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The Majority Leader in Time of Peace

The Majority Leader in Time of Peace

(p.183) 12 The Majority Leader in Time of Peace
Alben Barkley
James K. Libbey
University Press of Kentucky

A conservative Supreme Court seemed bent on destroying the New Deal. President Roosevelt wanted Congress to pass a bill adding more justices to the federal judicial system. Barkley supported FDR because the court attacked programs for farmers and workers—Barkley’s key supporters. Most Republicans strongly opposed the idea, and many Democrats had mixed feelings about the reform. In the midst of the controversy Senate majority leader Robinson suffered a fatal heart attack. With FDR’s support, Barkley won the Senate’s leadership post. Barkley, however, now led a Senate badly divided not only over the court bill but also over regional issues. A watered-down reform was approved but without changing the number of justices on the Supreme Court. In 1938, Barkley faced reelection competition in the Democratic primary from Governor A. B. “Happy” Chandler. Despite, from Chandler’s perspective, controversy over the campaign, Barkley maintained unbeatable numbers in popular opinion polls and won the primary and the general election solidly.

Keywords:   Barkley and family, Franklin D. Roosevelt, New Deal, Supreme Court, Joseph T. Robinson, Senate Majority Leader, Albert Benjamin “Happy” Chandler

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