The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Tactics II
John G. Stewart
The decision by Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois to support a cloture vote on an amended version of the civil rights bill was a major victory for civil rights forces in the Senate. But Dirksen's support in and of itself did not guarantee a favorable outcome. In this next section of his doctoral dissertation, John Stewart describes the "final drive" for cloture. He then details the unanticipated problems faced by the pro-civil rights senators in the "post-cloture" environment on the Senate floor.1
In the months which preceded the Senate's taking up the Civil Rights Act of 1964, speculation was rife that the battle might produce a major crisis over the institution's capacity to respond effectively to the needs of the black minority as spelled out by presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and as later expressed by the House of Representatives with the passage of H.R. 7152. The power of the southern Democrats, grounded firmly in the Senate's explicitly established right of extended debate, had been able to defeat or largely emasculate all earlier civil rights proposals. There was no compelling reason why their prior successes should not be repeated in 1964.
This early speculation had focused on three possible results of another failure to defeat the southern Democratic filibuster:
First, there existed the danger of a crisis of the Senate as a viable instrument of contemporary democratic government.