Dangers at Home and Abroad
The election of Harry Truman and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 1948 was as much of a surprise to Dick Russell as it was to millions of less politically astute Americans. Although he did not relish the idea of having to fight some policies and programs that he knew Truman would continue to push, Russell was pleased that Congress had returned to Democratic control. Southerners would once again become chairmen of a majority of the major Senate committees.
When the Eighty-first Congress opened in January 1949, Russell did not chair any standing committee. He was second only to Millard Tydings of Maryland on the Armed Services Committee and ranked fourth on the Appropriations Committee, chaired by Kenneth McKellar. With Democrats in control of the Senate, Russell again became chairman of the subcommittee on agricultural appropriations, a position that pleased him because of his strong interest in farm legislation. He still served on the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy and on the CIA Oversight Subcommittee. While Russell had a wide range of interests and concerns, he concentrated most of his efforts on blocking civil rights legislation, strengthening the nation's defenses, and helping farmers.
Russell was also a member of the seven-man Democratic Policy Committee, a position he had held since the committee's formation in 1947. This committee discussed issues, and members expressed opinions, but the group generally avoided portraying their ideas or actions as true Democratic policy. Russell was also a member of the Democratic Steering Committee, which made committee assignments. This placed him in a strong position to help his friends get desired committee appointments. For example, John Stennis of Mississippi, elected in 1947, sat on two of the Senate's less important committees, Public Works and Rules and Administration. He wanted to be appointed to either the Appropriations or the Armed Services Committee. Russell told Stennis