Historical Highlights

President Harry S. Truman’s special Joint Session on inflation, housing, and civil rights

July 27, 1948
President Harry S. Truman’s special Joint Session on inflation, housing, and civil rights Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
A three-term Congressman, Ralph Church of Illinois served in the Illinois state house before resigning to serve in World War I.
On this date during the 80th Congress (1947–1949), President Harry Truman delivered a message to a special Joint Session of Congress. Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution provides that the President "may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them." Extraordinary sessions have been called by the Chief Executive to urge the Congress to focus on important national issues. In his address, Truman argued that citizens “demand legislative action by their Government . . . to check inflation and the rising cost of living, and second, to help in meeting the acute housing shortage.” Truman offered an eight-point plan to curb inflation, resolve a national housing shortage, and provide federal assistance to children, minimum-wage workers, and senior citizens. He also asked Congress to act on legislation concerning energy, federal employee salaries, and civil rights. The reaction to Truman’s message was mixed. Many Members were unhappy with staying in Washington, D.C., during the summer of a presidential election year. Senator William Langer of North Dakota commended Truman, “for taking this action, even though it was somewhat tardy.” Some members criticized the plan as an unnecessary extension of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. Others, such as Representative Ralph Church of Illinois, considered the message, “a political campaign document. [Truman] . . . has recommended nothing that he could not have emphasized prior to the adjournment of Congress a few weeks ago.” A reluctant Congress enacted financing legislation for housing, but ignored the remainder of President Truman’s requests.

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