Helm Loses Again In Fourth Vote on Prayer Filibuster
The Senate last week failed for the fourth time to cut off a filibuster against proposed legislation that would remove the U.S. Supreme Court from jurisdiction over lawsuits involving prayer in public schools.
The filibuster, led by Lowell P. Weicker, Republican of Connecticut, and joined by a growing number of other Senators during the past few weeks, sought to halt an attempt by Jesse A. Helms, Republican of North Carolina, to force Senators to record their votes for or against prayer in the schools.
Senator Helms had attached his proposal as an amendment to a bill raising the ceiling on the national debt, a measure the Congress must pass before it recesses next month.
As the filibuster continued late on Thursday, the majority leader, Howard H. Baker, was reportedly considering a parliamentary maneuver that would remove the amendment from the bill without requiring recorded votes by individual legislators. Senators are not eager to have their positions on the school-prayer issue put on record in an election year, according to Senate aides.
At the same time, pressure from conservatives was increasing on Senator Helms to withdraw his proposal.
"It is time to face up to the fact that it is not going anywhere. It has been a good fight, a brave fight, but the battle is over," said Senator John P. East, who, like Senator Helms, is a North Carolina Republican and a strong proponent of school prayer.
"I do not believe he has helped the conservative cause a bit," said Senator Barry Goldwater, Republican of Arizona.
Other Senators have objected, on constitutional grounds, to the notion of removing from the Supreme Court its jurisdiction over any issue. The Court struck down a New York law permitting the recitation of a state-supported ecumenical prayer, in a 1962 case, Engel v. Vitale.
Most supporters of school prayer have said they prefer to enact a constitutional amendment permitting prayer in public schools, such as the bill proposed by the Reagan Administration last May.
The President has requested a Senate vote on the Administration's bill, but he recently said he would support Senator Helms's amendment if it were passed.--ew