Opponents of aid bill seek major changes as debate rages in House (2-4-41)

Reading Eagle (February 4, 1941)

Fish counts on support of some Democrats in move for modification

Possibility of German invasion of U.S. big issue in discussion

Washington, Feb. 4 (UP) –
Rep. James P. Richards (D-SC), renouncing what he described as his former “isolationist” stand on foreign policy, told the House today thaty it should pass the British-aid bill no matter how much the Axis powers may dislike it.

He said Congress would be “craven and cowardly” to defeat the bill because of a fear that it would make the dictators “mad.”

Richards recalled his stand on foreign affairs legislation in previous years, and said he could not be accused of being an “Anglophile.” He added that the lack of British appreciation for what the United States has done for Britain is one of the darkest pages of U.S.-British relations.

But I don’t want it said that Richards, because of his dislike for Great Britain, should cut off his nose to spite his face – or cut off the noses of 130,000,000 people to spite their faces.

The issue is whether it is best for the United States to help Britain, he said.

Washington, Feb. 4 (AP) –
Amid clashing opinions on the danger of an invasion of the United States by a triumphant Axis, House Republicans fighting the British-aid bill sought to enlist Democrats in the drive to write major modifications into the legislation.

As the second day of full-dress debate opened on the measure, Representative Fish (R-NY) intimated that some converts already had been made for he told reporters he believed Democrats would sponsor some of the opposition’s restricting amendments.

There were reports, too, that Wendell L. Willkie would recommend modifications when he appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his return from London next week.

Would limit powers

The House amendments mentioned by Fish are aimed at circumscribing the powers which the bill would give President Roosevelt. Among them are proposals to limit British aid to one year, instead of two; to hold the program’s cost to $2,000,000,000; and to prohibit the transfer of American naval vessels or their use as convoys.

Opening of House debate yesterday and the simultaneous Senate committee hearings both produced disputes on these points:

  • Would the legislation carry the United States closer to war?
  • Would the Axis powers try to invade this country, if victorious?

Thomas states opinions

Norman Thomas, four times Socialist candidate for President, told the Senate group the bill heightened the danger that “we shall find ourselves in total war.”

Decrying the possibility of German invasion of the United States, he said:

Even if you allow him many years, I do not think it will be easy for Hitler, in the unhappy event of a victory over Great Britain, to organize a sullen, half-starved Europe, with a jealous Stalin at his rear, to conquer the Western Hemisphere.

To back up this opinion with figures, he estimated that an invader would need eight million tons of shipping to transport an army of a million men to these shores.

See possible invasion

During the House debate, however, Rep. Luther Johnson (D-TX) and Representative Faddis (D-PA), aomg others, argued that this country faced the menace of invasion should Great Britain be defeated.

Johnson, his voice rising to a shout, said:

We are in danger not from one side, but from both sides. If the Panama Canal should be put out of commission, we would have our navy bottled up in one ocean.

Faddis expressed the opinion that the United States would be “the next victim of the Axis onslaught” if Britain lost.

Rep. Woodruff (R-MI), on the other hand, dismissed as “complete nonsense” any idea “that Mr. Hitler is ready to sail into New York Harbor a few days after England falls.”

The only unlooked-for flare up in yesterday’s six-hour debate came when Rep. Dirksen (R-IL) called “extraordinarily unusual procedure” a visit by Lord Halifax, the new British Ambassador, to Chairman Bloom (D-NY) of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Dirksen asked Bloom if there was any information about their conversation that the House should be given.

Bloom replies

Bloom, obviously, tired after making a long speech for the bill, jumped up and said that he had talked with the envoy about Magna Carta and the “time table” of the British aid bill. The latter consisted merely of an explanation of House procedure on the measure, he explained, and called Dirksen’s inquiry “very improper.”

Dirksen insisted that it was a proper question. Rep. Eberharter (D-PA) injected his opinion that the call was only a courtesy and that all arrangements for House debate had been completed before the envoy’s visit last Saturday.

Debate on the bill in general will continue through Wednesday before the House gets down to voting on specific amendments. Although the galleries were filled, members displayed little interest in the discussion. Not even half of the chamber was present when attendance was best, and at times not even a quarter. However, a full turnout is expected later in the week.

Many Republicans advocated the desirability of a substitute bill which would give Britain a $2,000,000,000 credit in this country to buy military supplies. Johnson, arguing against that proposal, declared that Britain’s credit now is lower than it was during the World War. He reminded the House:

We tried granting credit in the last war and its results were unsatisfactory.