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From 1933 to 1935 the effort to promote economic recovery in the United States forced President Roosevelt to create many new federal agencies, resulting in a rapid and undisciplined expansion of government. A turning point in the history of the New Deal came when Roosevelt appointed the President’s Committee on Administrative Management to reorganize the government’s Executive Branch and give order to its structure. But his reorganization plan encountered very strong opposition both within the government and from external pressure groups. After six weeks of bitter debate, the Executive Reorganization Bill of 1938 was defeated in the House, striking a powerful blow at the President’s prestige and seemingly dampening the prospects for the future of the New Deal.
In this valuable study, Richard Polenberg examines the impetus for Executive reform, the nature of the opposition, the legislative history of the reorganization bills of 1938 and 1939, and defines the significance of the Reorganization Act of 1939. More than just a narrow investigation of the content of Roosevelt’s program, his book, in deeply exploring the relationship between the President and Congress, reflects the entire political spectrum during the latter part of the New Deal.