but assailed the bill. Sen. D. Worth Clark (D-ID) was chairman.