Statement by the President Upon Signing the General Appropriation Act.
I HAVE signed H.R. 7786, the General Appropriation Act of 1951.
This bill provides, in a consolidated form, funds and other authorizations for the departments and agencies of the Federal Government for the fiscal year which began last July 1.
In signing this bill, I am compelled to call attention to a provision which, in my judgment, represents an unwise and dangerous departure from proper budgetary practices. This is the requirement that the executive branch reduce the appropriations enacted by the Congress by a fixed amount.
The foundation of our budget system is the preparation of an annual budget by the President and its presentation to the Congress for review, adjustment, and final determination.
For more than 200 pages this enrolled bill sets forth in great detail the individual amounts appropriated by the Congress for the many programs of the Government. Section 1214 of the bill, however, directs that these individual and specific decisions by the Congress on appropriations and authorizations for the executive branch of the Government be reduced by at least $550 million, "without impairing national defense." In effect, the bill requires the executive branch to revise the judgment of the Congress on individual programs to meet an overall arbitrary reduction.
This unusual provision represents a failure by the Congress to exercise its proper responsibility for enacting appropriations to conduct the Government's business. The needs of our defense effort make it necessary to place primary emphasis on those programs of the Government which will strengthen our Armed Forces, our power to produce for defense, and the combined power of the free world to establish peace. In effecting the reduction required in the bill, a careful review will be made of all agency programs with a view to curtailing those which contribute least to these paramount objectives. This review is now going forward. It will continue during the coming months. If reductions greater than the amount specified in the bill can be made, I shall make them. Neither the Congress nor the President, however, can state at this time whether savings even to the extent arbitrarily required by Congress can be made without impairing essential Government services.
I also feel obliged to comment upon the provision of the bill which authorizes loans for the purpose of assistance to Spain. I do not regard this provision as a directive, which would be unconstitutional, but instead as an authorization, in addition to the authority already in existence under which loans to Spain may be made.
Spain is not, and has not been, foreclosed from borrowing money from this Government. Money will be loaned to Spain whenever mutually advantageous arrangements can be made with respect to security, terms of repayment, purposes for which the money is to be spent, and other appropriate factors, and whenever such loans will serve the interests of the United States in the conduct of foreign relations.
Note: As enacted, H.R. 7786 is Public Law 759, 81st Congress (64 Stat. 595).
Harry S Truman, Statement by the President Upon Signing the General Appropriation Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230199