President Kennedy met with a dozen advisers in the Cabinet Room to discuss a civil rights bill. Burke Marshall told the president, “I think it’s absolutely essential that you have legislation.”
The president agreed to wait until after June 11 to send a bill to Congress. That would allow time for two black students, Vivian Moore and James Hood, to try to enroll at the University of Alabama.
White House and Justice Department staffers continued to refine the administration’s civil rights proposal. The draft had three main elements. First was a public accommodations law, rooted in the commerce clause of the Constitution, which would ban segregation in non-owner-occupied hotels and motels, move and stage theaters, and restaurants that did at least $150,000 in annual business or were located near a major highway.
Second, the bill offered technical assistance to school districts to devise desegregation plans and offered financial aid to those with plans already in place; it also allowed the attorney general to intervene in lawsuits against schools or individuals that interfered with desegregation.
Third, it create a statutory basis for the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.
Vice President Johnson met with Kennedy adviser Ted Sorensen. According to Johnson, the president had to travel through the South and appeal personally to southern leaders: “He’d run some of the demagogues right into the hole. This aura, this thing, this halo around the President, everybody wants to believe in the President and the Commander in Chief. I think he’d make the [Ross] Barnetts and the [George] Wallaces look silly. … But if he goes down there and looks them in the eye and states the moral issue and the Christian issue, and he does it face to face, these southerners will at least respect his courage.”
Johnson criticized the administration’s approach to the bill: “You haven’t done your homework on public sentiment, on legislative leaders, on the opposition party, or on the legislation itself.” A dog fight was coming, Johnson told Sorensen, and the administration would have to be totally committed to winning the fight.
In consultations with Justice Department officials, Vice President Johnson pledged to support whatever decisions President Kennedy made regarding a civil rights bill. Johnson’s advice:
[The president should] call in the Republican leaders, tell them about the plans and put them on the spot; make them give their promises in blood to support the legislation in agreed form, indicating that credit would be shared with them for the success achieved and indicating that any failure on their part to agree and to deliver would be laid unmistakably at their doors.
[The civil rights forces] would need 27 out of the 33 Republican votes in the Senate in order to obtain cloture, and as matters now stand we have no prospect at all of getting that many. We would be able to get that many only if we could enlist the full support of Senator Dirksen, among others.
Over two days, 29 House Republicans introduced a civil rights package to supplement the legislation they had introduced on January 31. The new bills (embodied in H.R. 6720-6743, 6758, 6768, 6779, 6781, and 6787) outlawed segregation in stores, theaters, restaurants, and other public accommodations based on 14th Amendment guarantees.
An effort to adjourn the House in order to prevent introduction of the Republicans’ civil rights bills failed on a 53-276 roll call vote.
President Kennedy and other administration officials met with 100 leading businesspeople to urge them to voluntarily desegregate public accommodations.
In his continuing effort to obtain Dirksen’s support for a strong civil rights bill, Clarence Mitchell of the NAACP sent the senator the following telegram:
In view of the critical developments in the area of civil rights, we earnestly hope that you will join in supporting strong legislation in the field when the Republican Senators meet in conference on June 5, 1963. Events in Birmingham, Jackson, Tallahassee, and other parts of the nation especially emphasize the urgency of having the Javits Part III proposal written into law. The package introduced by Senators Case, Fong, Javits, Keating, Kuchel, Scott, and Beall represents a meaningful and effective program to end discrimination in the United States. We are mindful of course that Senator Saltonstall supported a bill to make the Civil Rights Commission permanent [.] At this time we have no way of knowing the exact contents of the president’s proposed program, but there are widely published report[s] that it will fall short of the proposals made on March 28 by the seven Senators. If the reports prove true, it is hoped that you will help strengthen it by amendments on the floor. Since there is always a strong probability that opponents of civil rights will seek to kill the program by filibustering, we strongly urge that you and your colleagues tell the nation now that you will use all parliamentary means, including a change of Rule 22, to break it.
