Delegations of Legislative Authority

November 27, 1935

Report Outline
Growth of Power of the Executive Under New Deal
Progressive Delegation of Legislative Powers
Delegations of Legislative Power Since 1933
Supreme Court Decisions on Delegations of Power

Growth of Power of the Executive Under New Deal

Roosevelt's Demand for Emergency Powres in 1933

President Roosevelt, in his inaugural address on March 4, 1933, said the people of the United States had registered a mandate for direct and vigorous action. “They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership.” The people now realized, the President said, that “if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline…. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and our property to such discipline because it makes possible a leadership which aims at the larger good. This I propose to offer….”

The President hoped the normal balance of executive and legislative authority would be “wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us.” But it might be “that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.” He would ask Congress, he said, for “broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”

The legislative program for “recovery and reform” proposed in 1933 by the new administration was enacted without substantial change in the first session of the 73rd Congress. That program embodied grants to the President and to his appointees of regulatory powers on a scale and to an extent previously unknown in this country during peacetime. It represented, in fact, a heavy weighting of “the normal balance of executive and legislative authority” in favor of the executive. Congress, in 1933, delegated to the President or to other executive officers wide powers over industry, agriculture, banking, currency, securities, railroads, public works, and relief. In addition, the President was given authority to reorganize the executive and administrative branches of the government. During the 1934 and 1935 sessions, further powers were delegated to the President under tariff, monetary, relief, and other legislation, and federal administrative authority was extended over securities exchanges, utilities holding companies, the coal industry, buses and trucks, social security, and labor relations.

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