National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933

AuthorJeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) was one of the most important and daring measures of President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT's NEW DEAL. It was enacted during the famous First Hundred Days of Roosevelt's first term in office and was the centerpiece of his initial efforts to reverse the economic collapse of the Great Depression. NIRA was signed into law on June 16, 1933, and was to remain in effect for

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two years. It attempted to make structural changes in the industrial sector of the economy and to alleviate unemployment with a public works program. It succeeded only partially in accomplishing its goals, and on May 27, 1935, less than three weeks before the act would have expired, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

Economists, scholars, politicians, and the public at large were deeply divided as to the underlying causes of the Great Depression and the best means to bring it to an end. In the months following Roosevelt's inauguration, his advisers, along with members of Congress and representatives from business and labor, drafted the legislation that was introduced in Congress on May 15, 1933, as the National Industrial Recovery Act. The division of opinions about the Depression was reflected in those who drafted NIRA, and the act drew both praise and criticism from across the political spectrum. Nevertheless, the urgency of the economic situation (with unemployment exceeding 30 percent in many parts of the country) pressured Congress to act.

The House of Representatives passed the NIRA by a vote of 325 to 76. When it reached the Senate, however, several powerful senators opposed the bill. Some progressives favored alternative legislation authored by Alabama Senator HUGO L. BLACK, which promoted a 30-hour workweek. Some senators were concerned that the act suspended the enforcement of ANTITRUST LAWS at the same time that it called on businesses to play a major role in drafting "codes of fair competition." The Senate eventually approved the bill by a margin of seven votes.

NIRA was divided into three sections, or titles. Title I promoted centralized economic planning by instituting codes of fair competition for industry. Title II provided $3.3 billion for public works projects. Title III contained minor amendments to the Emergency Relief and Construction Act of 1932 (47 Stat. 709).

Title I of the act declared a "national emergency productive of widespread unemployment and disorganization of industry, which burdens interstate and foreign commerce, affects the public WELFARE, and undermines the standards of living of the American people." To correct this situation, NIRA proposed to "remove obstructions to the free...

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