Senators John Sherman Cooper (R-KY) and Thomas J. Dodd (D-CT) introduced S. 666 to require states to prescribe requirements for voting in federal elections which were uniform throughout the state.
The Senate by a 54-42 roll call (fewer than the two-thirds required) rejected a proposal to invoke cloture on a pending motion in the continuing dispute over changing Rule 22. The vote demonstrated that senators who backed a civil rights bill did not have the two-thirds majority necessary to break a filibuster.
A bipartisan group of senators introduced (1) a bill to require segregated schools to draw up desegregation plans and take "first-step compliance" within a year, and (2) a bill to establish a Fair Employment Practices Commission to address discrimination in government or interstate commerce.
President John F. Kennedy and his wife hosted a reception at the White House for 1,100 invitees to mark Abraham Lincoln’s birthday during the centennial year of the Emancipation Proclamation. The hour-long event included nearly all the nation’s African American leadership.
President John F. Kennedy asked Congress for legislation to broaden existing laws to protect African-Americans. He noted that "the harmful, wasteful and wrongful results of racial discrimination and segregation still appear in virtually every part of the Nation."
The president's proposed legislation asked for relatively minor changes in voting rights law, modest assistance to school districts attempting to desegregate voluntarily, and an extension of the commission which studied civil rights matters.
Kennedy realized that Congress was not prepared to enact a stronger bill. The House Rules Committee, through which virtually all legislation in that body passed, was chaired by Howard Smith (D-VA), an ardent opponent of any civil rights bill. The Senate had its own set of obstacles both in committee leadership and in the filibuster rule which allowed a small group of senators to kill a bill simply by talking it to death.
Politics constrained Kennedy in other ways, too. He needed the votes of southern Democrats in Congress to pass his other programs, and he could ill afford to anger them by pressing for a civil rights bill. The young president would also need the support of the south to win re-election in 1964. Finally, the president by his nature was more interested in foreign policy issues and believed that strong public support at home improved his ability to bargain in diplomacy. A bold civil rights measure would jeopardize that public support, he believed.
"Special Message to the Congress on Civil Rights"
During the Joint Senate House Republican Leadership press conference, Dirksen admitted that he had not had time to read the president's civil rights proposal, but it was on his desk. Charles Halleck (R-IN), the Minority Leader of the House, had not read the proposal either and did not comment.