Miller Center

Poverty, Religion, and Military Base Closures

This clipping comes from a long conversation in which President Johnson and Speaker of the House John McCormack discussed the intransigence of the House Rules Committee and the controversy surrounding possible federal funding of parochial schools under the economic opportunity bill (which provided the legislative basis for the War on Poverty). The latter issue had emerged when Representative Hugh L. Carey of New York and other northeastern Catholic Democrats offered an amendment that would have authorized direct federal support for parochial schools under the bill's community action titles. The National Education Association, the largest of the two major teachers' unions, bitterly opposed any form of federal aid to religious schools. McCormack, a Massachusetts Democrat and a Catholic, had led an attempt to secure federal aid for parochial schools during the House fight over President Kennedy’s 1961 education bill. In doing so, he had been an ally of the same Catholic congressmen who had inserted the religious issue into the War on Poverty debate in 1964. As Speaker, however, he chose not to challenge the President on such an important piece of legislation. Earlier in the conversation, Johnson had reacted angrily to an attempt by Massachusetts Democrat (and Catholic) Tip O’Neill's to trade support of the poverty bill for a guarantee that the Boston Navy Yard would remain open. In this clip, the President returned to the subject of the navy yards and touched more sympathetically on the pressing economic issue of automation and unemployment in the industrial northeast.

Date:  May 11, 1964
Participants:  Lyndon Johnson, John McCormack, Bill Moyers
Conversation Number:  WH6405.04-3393, 3394

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