President Kennedy invited Republican congressional leaders to the White House to discuss civil rights legislation. According to Dirksen’s notes, he, Bourke Hickenlooper (R-IA), Charles Halleck, and Les Arends (R-IL) “conferred with [the] President at his request for a general discussion of Civil Rights legislation. No commitments were requested and none were given.”
Following meetings at 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Republicans in the Senate announced a position statement on civil rights legislation, a policy they would follow for the balance of the year:
It is the consensus of the Senate Republican conference that: "The Federal Government, including the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, has a solemn duty to preserve the rights, privileges, and immunities of citizens of the United States in conformity with the Constitution, which makes every native-born and naturalized person a citizen of the United States, as well as the State in which he resides.
Equality of rights and opportunities has not been fully achieved in the long period since the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution were adopted, and this inequality and lack of opportunity and the racial tensions which they engender are out of character with the spirit of a nation pledged to justice and freedom.
The Republican Members of the U.S. Senate, in this 88th Congress, reaffirm and reassert the basic principles of the party with respect to civil rights, and further affirm that the President, with the support of Congress, consistent with its duties as defined in the Constitution, must protect the rights of all U.S. citizens regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin."
The National Association of Real Estate Boards declared its opposition to legal efforts to end housing discrimination stating that individual property owners retained the right to determine buyers or tenants.
President Kennedy called on the U.S. Conference of Mayors to support civil rights legislation.
President Kennedy’s Address in Honolulu Before the United States Conference of Mayors
Dirksen met with two Judiciary Committee staffers, Clyde Flynn and Neal Kennedy, who would become two of the three lead negotiators on Dirksen’s behalf when the civil rights bill came to the Senate for consideration in 1964.
At Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield’s (D-MT) request, Attorney General Robert Kennedy met with Senator Richard Russell (D-GA) and his southern colleagues in the Capitol to explain the administration’s hope for a moderate bill but one that would avert further racially-motivated disorder.
Attorney General Kennedy met with all Republican senators.
After a dramatic confrontation at the "schoolhouse door," Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, when faced by National Guard troops, stepped aside to allow two blacks to enroll at the University of Alabama.
Governor Wallace at the University of Alabama
President Kennedy invited Republican leaders Dirksen and Halleck to the White House to discuss a civil rights bill. Neither Republican committed himself to supporting the bill.
According to Dirksen’s notes, the meeting included Democratic leaders, too: “The meeting was devoted to general discussion in view of the Presidents [sic] hope and intention of submitting to Congress a Civil Rights message and a number of legislative proposals on the subject, either as separate measures or as a single package.”
President Kennedy, in a nationally televised address at 7:00 p.m., issued a call for action. "We are confronted primarily with a moral issue," he stated. "The heart of the question," the president reminded viewers, "is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated."
President Kennedy's Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights (audio)
Barely three hours after the president finished his address, civil rights leader Medgar Evers was shot and killed outside his home in Mississippi.
"Medgar Evers's Murder: 50 Years Later"
At 9:30 a.m., the Joint Senate House Republican leadership met with former President Dwight Eisenhower to discuss the civil rights situation.
Dirksen first briefed the group on his meeting with President Kennedy the previous day. He indicated that the White House would send civil rights legislation to Congress within the week. Halleck, who also attended the meeting, said the Democrats were “in a political dilemma” and he did not think “that the Republicans should be expected to bail them out of their difficulties.”
Eisenhower explained his decision to send troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. William E. Miller, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, referred to the civil rights provisions in the 1960 Republican platform.
Following a discussion of foreign policy and nuclear testing, the meeting returned to civil rights. “General Eisenhower stated that in his mind all persons were in favor that some action should be taken,” the minutes recorded, “and it was pretty well settled in the minds and hearts of all people.”
