Post-mortems on the performance of the 76th Congress were in order last week. For his Republican followers and their conservative Democratic allies, House Minority Leader Joe Martin took public credit for 14 constructive acts. Majority Leader Rayburn promptly retorted (without reference to the smacking around which Mr. Martin & friends had given Franklin Roosevelt) that the loyal Democrats deserved the session's credit, if only for revising taxes and Social Security. The contentions of these two disputants were drowned out by a statement which Franklin Roosevelt suddenly issued as he figuratively picked himself up off the floor, where Congress had left him.
The occasion was his signing, just before leaving Washington for Hyde Park, a bill setting up a $10,000-a-year fiscal-&-personnel manager for the Federal judiciary. Present at the signing was Homer Stille Cummings* who, as Attorney General, included a similar court officer in the tricky bill which he wrote for Mr. Roosevelt in 1937 to New-Dealize the Supreme Court by adding six new Justices, which Congress indignantly refused to do. After Mr. Roosevelt signed, Mr. Cummings observed that this measure "puts the capsheaf" on Mr. Roosevelt's long fight for court reform. "Every objective the President had in mind has now been achieved," said Mr. Cummings.
Evidently agreeing with this remark, Congress-groggy Franklin Roosevelt presently published an elaboration of it. Said he:
"The country is naturally concerned with the attainment of proper objectives rather than any one of many possible methods proposed for the accomplishment of the end. . . . It is true that the precise method [for New-Dealizing the Court] which I recommended was not adopted, but the objective, as every person in the United States knows today, was achieved. The results are not even open to dispute."
With this argument two of his bitterest Court Bill opponents promptly took issue last week. Nebraska's Senator Burke said: "The important consideration is that the Court itself, as an institution, remains intact." And Montana's Senator Wheeler, in response to White House pleas, said: "I never disagreed with the objectives. . . . The thing I objected to was the method by which he sought to have it done."
The air at Hyde Park, a breakfast chat with his wife, and the thought of some 500 members of Congress getting back to their homes to prate about or deplore what the 76th had done in Washington, presently combined to inspire more fighting words from Franklin Roosevelt.
For the first time since becoming President, he let his wife join in at his regular press conference, openly adopted her ideas and figures of speech. In massacring his "Great White Rabbit" (Lend-Spend Bill) and refusing to revise Neutrality, he said a "gambling" Congress had made two enormous bets. One was that private enterprise would do the job that Government pump-priming has been doing; the other, that there would not be war in the world before January. In one case the welfare of 20,000,000 U. S. people was involved, in the other, 1,500,000,000 world inhabitants. He earnestly hoped Congress would win both bets, but plainly showed that he doubted it would.