The Senate began its 13th week of debate on H.R. 7152.
Mike Mansfield and Dirksen announced they would file a cloture petition on Saturday, June 6, and there would be a vote on it the following Tuesday, June 9.
In scheduling the vote for June 9, Humphrey and Kuchel had deliberately waited until after the California Republican presidential primary on June 2, which pitted Barry Goldwater against Nelson Rockefeller. Goldwater had already told Dirksen he intended to vote against cloture. Given this fact, Dirksen wanted to avoid confronting Goldwater’s backers in the Senate, especially those senators of the Hickelooper group, with the necessity of deciding whether to follow the Arizona senator’s lead on cloture until the California primary no longer mattered.
Dirksen also wanted to have the civil rights issue settled before the Republican National Convention met on July 13, 1964, fearing the lack of resolution would compound the friction among different factions in the party.
Humphrey and Kuchel counted votes for cloture and estimated 66 in favor, including previously doubtful senators Everett Jordan, Thruston Morton, James Pearson, and Frank Lausche. Six conservative Republicans, now known as the “Hickenlooper group,” remained in the “possible” category.
Dirksen’s Your Senator Reports segment was entitled, “The Long, Hard Furrow.” He guessed that he had received 100,000 letters on civil rights over the past five months. He recounted yet again the history of civil rights, speaking about the injustices visited upon blacks, including segregation in public accommodations. He justified his position in support of the bill as a moral one: “And it is the moral force that is after all the motive power of human progress and we must carry this along.”
Richard Russell announced southern Democrats’ willingness to halt the filibuster temporarily to permit votes on the jury trial amendments that were still pending. He hoped to slow the momentum for cloture by permitting a vote or two without, however, making any further commitments to finish voting on the entire bill.
The pro-civil rights forces countered with a filibuster of their own to prevent premature votes on the jury trial amendments before the showdown on June 9.
Although he had supported Senate passage of H.R. 7152 unchanged as it came to the Senate from the House, President Johnson said during a press conference that the proposed changes would be acceptable.
President Johnson’s News Conference
The Joint Senate House Republican Leadership meeting minutes noted: “After general discussion of the Civil Rights bill, it was the general consensus that it would be better to have the legislation out of the way before the Republican National Convention.”
Dirksen left the Capitol early complaining of a heavy chest cold. He would not return until June 5.
Debate on the Dirksen-Mansfield package began with Hubert Humphrey defending the jury trial amendment.
Russell continued to press Mansfield for votes on jury trial amendments. Mansfield offered to begin voting on amendments to the civil rights bill if southerners would agree to an overall limit on debate. Russell declined.
Dirksen returned to Capitol Hill following his illness. At 10:30 a.m., Dirksen told Humphrey, “We have trouble.”
Hickenlooper had met with 20 conservative Republicans that morning who complained that Dirksen had not listened to their concerns and that, before there could be a vote on cloture, they should be allowed to propose their own amendments.
It was at this moment, Humphrey recalled later, that he was most doubtful about the outcome. As many as five Republicans previously committed to cloture were beginning to slip—Mundt, Cotton, Curtis, Miller, and Hruska. Dirksen warned that the entire drive for cloture had been jeopardized by Hickenlooper.
Hickenlooper made these demands: (1) that Mansfield move the cloture vote from Tuesday to Wednesday, June 10, because many senators planned to attend the governors’ conference in Cleveland on Monday, and (2) that he, Hickenlooper, be granted unanimous consent to vote on three new amendments on Tuesday.
In mid-afternoon, the Iowa Republican proposed a unanimous consent request, supported by at least 17 Republicans, that the Senate vote on three amendments before Tuesday: (1) the Morton jury trial amendment which had been narrowly defeated on May 6; (2) Norris Cotton’s proposal to restrict coverage of Title VII (equal employment) to employers of 100 or more; and (3) Hickenlooper’s own amendment to delete all provisions of the bill relating to assistance for desegregation of public schools.
The pro-civil rights leaders understood the meaning of the unanimous consent request: either they agreed to these votes, or a substantial number of Republicans would vote against cloture next Tuesday. In the words of Humphrey aide John Stewart, “The linkage between substance and procedure was never more evident.”
Action on the unanimous consent agreement was deferred while the civil rights leadership sorted through their options.
Over the course of the evening, Humphrey used the Hickenlooper gambit to exact promises from Karl Mundt, Roman Hruska, and Norris Cotton: in exchange for Humphrey’s agreement to the Hickenlooper motion, the three would vote for cloture.