The meeting minutes also hinted at a challenge Dirksen would face in lining up support for civil rights legislation, i.e., the reluctance of conservative Republicans to “save” the Democrats.
Minutes of the Joint Republican Congressional Leaders, June 12, 1963
Attorney General Robert Kennedy met with Everett Dirksen for 45 minutes.
Three aides to Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield—Harry McPherson, Bobby Baker, and Ken Teasdale—met to think through the issues surrounding the introduction of a civil rights bill in the Senate. Although the bill would first be introduced in the more liberal House in order to gain momentum when it eventually reached the Senate, the trio decided that Mansfield should introduce the bill simultaneously in the Senate. Their challenge was to gain bipartisan support, which would require cosponsorship by Senate Minority Leader Dirksen.
President Kennedy met with 300 labor leaders to ask for support for his civil rights bill.
Halleck met with the president in the morning to discuss civil rights legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Mansfield met with Minority Leader Dirksen in Dirksen’s office to identify specific areas of agreement and disagreement on the administration’s proposal. Dirksen affirmed to Mansfield his support of all aspects of the administration’s civil rights bill with one major exception: the enforceable provisions guaranteeing equal access to places of public accommodation. Dirksen wanted to restrict the federal government’s ability to trump local enforcement in places that had adopted desegregation measures.
The two leaders then directed their staffs to draft a compromise proposal on public accommodations that both could accept.
Republican senators met in conference for five and a half hours and agreed to “support appropriate legislation that may be required to meet the problem” of civil rights.
Dirksen and Halleck met with the press in the afternoon. Halleck would not characterize his earlier meeting with the president. But the House minority leader reminded the press that the majority of Republicans on the Judiciary Committee had already introduced “comprehensive civil rights legislation.” Halleck also pointed to his personal record in support of civil rights bills. “So the Republicans will meet their responsibilities, but insofar as undertaking to say at this moment just what sort of bill would be supported by Republicans and what sort of bill would NOT be supported by Republicans, I certainly don’t think I can say, and I don’t believe anybody can say.”
When asked about a quote attributed to him to the effect that “the President was on the hook over civil rights,” Halleck responded that “everyone must understand that a matter of this consequence has certain political overtones.” He noted that the Democrats held the majority in Congress and, so, the minority “can’t call the shots.”
Dirksen was asked this question: “Senator, would you agree with Dick Russell that the President is raising the spectre of mass racial violence to force through a civil rights program?”
Oh, those are descriptive terms ...(LAUGHTER) on which we have to be very careful. But I think I can tell you in a nub what at least the position of most of the Senate Republicans is. When we finally affirmed that document after five and a half hours of rather spirited conference, the last paragraph indicated that we would “support appropriate legislation that may be required to meet the problem.” All right, it is legislation that (1) has to be required and (2) it’s legislation that is appropriate. And if it meets those two standards, or those two yardsticks, we have said in substance as a party conference that we’d support it.
When asked if Congress were under pressure to act soon, the senator said:
And I’ve been around here a long time and I’ve seen delegations come and go when legislation was pending, but wouldn’t it be a rather sorry spectacle if the Congress should panic and not do its full legislative duty as it sees it. ... There will be neither fear nor apprehension nor favor in my conduct, because I’ll do what I think the needs and well-being of the country require and dictate.
Dirksen also speculated on the possibility of invoking cloture and the tactic of using round-the-clock sessions to break a filibuster.
President Kennedy met with his brother, the attorney general; Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division Burke Marshall; Larry O’Brien, special assistant to the president for congressional relations; National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy; speechwriter Ted Sorenson; and appointments secretary Kenny O’Donnell to shape the final bill.
The second item on their list of tactics was “How great a price should the administration pay for Senator Dirksen’s cosponsorship?”
Given Dirksen’s importance, the president gave him a copy of the bill to study over the weekend.
