Mot Juste, With Blarney

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House Majority Leader John McCormack [Democrat of Massachusetts] felt somewhat uneasy about the prospect of introducing the Lend-Lease Bill on the floor of the House on January 10, 1941. … The professional Irishmen who dominated his constituency were likely to become irate over any “aid-to-Britain” legislation like Lend-Lease, and having it labeled the McCormack Bill could direct their anger toward him. …

Lewis Deschler [the House parliamentarian] was aware of McCormack’s discomfiture. For no real reason that he could ever recall, it occurred to Deschler that numbering the bill H.R. 1776 might solve Mr. McCormack’s problem.… The Majority Leader was most appreciative. Not only would it end any mention of the “McCormack Bill” and thus solve his own private dilemma, but the implicit appeal to patriotism would subtly aid in building public support for the bill itself.

In spite of this shrewd move, McCormack remained somewhat uncomfortable for about ten days—at which time he returned briefly to Boston. While there, an argumentative female constituent vigorously attacked him for having introduced and supported a bill designed to aid the English spalpeens. McCormack’s reply was the classic example of a politician thinking on his feet—yet it also reflected, in a small way, his own deep-felt conviction. He calmly answered: “Madam, do you realize that the Vatican is surrounded on all sides by totalitarianism? Madam, this is not a bill to save the English, this is a bill to save Catholicism.”