When Hickenlooper again offered his motion, i.e., that three amendments, after four hours of debate on each, be voted on Tuesday, the day before a cloture vote, no objection was raised.
The Hickenlooper agreement called for the Senate to debate Morton’s jury trial amendment on Monday, June 8, and to vote on this amendment early Tuesday. Debate and votes on Cotton’s and Hickenlooper’s amendments would take up the rest of Tuesday. The cloture petition would be filed on Monday, June 8, with the cloture vote to come two days later.
Majority Leader Mansfield rose on the Senate floor, addressed the presiding officer, and began the process of invoking cloture: “We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the provisions of Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, hereby move to bring to a close the debate on the bill.”
The cloture petition was signed by 28 Democrats and 11 Republicans (16 signatures were needed). Under the rules, the vote to close debate was to be taken one hour after the Senate met two days later. That hour would be consumed by speeches by Senators Russell, Mansfield, Humphrey, and Dirksen on June 10.
The balance of the Senate session was devoted to debate over the Morton jury trial amendment.
Larry O’Brien reported to President Johnson a head count showing 42 Democrats and 23 Republicans in favor of cloture. They were two votes shy of the required 67. Of the uncommitted (and not opposed), there were three Democrats and seven Republicans.
By a vote of 51-48, the Senate adopted the Morton amendment entitling defendants in criminal contempt cases arising under the civil rights act to a jury trial upon demand, with a limit on the sentences of six months in prison and a $10,000 fine. The amendment did not cover Title I, on voting rights, and thus left intact the 1957 Civil Rights Act’s jury trial provision which allowed a judge to try a criminal contempt case in voting rights suits without a jury.
The Senate rejected, 40-56, the Hickenlooper amendment that would have deleted from the school integration section (Title IV) authorization for federal funds for institutes and programs for training school personnel to handle desegregation issues.
The Senate rejected the Cotton amendment to limit Title VII, the equal employment section, 33-64.
The Senate defeated a proposal by Sam Ervin to strike Title VII (equal employment) from the bill entirely. It lost, 33-64, by almost the 2-1 margin needed for cloture.
At 7:03 p.m., Johnson called Humphrey to determine if he had a reliable count on cloture. Humphrey reported “a minimum of 68” votes. Of that total, 42 were Democrats.
Johnson: “Well, the Republicans are doing a little better than we are, aren’t they?”
Humphrey: “Yes sir. Dirksen tells me he’s got 28 votes, but I don’t think he has. I think he’s got 26.”
At 7:38 p.m., Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) began a 800-page speech that would continue all night and end at 9:51 a.m. the next day, just nine minutes before the Senate was scheduled to convene for the historic vote on cloture. His 14-hour, 13-minute speech fell short of the all-time record for an unbroken speech by one senator. Senator Strom Thurmond (D-SC) set the record of 24 hours, 18 minutes speaking against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Precisely at 10:00 a.m. on June 10 (still the legislative day of March 30, 1964), the Senate was called to order. Mansfield delivered a short speech, lasting about a dozen minutes. "The Senate," he said, "now stands at the crossroads of history, and the time for decision is at hand."
Georgia Democrat Richard Russell, leader of the "southern bloc," offered the final arguments in opposition, consuming thirty minutes. He called the bill “an unbridled grant of power to appointed officials of the Government.”
Then Hubert Humphrey rose. "The Constitution of the United States is on trial," he said. "The question is whether we will have two types of citizenship in this nation, or first-class citizenship for all."
With only fifteen minutes remaining before the scheduled vote, Dirksen rose to address the Senate. Twice he gulped pills handed him by a page. In poor health, drained from working fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen-hour days, his words came quietly. In his massive left hand, his little finger flourishing a green jade ring, he held the speech he had typed the night before on Senate stationery.
He remarked on the sharp opinions, “incredible allegations,” “extreme views,” and “unrestrained criticism” that had characterized the year since John Kennedy had sent his civil rights message to Congress. As for himself, Dirksen noted, "I have had but one purpose, and that was the enactment of a good, workable, equitable, practical bill having due regard for the progress made in the civil rights field at the state and local level. I am no Johnny-come-lately in this field. Thirty years ago, in the House of Representatives, I voted for anti-poll-tax and antilynching measures. Since then, I have sponsored or co-sponsored scores of bills dealing with civil rights."
He warned his colleagues that "we dare not temporize with the issue which is before us. It is essentially moral in character. It must be resolved. It will not go away. It's time has come." Noting that the day marked the one-hundredth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's nomination to a second term, Dirksen invoked Victor Hugo and declared, "The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing of government, in education, and in employment. It must not be stayed or denied. It is here!"
