Commentary Magazine


Quick, But Not That Quick

After the House passed the “stimulus” bill by a vote of 246-183 without a single Republican vote yesterday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the chamber that no president in history had ever acted so boldly or so quickly to help the American economy.

Well, boldness, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder. But quickness can be objectively measured. The bill passed on the 25th day of the Obama presidency. Is that a record for major economic legislation? No, it’s not even close.

On March 9th, 1933, only the sixth day of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, he signed the Emergency Banking Act–which revolutionized American banking–into law. It had been submitted at one o’clock that afternoon, passed the House by unanimous voice vote 38 minutes later, passed the Senate a few hours after that with only seven dissenting votes, and FDR signed it into law at 8:36 that evening.   Now that’s quick, not to mention bipartisan, which no one can  accuse the stimulus bill of being.

Indeed, by the 25th day of his presidency Roosevelt had also signed into law the bill creating the Civilian Conservation Corps to employ 250,000 young people, the Economy Act, which reorganized the government to reduce government expenses by $500 million, and the Beer-Wine Revenue Act legalizing low-alcohol drinks and taxing them heavily, which proved to be the death knell of Prohibition.

By June 16th, when Congress adjourned, Roosevelt had signed 14 major acts of legislation into law.