There was a dispute over a collective bargaining agreement at the steel mill and the workers were prepared to strike.
President believed that the work stoppage would jeopardize national defense and that government seizure of the mills was necessary to assure the continued availability of steel.
He ordered the Secretary of Commerce to take possession of most of the steel mills and keep them running.
President informed Congress, but Congress took no action.
Companies brought proceedings against him in the District Court, charging that the seizure was not authorized by Congress nor by any constitutional provision.
SCOTUS held for P.
Was the president acting within his constitutional power when he issued an order directing the Secretary of Commerce to take possession of and operate most of the Nation's steel mills?
The president was not acting within his constitutional power when he directed the government to take possession of the nation's steel mills.
Government argues that the order was necessary to avert a national catastrophe that would result from a stoppage of steel production and that President was acting within his powers as Chief Executive.
President's power to issue the order must stem from an act of Congress or the Constitution itself, and there is no statute that does this.
Prior to this controversy, Congress refused to adopt the seizure method of resolving labor disputes, claiming that this would interfere with the process of collective bargaining. It sought to resolve these disputes through other means.
The government relies on Article II of the Constitution, which says that "the executive power shall be vested in a President" and that "he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed" and that he will be the Commander in Chief.
However, this order is not under the power of the Commander in Chief.
"Theater of war" concept cannot be expanded to mean this except by Congressional act.
In addition, executive power does not cover this, because the power is to enforce the laws, not to make them.
The Founders entrusted the lawmaking power to Congress alone in both good and bad times.
If Congress authorized the seizure, the President would probably be allowed to do it.
There are some areas in which both the President and Congress might have concurrent authority or uncertain realms of power. In this area, the acceptability of presidential action might depend on the imperatives of current events.
However, when the president takes measures incompatible with the express or implied will of Congress, he can rely only on his own constitutional powers minus the constitutional powers of Congress.
This seizure falls under the third grouping, and here the executive action originates in the individual will of the President and represents an exercise of authority without law.
Should it be legalized, we do not know what other powers over labor or property would be claimed to flow from it or what rights to compensation would be claimed or recognized.
Emergencies don't create power, they just create circumstances in which preexisting power should be utilized.
Legislative power may be slow moving, but this is to save the people from autocracy.
Essentially, the U.S. is condemning and taking over property.
The president has no power to raise revenue, and thus cannot pay for the taking. Therefore, he is not allowed to seize the property.
Congress has expressly provided for executive seizure of certain industries at least 16 times since 1919. It has uniformly done so for short periods of time in defined emergencies.
Congress has expressed its will to withhold this power from the President implicitly in the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947.
It has not been the American way to try to make government more swift-moving and authoritative.
These are extraordinary times, and so extraordinary powers are needed.
Congress has authorized $130 billion in funds for defense and military assistance in Korea. The President must execute this legislation, and the steel strike got in the way of the execution.
Congress and the courts have always approved of the President's actions in executing the will of the legislative branch.
The President's actions also worked to prevent disruption of Congress' price stabilization act.
In addition, the President immediately informed Congress of his actions, which were clearly of a temporal nature.