According to Dirksen’s notes, he received a draft of the administration’s civil rights proposals “for week-end study.” Another conference of the Republican and Democratic leaders of both the Senate and the House was scheduled for Monday, June 17.
During the weekend, members of the Mansfield and Dirksen staffs attempted to draft a compromise public accommodations proposal. Dirksen appeared to favor either a totally voluntary public accommodations section, or one based on the 14th amendment, rather than on the commerce clause as proposed by the Kennedy administration. Dirksen also stressed that his sponsorship of the other provisions would be subject to the approval of the Republican conference.
The Constitution’s commerce clause, which granted Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, had been used to justify various federal regulatory measures dating back to the New Deal and the Progressive era. Extending its reach into race relations was deeply controversial, however.
The Fourteenth Amendment approach had the backing of several Republicans, which appealed to civil rights supporters. But an 1883 Supreme Court ruling stated that the amendment did not apply to the actions of private businesses.
The Mansfield-Dirksen staff efforts to write compromise language failed.
In the ten weeks following the children’s march in Birmingham, there were 758 demonstrations, with 13,786 people arrested in 75 cities in the South alone.
The president met with 250 religious leaders to ask for support for his civil rights bill.
After meeting with President Kennedy during a bipartisan congressional leadership meeting, Dirksen announced his opposition to the public accommodations provisions. He agreed, however, to sponsor other sections of the bill.
According to Dirksen’s notes: “At that time, I stated that speaking for myself, I could accept most of the provisions in the proposed measure except for Title II, dealing with public accommodations and facilities. There was general discussion of the matter but no request for and no offer of commitments in behalf of either Party.”
The president met with eight governors to ask for support for his civil rights bill.
Mansfield and Humphrey met to plan for receiving the president’s civil rights bill in the Senate the next day. In the words of John Stewart, an aide to Humphrey:
First, he [Mansfield] and Dirksen would sponsor jointly a bill containing all the administration’s proposals except Title II (integration of public accommodations). The majority leader, however, planned to declare his personal support of the public accommodations section. Mansfield also planned to acknowledge the problem of perfecting the most desirable approach for implementing Title II and that he intended to continue to seek a formula which both leaders could accept.
Second, Mansfield would introduce in his capacity as majority leader the administration’s complete omnibus bill, but he asked Humphrey, in collaboration with Thomas Kuchel (R-CA), the minority whip, to assume primary responsibility for organizing senators to speak in favor of the bill when it arrived and for securing additional cosponsors. This arrangement would permit Mansfield greater restraint in his advocacy of the administration’s total package, a position more likely to engender a productive relationship with Dirksen.
Third, the majority leader and Warren Magnuson (D-WA), chairman of the Committee on Commerce, would introduce a bill limited solely to the public accommodations title (Title II) of the omnibus bill. Since the commerce clause of the Constitution served as the basis for the administration’s proposals on public accommodations, Magnuson’s Commerce Committee would normally receive a bill limited to that one provision, whereas the omnibus bill, as well as the Mansfield-Dirksen version, would normally be referred to the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Mississippi’s James Eastland, a pro-segregation Democrat.
At Mansfield’s request, Dirksen met with members of the White House staff, Justice Department officials, and bipartisan Senate leaders (Humphrey, Kuchel, and George Aiken [R-VT]). Dirksen repeated that he could support the bill except for the public accommodations section.
President Kennedy submitted a bill to guarantee blacks access to public accommodations, allow the government to file suit to desegregate schools, allow federal programs to be cut off in any area where discrimination was practiced in their application, strengthen existing machinery to prevent employment discrimination by government contractors, and establish a Community Relations Service to help local communities resolve racial disputes. HR 7152 contained the following eleven sections, or titles:
Title I: Voting Rights
As strategized, Mansfield sponsored the omnibus bill (S. 1731). Mansfield and Magnuson sponsored the public accommodations title in a separate bill (S. 1932).
