Harry S. Truman photo

Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Extending the Terms of the Members of the Atomic Energy Commission.

July 03, 1948

I HAVE signed H.R. 6402 which amends the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 by extending for 2 years the term of office of the present members of the Atomic Energy Commission.

I had hoped that the Senate would not adjourn without acting upon my renominations of the present commissioners for the full statutory terms ranging from 1 to 5 years prescribed in the Atomic Energy Act. However, Republican leaders refused to permit the Senate to consider the nominations, and this bill was passed instead.

I consider that this bill is not in the best public interest, since it invests the atomic energy program with an aura of uncertainty and of partisan politics.

Nevertheless, if I had not signed it, the terms of the commission members would have expired on August 1, 1948. I could then have made only temporary appointments, which would detract greatly from the continuity and effectiveness of the national atomic energy program at this critical time. I deplore the effect which this action by the Congress may have upon public confidence in the Government's handling of this formidable force in human affairs. Politics and atomic energy do not mix. The refusal of the Republican leadership to put the public interest first can only create an impression at home and abroad that the Congress has failed to grasp the full significance of atomic energy to our national security and to our responsibility as a Nation dedicated to peaceful reconstruction.

Nearly 2 years ago, I was faced with the responsibility of appointing the first members of the Atomic Energy Commission. I sought to select and draft the ablest men available for these positions of high public trust. Party interests were not considered in my search for the right men. I hoped and believed that partisanship never would become a test of the fitness of individuals to serve on this Commission.

The 5 men I nominated at that time have been in office for a year and a half. In a very real sense, it is unfortunate that I cannot reveal fully the progress which has occurred under their direction during this period. Our understanding of the nature of this great new force has grown, and is continuing to grow. Impressive advances have been achieved through the collaboration of Government, industry, and the Nation's institutions of higher learning. It has been a nonpartisan, unselfish effort planned and directed by these 5 men. I am confident that, under their continued leadership, even greater progress will be made in the future.

I renominated the members of the Commission on April 20 of this year for the terms prescribed in the Atomic Energy Act. The Senate had ample opportunity to evaluate the stewardship and continued fitness of these men. The American people had every right to expect them to do so. The Republican leadership, instead, refused to take up the nominations and apparently intended to let the terms expire without any action. Public criticism of this neglect of duty was intense, and the Republican leaders then devised this 2-year extension of the terms of the present Commissioners. This is an unsatisfactory compromise which fails to assure the necessary long-term continuity of direction over research and development relating to atomic energy.

In pressing this amendment to the Atomic Energy Act upon the House of Representatives and the Senate, Republican leaders resorted to the specious argument that consideration of my renominations at this time would provoke a controversy harmful to the atomic energy program. I need only point out that if the Senate genuinely questioned the fitness of the nominees to serve the full statutory terms, it was completely illogical for the Congress to extend their terms for 2 years.

I have signed this measure, notwithstanding these objections, because the Nation's vital interest in atomic energy requires even the limited continuity of leadership which this measure will allow.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 6402 is Public Law 898, 80th Congress (62 Stat. 1259).

Harry S. Truman, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Extending the Terms of the Members of the Atomic Energy Commission. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232642

Simple Search of Our Archives