Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

January 26, 1937

THE PRESIDENT: On the Tennessee Valley, I have sent a letter to the various people concerned who are studying the transmission problem—you will remember that. I said:

"On September 17, 1936, I asked you, together with other representatives of the Government and private interests, to participate in a conference to explore the possibilities of joint use of power transmission facilities in the Tennessee Valley area. The preliminary fact-finding arranged for at that conference has been completed and the report is in my hands.

"Since the conference of September thirtieth, a sweeping preliminary injunction has been issued against the Tennessee Valley Authority upon the application of nineteen utility companies, including certain companies who were parties to the conference. The securing of an injunction of this broad character, under the circumstances, precludes a joint transmission facility arrangement, and makes it advisable to discontinue these conferences."

That is that. In other words, there isn't any use in going ahead with the thing as long as we are enjoined. We have the factual report of all of the power facilities.

Q. Can you tell us anything about the report, what it shows, or anything like that?

THE PRESIDENT: Merely a factual report, no recommendation. It shows the amount of juice produced at every point and the amount transmitted on the different lines of transmission, the consumption in the various areas, the estimates made by the companies and by the Government on future consumption, and the methods of distribution which are now in existence.

Q. Mr. President, will there be a further extension of the contract between TVA and the Commonwealth and Southern, which expires next week?

THE PRESIDENT: That, I think, is being taken up now. That is only one contract relating, I think, to only one place. This has nothing to do with that contract.

Q. One question on that: I understand the president of the Commonwealth and Southern says that the suit was pending at the time of your September conference and there have been no developments, really, to change the situation.

THE PRESIDENT: What did he say about the injunction?

Q. He said the suit was pending, and you did not require that they should withdraw the suit.

THE PRESIDENT: He would not have withdrawn it if I had required it. Obviously, the situation was somewhat changed by the sweeping character of the injunction. . . .

Q. Anything about the strike or what will be done on it?

THE PRESIDENT: As you know, these conferences this afternoon related to labor legislation; and labor legislation only was discussed with Harper Sibley and Bob Fleming and also with Mr. Ogburn and Mr. Green. Labor legislation was also the principal topic with the previous group, Mr. Hillman, Mr. Lewis, etc., although in that talk we did talk of the effects of labor legislation on this particular automobile strike. But that was only in general terms.

You will also want to know what I said during the course of the day about what I read in the paper this morning about the refusal of Mr. Sloan to come down tomorrow. I told them I was not only disappointed in the refusal of Mr. Sloan to come down here, but I regarded it as a very unfortunate decision on his part.

Q. May we quote that?


Q. To whom did you tell that?

THE PRESIDENT: I think everybody today, including the Press.

Q. Unfortunate for whom, Mr. Sloan? (Laughter)

Q. You have not communicated directly with Sloan?


Q. What is the next step?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know.

Q. Mr. Sloan said if you invited him down here he would come. Do you plan to do that?

THE PRESIDENT: A representative of the President has asked him to come down here. . . .

Q. Mr. President, what is the scope of the legislation, your objectives?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we talked in a pretty wide scope, but we did not confine them exactly. We spoke chiefly about the problem of three things that I have talked about in several messages already this year; child labor, and minimum wages, and maximum hours. Of course those dovetail into a good many other things, but those were the principal features we stressed.

Q. Any discussion, Mr. President, of legislation, giving the Labor Department emergency powers of examination of records, etc., to handle situations of this kind in the future?

THE PRESIDENT: No, we did not discuss that today.

Q. This legislation, has it taken form as yet? Will it be submitted to the Hill pretty soon?

THE PRESIDENT: Not yet but soon.

Q. Is there any decision to broaden this legislation so that if either party to this controversy demands an election the Government can step in and bring about an election?

THE PRESIDENT: We did not discuss that at all. It hasn't anything to do with child labor or minimum wages or maximum hours. We did not treat that at all.

Q. Did the Supreme Court dovetail into the discussion at all?


Q. Does your program for labor legislation depend on the Supreme Court decision on the National Labor Relations Act?


Q. Have you heard from the nineteen Governors who wrote in regard to the child labor amendment?

THE PRESIDENT: I think we have replies from every one of them; and from the smaller states the information I get is that it looks pretty favorable.

Q. One has ratified in the meantime.

THE PRESIDENT: Kentucky has ratified.

Q. I don't think that was one of the nineteen states, was it?

Q. They had a special session. Your letter went out only to those having regular sessions.


Q. In regard to the strike, is there any intention to renew the invitation to Mr. Sloan in a more emphatic manner?

THE PRESIDENT: I have not considered the matter any further.

Q. Any subpoena power? You spoke perhaps as if you had, before today's conference, considered the necessity for such power.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I have not considered it at all.

Q. Any possibility of legislation on the sit down strikes?


Q. Did the discussion have any bearing on the shipping strike?

THE PRESIDENT: No, not at all.

