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Saturday, 22 July 2017

Furious Debates on FDR's "Court-packing" Bill Claim a Victim


The struggle to pass President Roosevelt’s bill reorganizing the Supreme Court claimed a very high profile victim. The measures designed to allow the President to appoint sympathetic judges and thus to expedite legislation he favoured, had aroused immense controversy and opposition even from fellow Democrats: it had been labelled “the Court-packing bill”. It had been vigorously championed by Arkansas senator Joseph Taylor Robinson, leader of the Democratic majority and a key ally of the President. His style was naturally aggressive and over-bearing and this had produced some furious exchanges in the Bill’s already bitter battles through Congress. Robinson’s sudden death from heart failure was almost universally blamed on the strains to which he subjected himself. The President announced that he was still committed to the Bill but ultimately it failed. It is a moot question as to whether Robinson would have secured its passage had he lived.

The Labour Party succeeded in tying itself into an even tighter knot over its attitude towards the Spanish Civil War. Naturally it sought to capitalise on flaws in the government’s generally feeble policy but struggle to advance a worthwhile positive policy of its own. It opposed the government’s support of international “Non Intervention” in the war, which was generally held to favour the Nationalists, but conspicuously failed to present any particular form of intervention as a solution. The splits within Labour ranks were painfully exposed when the whips ducked out of a vote in the House of Commons by the Parliamentary device of having the debate “talked out” by a Labour member.


France’s new government under the Radical Georges Bonnet were confronted by yet another assault on the franc by the currency markets. Perhaps inevitably, it retreated from the Front Populaire’s policies of heavy government spending and brought in an array of cost-savings. Even the Socialist Party expressed support for the measures. Blum’s great experiment was at an end. To round things off the franc was formally devalued by about 15%.

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