Record on defense bills (7-31-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (July 31, 1941)

Background of news –
By editorial research reports

The administration proposal to make the service period more than a year for all now in the Army is scheduled to come before the Senate today. Present predictions are that it will go through that branch of Congress by a substantial majority, but that the struggle will be a nip-and-tuck affair in the House.

The Army Service-Extension Bill is the fourth major defense proposal of President Roosevelt since 1939 to evoke strong opposition in Congress. The first was the change in the Neutrality Act in 1939; the second, the Draft Bill of 1940; the third, the Lend-Lease Bill of 1941.

The various measures for strengthening the Army, Navy an Air Force provoked little opposition. That was true also of the trade-in bill authorizing the return of surplus or obsolescent Army equipment to the manufacturers, thus making it available for sale to Great Britain. It was true of the bill federalizing the National Guard. And the transfer of 50 overage destroyers to the British in exchange for naval base leases was an executive act which Congress made no effort to nullify.

If the pending Service-Extension Bill follows the pattern of the Neutrality Act change in 1939, it will be enacted only after being once rejected. If it follows the pattern of the Draft Act of 1940, it will be enacted only with restricting amendments. If it follows the pattern of the Lend-Lease Act, it will be enacted pretty much as proposed, but only after some delay. The Neutrality Act change was enacted in six weeks; the Draft Act, in three months; the Lend-Lease Act, in two months.

On May 27, 1939, more than three months before the outbreak of the present war, the administration proposed changes in the existing neutrality law, including repeal of the mandatory arms embargo. The House voted for some of the changes proposed, but retains the arms embargo. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee thereupon voted, by 12–11, to postpone consideration, after 345 Senators had threatened to filibuster.

After the outbreak of the war, Congress, called into special session, repealed the mandatory arms embargo by better than a 2–1 vote in the Senate but less than a 3–2 vote in the House. Republican Senators voted 2–1 against the new bill; Republican Representatives, 7–1 against it.

The Draft Bill of 1940 went through both Senate and House by less than a 2–1 vote. Republicans in the Senate voted against it by 5–4, in the House by better than 2–1. The bill got through only by dint of three restrictions – (1) The men affected were not to be sent beyond the Western Hemisphere except tio U.S. territories. (2) Service was to be limited to one year. (3) The number of men drafted into the Army was not to exceed 900,000 at any one time during peace.

The amendments added to the Lend-Lease Bill of 1941, on the other hand, were relatively unimportant to the main purpose of the bill. Passage was by a 2–1 vote in the Senate, by a 3–2 vote in the House. Senate Republicans were in the opposition by better than 3–2. House Republicans by better than 5–1. On all three measures vital to President Roosevelt’s foreign policy, the opposition was stronger in the House than in the Senate.

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