Senate Majority Leader Said Readying Civil-Rights Bill for Floor Vote
Washington--Senate aides reported last week that the chamber's majority leader, Senator Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, has decided to bring to the Senate floor a controversial measure intended to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court's narrow interpretation this year of the federal law barring sex discrimination in education.
The proposed civil-rights act of 1984 was passed overwhelmingly by the House in June, but has been bottled up in the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee by senators who claim that its passage would cause unnecessary federal intrusion into the affairs of state and local governments and private institutions.
Session Nearing End
The Congress, which returned this week from its summer recess, has only four weeks left on its legislative calendar. The bill will die if it is not passed by the Senate by the end of the current session and will have to be reintroduced when the Congress reconvenes in January.
Last February, a split Court ruled in Grove City College v. Bell that the anti-sex-discrimination provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 applied only to "programs or activities" receiving federal funds, and not to entire educational institutions. Identical "program-or-activity" language is contained in laws barring discrimination on the basis of race, age, and handicap. (See Education Week, March 7, 1983.)
The measure before the Senate, S 2568, would amend Title IX and the other anti-discrimination laws to prevent "recipients" of federal aid from engaging in discriminatory practices.
Mark-Up Sessions Cancelled
The chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and an opponent of the measure, cancelled six mark-up sessions on the bill during the course of the summer.
In another move that proponents of the bill described as part of a "stall strategy," the Senate Banking Committee, which is chaired by Senator Jake Garn, Republican of Utah, scheduled a Sept. 12 hearing on the bill. The committee justified the need for the hearing by claiming jurisdiction over a section of the bill dealing with student loans, according to a Republican committee staff member.
But before the Senate recessed last month, Senate Majority Leader Baker, a co-sponsor of the measure, announced that he would bypass the committees if he needed to and would bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate and a vote.
"Baker is committed to bringing the bill to the floor ... [and] that's the best you can do," said an aide to Senator Bob Packwood, Republican of Oregon and the bill's principal Republican supporter.
There are essentially two ways for the bill--which currently has 63 Senate sponsors--to reach the floor, according to the aide. The committee could report the bill to the Senate; if it does not, the House-passed bill could be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.
The measure could also be attached as an amendment to another bill that reaches the Senate floor, according to Ralph Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which supports the bill. He said that if the bill does reach the floor, he expects a filibus-ter by opponents.
Mr. Neas was among the civil-rights leaders who in a late-August press conference sharply criticized President Reagan and Senate opponents of the bill for bottling up the legislation.