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Rights Panel Is Accused of Helping To Block Rights Bill

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Washington--The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was charged last week by the chairman of a key House subcommittee with having prepared amendments used to successfully block passage of a major civil-rights bill.

The staff director of the commission called the charge a "complete fabrication."

The charge was leveled by Representative Don Edwards, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. In an Oct. 23 letter to the commission's chairman, Clarence M. Pendleton Jr., Representative Edwards also asked the commission for "all documents which were submitted to the Congress by commission staff on this legislation," which died in the Senate's closing days last month. The House had passed it overwhelmingly last June.

"The subcommittee is greatly disturbed by reports that the commission's office of general counsel provided extensive assistance ... to Senator [Orrin G.] Hatch in opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1984," Representative Edwards wrote.

The bill was intended to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court's narrow interpretation this year of the federal anti-sex-discrimination statute in the case Grove City College v. Bell.

Accusation Denied

In an Oct. 29 response to Representative Edwards, Linda Chavez, the commission's staff director, denied his accusation but said that she would comply with his request for the documents.

According to Ms. Chavez, the commission supported the civil-rights act of 1984. And the commissionel5lstaff provided analyses of the bill at legislators' request.

Opponents of the measure used these analyses, which cited possible unintended consequences of the proposed statute's language, to support their position.

Meanwhile, the measure's supporters, including Representative Edwards, have vowed to reintroduce it in the House as HR 1, when the Congress reconvenes next year.

At its monthly meeting last Thursday, the commission voted to withhold judgment on the new measure to nullify Grove City.--jh

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