WASHINGTON, March 13, 1933 (UP) - President Roosevelt in a surprise move sent a message today to Congress calling for immediate modification of the Volstead act to permit the manufacture and sale of beer.
The message follows:
"I recommend to the Congress the passage of legislation for the immediate modification of the Volstead act, in order to legalize the manufacture and sale of beer and other beverages of such alcoholic content as is permissible under the Constitution; and to provide through the manufacture and sale, by substantial taxes, a proper and much needed revenue for the government.
"I deem action at this time to be of the highest importance.
"Franklin D. Roosevelt."
Late today the Senate majority leader, Joe T. Robinson, of Arkansas, informed the President "we have sufficient votes to pass the economy and beer bills."
Speaker Henry T. Rainey said beer legislation would be expedited in the House. The Ways and Means Committee was being was organized to handle the legislation and was expected to meet tomorrow to report immediately whatever type of legislation the President desires. House Majority Leader Joseph W. Byrnes said an effort would be made to pass the bill tomorrow.
Later, Democratic members of the Ways and Means Committee met and appointed a subcommittee to draft a beer bill to legalize 3.2 per cent alcoholic beverages.
The subcommittee will be headed by Representative McCormack, Mass., and in addition will include Representatives Cullen, New York; Vinson, Kentucky; Hill, Washington, and West, of Ohio.
Mr. McCormack announced his group would meet this afternoon and said definitely the bill, in whatever form, would legalize beer of 3.2 per cent alcoholic content by weight, or approximately 4 per cent by volume.
The request for immediate action on beer caught Congress by surprise. Leaders regarded it as part of the President's complete program. They assumed that the call for action now was to supplement the $500,000,000 economy program which was taken up today by the Senate in order to assure balancing of the budget now.
The beer bill, it is estimated, will raise between $150,000,000 and $200,000,000.
The House passed a straight beer bill last session authorizing an alcoholic content of 3.2 per cent. The Senate failed to act on a beer-wine bill legalizing malt and vinous liquors of not more than 3.05 per cent alcohol.
Reading of the message in the Senate passed without immediate floor discussion.
When the President's message was read to the House the clerk was constantly interrupted by bursts of cheers and applause from both the membership and the galleries.
Impatient members in the back rows of the House started a chant of "vote, vote, we want beer," at the conclusion of the message.