The Republican Conference met at Dirksen’s call. Each member received a copy of the 1960 Republican party platform. Dirksen reviewed the legislative strategy for Senate consideration of the bill agreed to by the White House and the Senate leadership yesterday.
Dirksen explained why he could not support Title II. According to the conference minutes, “He said in his opinion it was unenforceable and in contravention of the Constitution. He expressed the hope that some sections of the bills could be passed but doubted whether Title II could be the pending vehicle on which cloture might be obtained.”
Liberal Jacob Javits (R-NY) voiced concern that Dirksen’s views did not necessarily reflect the conference view on Title II; he worried that Dirksen’s stance might reflect poorly on Republicans.
Dirksen replied that he could make the Republican position and the reason for their legislative strategy clear in press conferences, committee meetings, and on the Senate floor. The minority leader also noted that nothing in the party platform dealt with public accommodations. Other Republicans in the meeting raised the possibility of introducing a bill of their own as an alternative. “Dirksen cautioned against this as he thought there was every possibility of losing everything.”
Photo of the Republican Conference meeting, June 19, 1963
After the meeting with his fellow Republicans, Dirksen joined with Mansfield to cosponsor the administration’s civil rights proposal as S. 1750, which contained all the provisions except for Title II (Public Accommodations).
Dirksen's remarks, Congressional Record, June 19, 1963:11076+
When the Senate adjourned for the day, 42 Democratic senators had signed on as cosponsors of S. 1731, the complete administration proposal. Only eight Republicans joined them.
Civil rights supporters were disappointed with Title VII, the equal employment title, which did not include a strong Fair Employment Practices Commission, with power to investigate job discrimination by private companies. The White House, however, believed that including an FEPC provision could alienate pro-business Republicans and thus jeopardize the entire bill.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Celler introduced President Kennedy’s civil rights bill in the House. Given the number HR 7152, the proposal was referred to Judiciary where Celler assigned it to Subcommittee No. 5, which he also chaired.
William McCulloch, Republican from Piqua OH, was the ranking member. Civil rights proponents and the White House intended for the House of Representatives to act first on the proposed bill. The Senate would be the tougher sell, and strategists hoped to build momentum to overcome the inevitable opposition of southern senators who had the ability and will to kill the legislation by filibuster.
William McCulloch (R-OH)
Officially, Subcommittee No. 5 was the antitrust committee, but no one objected to assigning HR 7152 to Celler’s subcommittee. None of the House Judiciary Committee’s senior southerners were members of the subcommittee.
Democratic members (all liberals) of the subcommittee: Emanuel Celler, Peter Rodino (NJ), Byron Rogers (CO), Harold Donahue (MA), Jack Brooks (TX), Herman Toll (PA), and Robert Kastenmeier (WI).
Republican members: William McCulloch (OH, a moderate on civil rights), William Miller (NY, a conservative), George Meader (MI, a conservative), and William Kramer (FL, a conservative).
The president called civil rights leaders to meet at the White House. Following the meeting, about a dozen civil rights leaders met to discuss ways of implementing the administration’s bill. Two actions followed: Martin Luther King Jr., began organizing what would become the March on Washington, and Roy Wilkins took steps to enlarge the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which he headed.
The Conference represented a group of about 80 civil rights, labor, and religious organizations that had joined to lobby Congress on the general issue of civil rights. Joseph L. Rauh, who was white, took a leadership role in the organization. Clarence Mitchell, Jr., a black lobbyist and director of the Washington office of the NAACP, joined Rauh in the effort.
NOTE: According to a different source, this meeting took place on June 22 [see below].
The president and the Attorney General met for two hours with 244 lawyers (66 of them from southern states) to urge them to take a more active role in civil rights.
Since May 29, the president had met with 1,558 members of interest groups—governors, mayors, business leaders, women’s associations, clergy, lawyers—to convince them of the need for significant change on the racial front, not only in terms of immediate legislation but also on long-term problems like youth delinquency, school dropouts, and black employment.