Q. Mr. President, incidentally to the shipping strike, when are we going to get the Maritime Commission?

THE PRESIDENT: I hope soon. I ought to have a record to play on that.

Q. You have never given me a definition of "soon." (Laughter) . .

Q. Was your remark last Friday on the CIO properly construed as a rebuke?

THE PRESIDENT: Now, Of course, I don't like to have to analyze what you boys write. If I once started I would get into some awful trouble. (Laughter)

Q. So would we. (Laughter)

Q. Mr. President, do you see any prospects at all, can you give us any possibility of daylight ahead on the strike in view of Mr. Sloan's refusal? Can you give us any idea of the next step ahead?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I cannot. I have a cheerful disposition; that is the only thing that is left.

Q. Can you tell us anything on the flood situation? We heard from the heads today and from Mr. Early. I was wondering if you had anything?

THE PRESIDENT; No, the only thing I think is, without going into the details of the particular locality, that the emergency certainly will not be over from the point of view of worse damage, worse destruction, worse danger to life from waters, for at least another forty-eight hours because a great deal of this water is still pretty high up on the Ohio River. As you know, up around Pittsburgh it has only just begun to recede an inch or two and that is the second crest they have had at Pittsburgh. At Wheeling, in the last report I got, it was still rising. At Louisville, it is about stationary. At Cincinnati it has dropped three or four inches but that is not yet a final receding of the waters. So, for another forty-eight hours, we are still looking for a good deal of trouble from actual water, and when we have got through with the final crest all the way down the Mississippi, then of course we face the second problem, which is cleaning up, and which is a very serious matter, both from the point of view of the work involved and also from the danger to life.

Q. Is this flood going to give a stronger interest to more permanent flood control work in that area?

THE PRESIDENT: I would rather put it on a broader basis. We had an editorial this morning that pointed out that whenever we have a flood we have three or four different groups who rush to the Government to get money for this, that or the other thing. There are the people downstream, who want more and better levees; and then the next group that want dams in the rivers; and another group that want to go up into the headwaters and plant trees; and another group that says it is entirely a question of soil erosion. So you get all these different groups that say their own particular pet theory will stop the flood.

I have come to the conclusion that we have to pursue all of these things simultaneously. They all tie in in a general picture; and, for the first time, we have in the last three or four years been developing a synchronized program to tie in the entire field of flood prevention and soil erosion. That is one reason why I hope, in the Reorganization Bill, we can have a central planning authority, which will be responsible for a plan which will cover all of the watersheds that go into the Mississippi. And then all the work that is being carried on will have some relationship to the work that is being carried on at some other point.

Q. Did you discuss that with Secretary Wallace today, Mr. President?


Q. What do you think should be done this year toward flood control?

THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead with the program.

Q. Mr. President, do you have the power to select the dams to be built this year? Will those be chosen soon?


Q. On all the rivers.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I have not. That is all done in the law, in the specific appropriations for specific dams.

Q. Some have to be started first, and you are given the power to choose them.

THE PRESIDENT: I beg your pardon. you read that bill that went through last year and you will find that every project was done, with the exception of TVA projects which will be carried out in accordance with the plan two years ago, which was submitted to the Congress. In other words, Congress knows what will be started in the TVA this year. I have no authority to choose any other dams.

Q. Mr. President, I hope that I am wrong.

THE PRESIDENT: You will be. (Laughter) Look it up and talk to me about it again, because I don't think I have the authority to choose any dams.

Q. I am sure you have.

THE PRESIDENT: Where? Let me know and I will start one. Will you check on it and let me know?

Q. Mr. President, you have the power to give priority to projects to be selected under the Omnibus Bill.

THE PRESIDENT: Let us see. You are right on the appropriation for the New England and Upper Ohio that went through, within certain limits, but those limits are again dependent on the states getting together and getting the land for me and, so far, they have not got the land for me. In other words, the more quickly they do it, the more quickly the work will be started. You are right on that. I have the authority, but only after the states have the land for me, and I haven't any now.

Q. In other words, that means that Pennsylvania goes up into New York and buys reservoir sites, and so on. Isn't that your situation?

THE PRESIDENT: In New England that is true.

Q. It is true in Upper Ohio. Most of the headwaters would be in New York and they would derive no direct benefit, so they expect Pennsylvania to acquire those lands.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I don't know what happened in Ohio and New York; but in the case of New England they have had that Commission which has been at work ever since I was there in the summer, and they have arrived at no conclusion. Connecticut is "kicking" now because Massachusetts and New Hampshire and Vermont have not come together. In other words, it is an illustration of this compact thing not working.

Q. Another sit-down strike?


Q. Under the present status of things, would you care to urge the states to take early action to get that flood control program started?

THE PRESIDENT: I have been doing it ever since the bill passed.

Q. Would you like to say something now?

THE PRESIDENT: I think you can gather enough from what I have said. (Laughter)

MR. YOUNG: Thank you, Mr. President.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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