FDR And The New Deal

The Congress passed nearly all of FDR's New Deal legislation in a time period known as the 100 Days.

Without a doubt Franklin Delano Roosevelt to ascended to the presidency during one of the most difficult and critical times in American History. The economy was in total collapse, unemployment hit 30%, inflation was high, GDP was down by 50%. We call it the Great Depression and it hit it's peak in early 1933. Mr. Roosevelt entered office on January 20, 1933. People expected answers and action. And the expected it quick. To respond, FDR called an emergency session of Congress (as is within the presidential purview) and began drafting the so-called "New Deal" legislation the very weekend of his inauguration. Congress, controlled by the Democrats (and by huge margins at that) was very amenable to FDR's ideas and accepted nearly everything put forward by the President. Like Napoleon's return to France from exile on Elba, this special session of Congress during which FDR found his agenda accepted was known as the "100 days." It is this 100 days and the closing of which that is the topic of this article.

FDR seized the reigns well and started improving American confidence almost from the first moment with phrases in his inauguration speech like "I have a New Deal for the American people" and "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." But the real proof would be in the pudding, and FDR realized this. That's why he began submitting large volumes of legislation immediately. Congress, for it's part, agreed with FDR (being of the same political beliefs) and was impressed with his stamina and determination. In one of the most unique instances in American history, (rivaled only by Reconstruction legislation in the 1860's and 1870's) Congress acted as one unit to pass massive reforms.

Inaugurated on a Friday, FDR submitted his Emergency Banking Act to Congress on Monday and ordered a four-day bank holiday. Just four days later this Act was passed into law, giving him the first major success of his presidency only six days after his assumption of the office. Thus it was proven that FDR could actually cut through the smothering Washington politics and get things done in under a week! Over the next several month he succeeded in having passed 13 other very important pieces of legislation and initiated large infrastructure projects like the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which gave hydro-electric electricity (and jobs) to residents of a large part of Tennessee, and the Works Progress Administration. It was looking as if circumstances would conspire to give FDR a carte blanche in government.

Thinking he had the people's and the Congress's support, FDR then attempted to water down his opposition. The Supreme Court, often referred to as the Nine Old Men, were Republicans almost down to a man and as a result the struck down a number of FDR's New Deal programs. Upset that the Court was hampering, even destroying, his successes in Congress, FDR submitted a bill the Congress that doomed his 100 days. Known as court packing, FDR submitted a proposal to force mandatory retirement on any Justice over a certain age (which would have eliminated three of his opponents) and to expand the size of the Supreme Court from 9 to 12. Congress was outraged that anyone would try to control the Supreme Court like that and suddenly became much less amenable to FDR's further attempts at legislation.

FDR didn't have much of a choice in "court packing." It made no difference that he had a free hand with Congress if the Supreme Court nullified and invalidated everything that the Congress passed! He was forced to play the only card he had""support in Congress""to try to reduce the Court's ability to hamstring his New Deal legislation. In this gamble Mr. Roosevelt lost. He remained an effective president and did much to ease the Great Depression, but never again was he given such a free hand in creating law and initiating policy.

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