President Kennedy met with civil rights leaders in the White House: A. Philip Randolph of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Whitney Young of the Urban League, James Famer of the Congress for Racial Equality, John Lewis who chaired the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and Martin Luther King Jr.
The president learned for the first time about a planned March on Washington. Kennedy feared a mass demonstration would create a backlash against his civil rights bill but, grudgingly, agreed to endorse the march.
As he told the activists: “But now we are in a new phase, the legislative phase, and results are essential. The wrong kind of demonstration at the wrong time will give those fellows a chance to say that they have to prove their courage by voting against us. To get the necessary votes we have, first, to oppose demonstrations which lead to violence and, second, to give Congress a fair chance to work its will.”
Vice President Johnson added, “Not many votes are converted in the corridors. Most fellows vote for what they think is right and for what they think their states want. We have about 50 votes for us in the Senate and about 22 against us. What counts is the 26 or so votes that remain.”
Farmer responded, “We understand your political problem in getting the legislation through, and we want to help in that as best we can. But the civil rights forces have their problems, too. We would be in a difficult if not untenable position if we called the street demonstrations off and then were defeated in the legislative battle.”
Note: According to a different source, this meeting took place on June 21.
Dirksen’s Your Senator Reports broadcast was entitled “The Civil Rights Story.” Dirksen began, as he often did, with a history lesson. He described the constitutional treatment of slavery, the Civil War, the 14th Amendment, Supreme Court cases, “the growth of our Negro population,” “the achievement of the Negro in every field,” and “the creation of these organizations that are functioning at the present time to crusade for equality of treatment and opportunity.”
The senator reminded his audience that Congress had passed major civil rights laws in 1957 and 1960 before admitting that “it wasn’t until we began to encounter demonstrations and these various shows of one kind and another that a far more active interest was developed because there was alarm and there was apprehension as to where it might lead.”
“The Civil Rights Story”
“The Civil Rights Story”
Dirksen composed the following form letter to respond to people who wrote to him about civil rights:
From the day I first voted for a bill in the House of Representatives to outlaw the imposition of poll taxes as a requirement for voting—more than twenty-five years ago—the civil rights problem has been a challenging matter in the Congress, as well as the country. Today it is before us again in the form of an overall administration proposal, together with alternative measures such as I have introduced.
I have made it abundantly clear both publicly and privately that I can accept and support virtually all of the Titles in the administration bill, since they are in conformity with the pledges in the Republican Platform of 1960. I cannot, however, accept Title II—the really controversial Title—dealing with privately owned services, facilities and accommodations, and have so expressed myself to my associates and to all others.
That is my position and I have heard no argument or discussion thus far that would impel me to modify my present views. There will be long hearings and every facet of the problem will be fully examined.
Hearings before Subcommittee No. 5 on HR 7152 began at 10:00 a.m. in Room 346 in the northeast corner of the Old House Office Building, the hearing room of the House Judiciary Committee, with testimony from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Burke Marshall accompanied him but did not testify.
Kennedy proclaimed, “If we fail to act promptly and wisely at this crucial point in our history, grave doubt will be thrown on the very promise of American democracy.”
The Attorney General explained that the administration had chosen to base the bill on both the commerce clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, in part because of the “vast change” that had occurred since the 19th century in the nature of business organization and in part because of a new understanding of what constituted state action. “Today, business enterprises are regulated and licensed by the states to a much greater degree than in 1883,” when the Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to private business.
At this point, the committee had 158 civil rights bills before it.
Robert F. Kennedy’s Statement Before the House Committee on the Judiciary Regarding H.R. 7152
One major issue facing the subcommittee concerned whether the public accommodations section of the proposed bill should be based on the commerce clause of the Constitution or upon the 14th Amendment.
