Weicker Will Continue Fight Against Anti-Busing Bills
Washington--In spite of two recent Senate votes against busing for school desegregation, Senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr., Republican of Connecticut, has vowed to continue his six-month-long filibuster of the 1982 authorization bill for the Justice Department and the anti-busing amendment attached to it.
The anti-busing rider--sponsored by two Southern Senators--"has nothing whatsoever to do with busing," Senator Weicker said recently on the Senate floor. "Never in my entire career in politics ... have I seen such a naked, unparalleled, and frightening attack upon the Constitution."
The Senator's remarks came on Dec. 10 after the chamber had first voted to end the filibuster against a proposal by Jesse A. Helms, Republican of North Carolina, and J. Bennett Johnston, Democrat of Louisiana, that would prohibit federal courts from ordering busing and would forbid the Justice Department from initiating or joining lawsuits seeking busing orders.
Shortly thereafter, the Senate voted against a Weicker proposal to drop the amendment from the bill.
That action brought to a close--for the moment--the parliamentary stalling maneuver that Senator Weicker began last June. As the debate gathered momentum throughout the summer, he was joined by 15 other senators from both parties. The filibuster reached its dramatic climax in July when Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the New York Democrat known for his grandiloquence, recalled the Constitutional debates of the Founding Fathers and recited the Latin verse inscribed on the walls of the Senate chamber.
Although the filibuster survived four separate attempts to invoke cloture, which would end the debate, a fifth cloture petition succeeded on Sept. 16. With that action, the Senate agreed to combine two separate amendments into the Helms-Johnston amendment.
The issue then became whether Senator Weicker could prevent the combined amendment from being attached to the authorization bill.
In the latest round of debate, Mr. Weicker presented two letters of support he had received. One was from the American Bar Association, the professional association representing most lawyers in the U.S.; the other was from Common Cause, the public-interest lobbying group.
The anti-busing amendment "cannot be viewed merely in the context of school desegregation," the Common Cause letter said. "It must instead be seen as one of a series of dangerous attacks now pending in Congress on the independence of the judiciary.... To deprive the federal courts of jurisdiction granted by the federal Constitution would result in a hodgepodge of inconsistent state interpretations, not all of which could be expected to rise above local passion or selfishness," it continued.
Conversely, Senator Johnston--who represents the state of Louisiana--where several school systems are undergoing court-ordered desegregation--cited a recent public-opinion poll by nbc News that said 76 percent of Americans surveyed opposed mandatory busing for desegregation. The same survey, he said, showed that 49 percent of blacks polled opposed busing.
"A remedy that is opposed by whites, opposed by blacks, determined by the experts, and determined by the American people not to work, cries out for remedy by this Congress," Senator Johnston said.
The final sequence of the filibuster is scheduled to begin next Feb. 1, when the entire bill, including the Helms-Johnston amendment, will be brought to the floor for a vote.
Whatever the outcome of the authorization bill, Senator Weicker has already expanded the scope of his efforts to include opposition to a school-prayer amendment that has been attached to a separate bill providing this year's appropriation for the Justice Department.
Although that filibuster was temporarily halted last month, Senator Weicker "is determined to continue to oppose any unconstitutional action by Congress," an aide said.
Vol. 01, Issue 15