Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Excerpts from the Press Conference

May 25, 1937

THE PRESIDENT: I have only. one thing. I have sent to the two Chairmen of the Military Affairs Committees of the House and Senate a copy of the report on helium from the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretaries of State, War, Navy and Commerce, in which they point out that the United States Government is virtually the only large producer in the world, and that there is only one more private company.

They recommend that, if satisfactory terms with this small private company can be arranged, the Government buy it, thereby giving it a practical monopoly on helium. They recommend that we continue to sell it for experimental use, which is mostly medical use, and that in regard to lighter than-air craft, we should, in accordance with the Good Neighbor policy, let other nations have any unneeded surplus for the promotion of commerce, and for the safeguarding of lives of passengers, on condition that this use in commerce be properly guarded against military use. That report is going up to the Hill. Steve will let you have copies of the report, I think, in a few minutes. Want to have it done now, Steve?

MR. EARLY: Yes, sir.

Q. Will you make any comment on that report?

THE PRESIDENT: It sounds like very good common sense.

Q. What is the object of buying the small private plant?

THE PRESIDENT: Additional supplies. Probably, if we have the whole thing we can produce more cheaply than they can.

Q. That is the Louisville plant, is it not, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. We talked about buying it two years ago, I think, Ulric, and the price was much too high.

Q. Mr. President, does the report say what would be considered proper safeguards against military use?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it does not go into that.

Q. Will you indicate that?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it does not go into that, and I don't know. That will have to be worked out.

Q. We were hearing suggestions last night and today that the Social Security Act may be extended. Senator Wagner made some suggestions, and the statement was made last night to the general effect that it might be extended to farm labor and domestic labor. Also that it might include health insurance eventually. Have you given any thought to it?

THE PRESIDENT: Fred [Essary], all I can say is that it was about last October or November that the Social Security Board itself began talking about minor amendments, such as increasing the amount of benefits for dependent children or crippled children to bring them up more nearly to the amount that widows were getting per capita. There have been various plans, all of which would cost more money, naturally. All these plans related to exceptions to the kind of social security provided under the bill. In December, when we were doing the budget, we all agreed that this year—this calendar year -should go by without anything being done on it at this session of Congress. In other words, we wanted to see how it worked out before making any determination in regard to any changes.

Q. Then it was the budget matter rather than any uncertainty over Court action that caused it to go over?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q. Can you say anything about the Court action? Has it changed your plans?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think there is any comment. I think that is a very obvious thing. I tell you what I can say, though, if you want something for background—something very simple. I think we are all-looking at the thing from the large point of view—very, very happy over the decisions of yesterday. I think we are all hopeful that in the days to come the same human point of view will prevail; but of course there are a great many things that have not been passed on yet—an enormous number of things.

Well, just for example, that message that I sent up yesterday involved three or four fairly important changes in national policy. As to child labor, it would involve a direct reversal of a Supreme Court decision. We hope that that reversal will take place. If it does take place—and somebody is almost sure to take it up to the Court—we come to the second phase, which is minimum wages. Of course the theory under which the Government can enter the field to see that people get decent wages is exactly the same theory as in the case of child labor. That would have to be passed on. Limitation of maximum hours would have to be passed on. Goods manufactured under inferior employment conditions, such as refusal to bargain collectively—that would have to be passed on.

There, just in one message, are four new issues raised, which, in all human probability, will some day come before the Court. And, of course, there are a great many things that have occurred in the past that still have not been ruled on. We do not know anything about T.V.A. The T.V.A. decision related only in effect to the Wilson Dam. The same things may come up on Boulder Dam, Bonneville, and lots of other places. Then there is flood control on the Ohio watershed. These things I have not thought out at all. They are just popping into my mind. The question remains, for instance, if a municipality wants to have its own electric light plant, whether it can borrow money from the Federal Government. We assume municipalities can because they can borrow money from the Federal Government for hospitals, or sewers or new streets. Can they get a grant in any way from either W.P.A. or P.W.A. or any other assistance? That question has not been ruled on. And so it goes. I suppose there are half a dozen other things that have not been ruled upon as yet by the Supreme Court, and they are all very, very vital propositions. For instance, here is another one: Can the Federal Government, in entering upon a housing project, condemn land? And so it goes.

Q. [Russell Young] Mr. President, taking it from what you say, it is not what the Supreme Court is doing now, it is what it will do in the future.

THE PRESIDENT: Continuing process.

Q. The emergency that originally called for action on the Court plan this session- do you think that has passed now?

THE PRESIDENT: I will let you do your own imagining.

Q. Can you comment on another report from Europe at this time—from Mussolini—that a World Arms Limitation Conference would be a success if you called it?

THE PRESIDENT: I have not seen or heard it. When did it come out?

Q. Today.

THE PRESIDENT: I have not seen it. . . .

Q. Returning to the helium question. Can you explain the purpose of sending such report to Congress. I believe you have the power to export a certain amount of helium.

THE PRESIDENT: I think probably the chief reason was that there have been a number of bills introduced on the Hill for it, and a number of speeches made on it, and this is primarily for the information of Congress. . . .

RUSSELL YOUNG: Thank you, sir.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209587

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