Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, White House Staff Secretary’s records
Memorandum Prepared in the Office of the White House Staff Secretary
Notes on Special Legislative Conference
[White House,] June 2, 1953
The President called this special Legislative Conference for the purpose of attempting to influence the Congressional Leaders to withdraw the rider to the UN appropriation bill which would have cut off all United States funds for the UN should Communist China be admitted to the UN.
The President had first shown his concern over the question at the press conference on May 28. By June 1 he felt it essential to communicate directly with the Congressional Leaders. At first, he planned to write a letter expressing his concern and urging elimination of the rider. In the process of preparing such a letter, he determined that it would be more effective to meet with the Leaders and thrash the matter out in discussion.
The meeting began at 11:55, Tuesday, June 2. Present were:
- The President
- Vice President Nixon
- Sen. Knowland
- Sen. Millikin
- Sen. Bridges
- Sen. Saltonstall
- Rep. Martin
- Rep. Halleck
- Rep. Arends
- Rep. Taber
The President initiated discussion by stating his distress that this rider might be enacted. He said he opposed the rider because he believed that the United States could not properly serve notice on the UN in such a manner and, more fundamentally, the United States could not live alone. The President emphasized that he was not attempting to tell the Members of Congress what their personal opinions should be or what they could say about it; but he was convinced that enactment of the rider would seriously hamper him in the conduct of foreign affairs. He described the UN as being the only machinery for bringing all these organizations of the world together to discuss problems, and as constituting the hope of the world for creating eventually an association in which laws would replace battlefields. [Page 654] Such an association was essential because global war was now unthinkable as a result of new and devastating weapons like atomic energy. He pointed out that Communist China was not yet in the UN, that it was not wise to tie our hands irrevocably about affairs in advance, and he pointed to the change in the situation of Germany between 1945 and 1953 as illustrating how rapidly situations and attitudes can change. He asserted that the world situation demanded both patience and courage on our part to prevent frustrations from getting the best of us. He then noted the probable adverse effect in regard to world public opinion if Congress made the mistake of penny-pinching (taking a monetary approach) in order to prove its point of opposing entry of Red China into the UN.
Senator Bridges replied that he and Senators Saltonstall and Know-land had voted for the rider because they were disgusted with the situation now developing, that they thought their action strengthened the hand of the Government by virtue of laying down the rules of the game before the action became critical, that they had no desire to embarrass the President, and that they believed this a legitimate attempt to present to the world the position of Congress, paricularly in view of the Republican position through the years and the Democrats’ failure to handle the problem.
Representative Halleck stated his agreement with the President’s position and his belief that the rider did not make sense, and that it would destroy the UN if the situation developed to the point where the provisions went into effect—that withdrawal by the United States would terminate existence of the UN.
The President then commented that he did not care how thoroughly any one stated opposition to the admission of Red China, but that he did not want the situation foreclosed. He said that the achievement of peace depended upon constantly struggling and working toward that end, whereas the rider would initiate a crumbling of the structure for peace which could have no end except disaster.
Senator Knowland stated the admission of Red China would violate all of his basic beliefs, that the Senate had passed a similar resolution in 1951, that many rumors existed which he believed true to the effect that Britain would press for the admission of Red China soon after negotiation of a cease fire in Korea, that under ordinary procedure the United States could not carry the UN with it on this subject, and that therefore the United States must now take an active aggressive stand.
The President disagreed on the basis that the rider was not the right way to oppose this development, and that if a workable world organization were to be produced, every nation must expect to undergo defeats in the UN from time to time. He asserted that destruction of the UN would result in the break-up of NATO; and he asked where we would be in that event and how could he possibly fulfill his responsibilities [Page 655] for America’s security. He commented that he wanted to be reasonable in the matter, for that was why he had called in his friends to discuss it, and now they had to come to some agreement.
Senator Knowland replied that some other way of expressing Congressional disapproval might be satisfactory, such as a resolution which would have no legal effect on the President nor cut off funds for the UN.
The President then commented on the variations of Government policy in regard to recognition—that it had one meaning to most European Governments but that since the time of President Wilson it had in the United States unfortunately meant approval of the Government recognized.
Senator Bridges indicated his willingness to see the members of the Appropriations Committee individually or call a special commission to study the matter. He noted that Senator Dirksen had submitted the rider.
The President agreed to an alternative action so long as it was not a money approach. He would then be able to go to the leaders of foreign governments, impress upon them the attitude of Congress and its leaders, and warn them that if they forced the issue he would not be able to answer for the reaction of the United States. He then pointed out that no single person in a responsible position had suggested to him that the United States should support the admission of Red China. He repeated that any action which would completely forestall our freedom of action in the future would be unsatisfactory.
Senator Saltonstall pointed out that he had voted for the McClellan Resolution in 1951 and for this rider. He emphasized the Senate concern that should Red China shoot its way into the UN, it would shoot up the UN.
Representative Halleck then voiced his support for the President’s proposals.
Representative Taber suggested the wording of the rider be reduced merely to stating that Congress opposes.
The President reviewed his efforts to improve the relations of the United States and its Allies by sending Messrs. Dulles and Stassen abroad twice, his brother Milton to South America, and his plans for the Vice President to make certain goodwill trips. The original wording of the rider would negate such efforts.
Senator Bridges then stated that he and his associates would withdraw the proposal.
The President then promised to begin immediately to inform other heads of governments about the Congressional attitude on admission of Red China. He added the warning that the budget of the United States would have to be increased greatly should our friends begin to fall away.[Page 656]
Senator Millikin urged that the President express his personal opinion in a statement.
The President concluded the meeting with the remark: “Let’s not write off our friends”.
(Note: This report is based on notes taken by Mr. Hagerty during the meeting, and recapitulated immediately thereafter to Minnich.)