Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Pacific Northwest Disaster Relief Act

June 17, 1965

Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

This is a very happy and gratifying occasion for all of us--for the legislative branch and for the executive branch alike.

It is also a gratifying occasion, I think, for the people of this country and those who love our system of government.

The legislation before me now very clearly represents and, I think, symbolizes the spirit of constructive cooperation, and more than that, responsible understanding that prevails today between the great branches of our great Federal system.

The legislation which I will shortly sign has the highest of humanitarian purposes. It will provide additional and essential funds to further the reconstruction of areas of our great Pacific Northwest, a section that has the finest potential in our country. This area was severely devastated by the unprecedented floods last winter.

On the objectives involved, there has never been the slightest disagreement between any of us in either party. However, when the legislation came to me a few days ago, there were provisions in it which made it necessary for a self-respecting executive to withhold approval at that time. For me, I can tell you such a decision was not reached lightly. I was troubled. I believe devotedly in our system of division of power in checks and balances.

On November 27, 1963, when I first spoke after assuming the burdens of this Office, I told the Congress in person that for 32 long years Capitol Hill had been my home. Then I went on to add, as one who has long served in both Houses of the Congress--12 in the House and 12 in the Senate--I see some of you out there that were responsible for my going there even though you may not want to admit it--I firmly believe in the independence and the integrity of the legislative branch of the Government, and I promise you that I shall always respect this. It is deep in the marrow of my bones. For this philosophy guides me still, and will always.

Let none think I worship the veto. I exercise it rarely and only when required. I never welcome either the opportunity or the necessity to make use of that power in this Office. But I do believe that it is imperative to the order and to the success and to the strength of this great constitutional system--and some of the great constitutional lawyers in our country are standing behind me this morning--that the division of responsibilities as well as the division of powers be faithfully and religiously maintained. And that is why I took the decision to withhold my approval of this legislation originally and to set forth my views very respectfully and very carefully in an attempt to be as inoffensive as possible to the Congress.

The result has been a very slight delay of about a week in securing this legislation which does uphold, I think, the vital principles on which our whole system was built and upon which it stands.

I am very grateful and I am most appreciative and, if I could, I would ask their constituents to take judicial notice of the sponsors of this legislation, particularly the chairmen of the Senate and House committees, Senator McNamara and Congressman Fallon, Senator Morse and others, for their willing cooperation in achieving this prompt and this constructive action.

As I have said, this cooperation should be reassuring to all the American people--reassuring that this is not, that there is not, and there will not be a stalemate in our democracy.

As we of the executive branch ask respect for the division of executive responsibilities, I want all within the executive branch to hear me now say loud and clear, that we extend to the legislative branch that same respect.

I want every employee and every bureaucrat in this Government to know that I am going to exercise the responsibilities of the executive department but I recognize the equal and sometimes more compelling responsibilities of the legislative department. And I want them to recognize them, too, and to honor them and to respect them and to cooperate with them, and not infringe upon them. So when laws have been enacted and when they have been signed, I want them faithfully and fully upheld in the spirit of the law. Although we in the executive branch might not have agreed with every curlicue or every comma or every paragraph, they do express the will of the Congress, and the only will that governs our land under law is the will of the people. And the will of the people is expressed through their elected representatives, not as well expressed as I would always have it, but it is expressed, and once it is expressed, that is it.

This will and this way must be respected and honored to the fullest in both spirit and letter of the constitutional intent. Our system stands on mutual respect and trust. It will never grow, it will never flourish, it will never persist, it will never endure on division, or on contention, or on quarrels, or on name calling, or on labels.

It is that spirit which must govern and must guide us as we face our challenges at home and when we meet our tests abroad.

So I am very proud and I am very pleased, and I am very honored in the presence of those of you here this morning to be able now to give my approval to this valuable legislation for the benefit of a strong and a growing region of our great land, and to be able to give it consistent with the spirit of our Constitution, consistent with our division of powers, consistent with the kind of relationship I want to exist between the branches of Government.

I think I can truthfully say that I doubt there has ever been a period in American history when the Court and the Congress and the Executive were working more harmoniously, and were discharging their duties more effectively.

We don't spend our time on name calling and talking about somebody else. We just spend our time on passing bills for the benefit of the people and hoping the Court will uphold it.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11 :17 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Senator Pat McNamara of Michigan, Chairman of the Senate Public Works Committee, Representative George H. Fallon of Maryland, Chairman of the House Public Works Committee, and Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon.

As enacted, the Pacific Northwest Disaster Relief Act of 1965 (S. 2089) is Public Law 89-41 (79 Stat. 131).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Pacific Northwest Disaster Relief Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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