WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush vetoed a major civil rights
bill Monday and seemed assured of winning a battle in Congress to
``I deeply regret having to take this action,'' Bush said.
The president called on lawmakers to enact his version of the
measure before they quit for the yea, probably later this week.
However, that appeared unlikely, as Bush's critics scoffed at his
The administration argued that the bill, as passed by Congress,
would force businesses to adopt quotas in hiring and promotion.
Supporters of the measure rejected the White House argument and
portrayed Bush's stand as a measure of his commitment on human
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chief Senate sponsor,
called the veto ``tragic and disgraceful.''
``When the chips are down, the White House is against civil
rights,'' Kennedy said. He urged Congress to override the
Ralph G. Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference
on Civil Rights, said Bush's veto ``will victimize his presidency
forever. He joins Andrew Johnson and Ronald Reagan as the only
presidents to veto a civil rights bill.''
The bill was passed by the Senate 62-34 and by the House 273-154
- strong majorities, but not reaching the two-thirds required to
override a veto.
Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins, D-Calif., the prime House sponsor,
said he would not even ask for an override vote without the
two-thirds needed by supporters. ``I'm just not going to waste any
more time,'' Hawkins said, adding that civil rights forces might even
lose support in an override fight.
In his veto message, Bush said, ``The temptation to support a
bill - any bill - simply because its title includes the words `civil
rights' is very strong.
``But when our efforts, however well-intentioned, result in
quotas, equal opportunity is not advanced but thwarted,'' he said.
``The very commitment to justice and equality that is offered as the
reason why this bill should be signed requires me to veto it.''
He said, ``I deeply regret having to take this action with a
bill bearing such a title, especially since it contains certain
provisions that I strongly endorse.''
The measure would nullify six Supreme Court decisions that have
made it more difficult for women and minorities to prove and win job
discrimination suits. It would ban racial harassment in the
workplace and allow punitive damages in the most serious
Bush said there were many similarities between the bill he
vetoed and the version that the administration supports, offered at
the last minute to ease the veto.
Civil rights advocates denounced the latest version of Bush's
bill as a sham for permitting challenged hiring practices to stand
if they could be justified on such grounds as ``customer
relations,'' justifications they said were used to support the
separate-but-equal ``Jim Crow'' laws of the first half of the 20th
century that kept blacks in segregation.
Rep. Don Edwards, D-Calif., chairman of the House Judiciary
subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights, called Bush's bill
``a tired rehash of policies considered and rejected by the
Congress. ... We have nearly compromised this bill to death.''
Summing up his key argument, Bush said, ``Despite the use of the
term `civil rights' in the title ... the bill actually employs a
maze of highly legalistic language to introduce the destructive
force of quotas into our nation's employment system. …