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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting Draft of an Emergency Powers Continuation Act.

February 19, 1952

My dear.____________:

I transmit herewith a draft Emergency Powers Continuation Act, recommended by the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board and the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, and I recommend immediate and favorable consideration of it by the Congress.

The purpose of this draft bill is to insure the continuation of certain specific powers which the Government is exercising for the preservation of the national security. Under the language used in the statutes conferring these powers they exist now only because we are still technically in a state of war. The only state of war still existing between this country and others is the state of war with Japan. Accordingly, unless the Congress acts to continue these powers they will end when that state of war ends or, in some cases, within a fixed period thereafter. The consideration of this measure is a matter of urgency since the Treaty of Peace with Japan has now been favorably acted on by the Senate Committee on foreign Relations. It will come into force, after ratification by the United States, when four countries among a group named in the Treaty ratify, in addition to Japan and the United Kingdom, which have already ratified.

This bill continues only the specific acts or parts of acts cited in it, some sixty in number, each of which is summarized in the enclosed explanatory memorandum. They deal with such widely varying subjects as those covered by provisions under which: (1) the President, in time of war, may assume control over the railroads; (2) the Government may reduce the royalties to be paid by it on articles used in the defense programs; (3) Reserve officers may be appointed without peacetime limitations; and (4) members of the Armed forces may vote for Federal officials notwithstanding absence from home. Some of the other provisions are individually of less importance, but the sixty as a whole, taken together, are very significant. Existing war-dependent authorities not dealt with in the bill will lapse in accordance with their terms when the state of war ends.

The bill is based on an intensive study of Federal law, which took account of legislation enacted up to the close of the last session of Congress and even during the present session. But a limited purpose has guided the drafting. That purpose is to deal, in this bill, only with such of the war-dependent authorizations now existing as should be continued in the interest of national security during a period when disturbance in world affairs makes it necessary to exercise unusual powers. Consequently the powers specifically dealt with in the hill-and only these--are continued only for the duration of the national emergency proclaimed on December 16, 1950 and six months thereafter, with a provision that any or all of them may be terminated at earlier times by concurrent resolution of the Congress or by the President. The bill does not alter these powers except in one particular in section 1(a)(27). It continues them as they are, and it does not deal at all with powers which existed at one time during the war but have now lapsed or been repealed. If any of these ought to be reenacted, or if the existing provisions to be continued by the bill ought to be amended in the light of practical experience or to meet present conditions, the agencies concerned will make proposals entirely apart from this bill.

To insure a full presentation of the issues to the Congress and to eliminate any legal uncertainty or litigation which might arise if it were not made perfectly clear which statutes are in force and which have been allowed to lapse, it has been assumed for the purpose of the bill that the conflict now going on in Korea does not constitute a state of war within the meaning of the statutes dealt with. It has also been assumed that the termination of the state of war with Japan would terminate the national emergencies proclaimed by the President in 1939 and 1941. It is my intention, in order to eliminate any doubt on this latter point, that the proclamation of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, after its coming into force, shall expressly terminate those emergencies.

The procedures followed in drafting the bill and accompanying explanatory memorandum are set forth more fully in the enclosed letter from the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board and the Director of the Bureau of the Budget.

I hope that the Congress will enact this measure promptly so that the coming into force of the Treaty of Peace with Japan will not deprive the Government of powers necessary for the national security.

Respectfully,

HARRY S. TRUMAN

Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Alben W. Barkley, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

On July 3, 1952, the President approved the Emergency Powers Continuation Act (66 Stat. 330).

The Treaty of Peace with Japan was signed by the President on April 15, 1952 (see Item 95).

The explanatory material and the letter to the President signed by Robert A. Lovett, Secretary of Defense, J. Howard McGrath, Attorney General, Jack Gorrie, Chairman of the National Security Resources Board, and f. J. Lawton, Director of the Bureau of the Budget, are published in House Document 368 (82d Cong., 2d sess.)
See also Item 79.

Harry S. Truman, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting Draft of an Emergency Powers Continuation Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231378

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