Attorney General Kennedy wanted to base equal access to public accommodations on the commerce clause because the Constitution clearly gave Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. Republicans preferred the 14th Amendment, the “Civil War” amendment that had been passed by the Republican party in 1868 and which guaranteed equal protection of the laws and other basic rights to all Americans.
The eventual solution embodied in a subsequent version of the bill was to guarantee equal access to public accommodations both on the basis of the commerce clause and the 14th Amendment.
Dirksen announced that he had finished drafting a substitute to the public accommodations section of the administration’s civil rights bill and that he intended to offer it as an amendment the following week.
Mike Mansfield conducted a nose-count to determine support for the bill. The count showed it was “virtually impossible” to find even 51 solid votes for the bill, much less the 67 needed for cloture.
Testimony before House Judiciary Subcommittee No. 5 continued and included statements from Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz.
Example of southern views:
Lt. Gov. C.C. Aycock (D-LA) said the proposed bills "ignore the civil rights and civil liberties of homeowners, businessmen, professional men, and all persons other than the minorities who are sought to be protected . . . . The central government just does not have the constitutional authority to dictate to the individual citizen the persons with whom he must associate or the manner in which he must use his property, or what individuals he can or cannot serve in his place of business."
During their regular Republican leadership press conference, Dirksen and Halleck were asked about the relationship between tax cut legislation and the civil rights bill. Dirksen refused to speculate about whether the president assigned a high priority to one or the other. He did say, “Obviously, I know there is a deep and abiding and earnest interest in civil rights as evidenced by the fact that the President had the leadership at the White House on three different occasions . . . .”
Halleck on the civil rights situation:
As Senator Dirksen pointed out, the Republican Leadership in the House and in the Senate was called to the White House to discuss this whole matter of civil rights, and there were considerable discussions there. About all I’ve ever said—recognizing that hearings should be had, that people on the Judiciary Committee, if we’re to go first in the House, ought to look the whole thing over, great problems, questions, whether it ought to be the Fourteenth Amendment approach or the Commerce Division [sic] approach—but I think it’s significant that in January, 40 Republicans introduced civil rights bills. And then, just a couple of weeks ago, 30 Republicans on their individual responsibility, introduced civil rights bills that went further than the original bill.
Now at the White House I suggested, since this is a matter we’re all interested in, that it seemed to me that the Attorney General and the Justice Department and the Administration should take a look at these individual Republican-sponsored measures if they’re looking for what at least would become [the] Republican position in the House of Representatives. And to my very considerable surprise, as I understand it yesterday, the Attorney General said that he hadn’t even read the bills that had been introduced by these individual Republicans.
. . . So there’s no negative position so far as Republicans are concerned . . . it will be a constructive position doing what we can to try to arrive at some reasonable solution of some of the difficulties that confront us.
Secretary of the Senate Bobby Baker wrote a memo that concluded: “It is virtually impossible to secure 51 Senators who will vote for the President’s Bill.” He did add that the odds of passage were 50-50 if the bill’s supporters could win over Dirksen and two other key conservative Republicans, Bourke Hickenlooper of Iowa and George Aiken of Vermont.
Congress adjourned for a ten-day recess to observe the Fourth of July.
Nicholas Katzenbach wrote an extensive memo to Robert Kennedy detailing his strategy for getting the bill out of Congress and to the president’s desk. If the goal was to get the bill intact through the Senate, then a filibuster was inevitable—which meant they needed 67 votes to stop debate and bring the bill to a vote, which meant winning 19 of 33 Republican votes (assuming all 48 non-southern Democrats voted for the bill). The only way to do that was to get Dirksen on board early so that Katzenbach could take Dirksen’s support for the bill to House Republicans, who were open to civil rights but wary of siding with legislation that might get pared back in the Senate. Dirksen did not support Title II, but Katzenbach hoped that his support on everything else could give momentum to the bill in the House, and that by the time it reached the Senate, Dirksen would have to choose between agreeing to the entire bill or standing in the way of historic legislation.