His last words were these: "I appeal to all Senators. We are confronted with a moral issue. Today let us not be found wanting in whatever it takes by way of moral and spiritual substance to face up to the issue and to vote cloture."
After Dirksen finished, and a quorum established, Senator Lee Metcalf, who was presiding, stated: “The chair submits to the Senate, without debate, the question: Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close? The Secretary will call the role.”
Never in history had the Senate been able to muster enough votes to cut off a filibuster on a civil rights bill. And only once in the 37 years since 1927 had it agreed to cloture for any measure. Yet on June 10, 1964, after 534 hours, 1 minute, and 51 seconds, the longest filibuster in the history of the Senate was broken.
Opponents had proposed over 500 amendments during the five months of debate. With six wavering senators providing a four-vote victory margin, the final tally stood at 71 to 29. Forty-four Democrats and 27 Republicans voted for cloture with 23 Democrats—20 from the South—and only 6 Republicans opposed. When debate first began, the bipartisan leadership figured that the Democrats would have to supply 42 votes and the Republicans 25. Thus each party supplied two more than its target.
Of the seven uncertain votes that Kuchel staffer Steve Horn had predicted in June 1963 might be obtainable, Dirksen lost only one, Edwin Mechem of New Mexico, and he picked up three of the eight that Horn had thought beyond reach: Karl Mundt, Norris Cotton, and Carl Curtis.
The vote for cloture left each senator with one hour of speaking time on the bill or pending amendments. Only amendments submitted before the cloture vote were in order. Approximately 560 amendments were eligible to be called up under Senate Rule XXII.
Since only amendments “presented and read” before cloture could be considered, a successful amendment offered by a southerner could not be reversed by another amendment by the pro-civil rights forces because it could not be introduced except by unanimous consent. Presumably, an opponent would object to the unanimous consent request.
In terms of strategy, this meant that the pro-civil rights forces could not let down their guard.
Immediately after the cloture vote, Sam Ervin called up his amendment which prohibited a person who was acquitted or convicted of a specific crime under the bill from also being charged with criminal contempt and vice versa. This “double jeopardy” amendment passed, 49-48. In the post-cloture vote commotion, however, the chair first announced wrongly that the amendment had been defeated, 47-48.
Only when the correct vote had been announced did the bipartisan civil rights leadership realize that Ervin’s amendment would compromise the enforcement mechanism by permitting a state to acquit a person for a crime related to the civil rights bill and thereby prevent any subsequent federal prosecution for criminal contempt.
But Ervin had erred. He did not offer his amendment to the Dirksen-Mansfield substitute. Instead, he had amended the House text, which would be eliminated entirely once the substitute was adopted. In other words, Ervin’s double jeopardy amendment, despite its adoption, would survive only until final passage of the Dirksen-Mansfield substitute just prior to third reading of the bill.
The Senate defeated an amendment to delete Title VI (Federally Assisted Programs), permitting cutoff of federal funds, 25-69.
After the Senate defeated Russell’s amendment to postpone the effective date of Title II (public accommodations) for two years, Mansfield recessed the Senate until 3:00 p.m. in order to “give us a chance to regroup, rethink and recollect.”
At their daily meeting, the bipartisan floor leaders’ group agreed to oppose all future amendments, unless they were minor and accepted by the leaders of both parties.
At the 9:00 a.m. meeting of the Joint Senate House Republican Leadership, the topic of civil rights did not come up. In the press conference following, however, Dirksen was asked about the bill. His reply:
Well, I said all I had to say on the subject when I made those final remarks on the cloture petition. And there is nothing further that I need add. What we tried to do … I made manifest so often and so often … was to take a bill and get out what I thought were the imperfections and the deficiencies and make it practical and workable. I think it’s generally conceded that it had imperfections in it. I thought out of this composite effort there came a very good substitute—not offensive—but it is workable and it will make an excellent start.
The Senate convened at 10:00 a.m. A compromise amendment to prevent “double jeopardy” under the bill was approved 80-16, but the southerners then suffered 11 straight roll call defeats on other amendments before accepting five others. All were “perfecting amendments” rather than substantive changes.
Martin Luther King, Jr., praised Dirksen's "able and courageous leadership." Clarence Mitchell sent a telegram to Dirksen after the cloture vote offering his appreciation and proclaiming, "This is a great day for the country and for the future of human rights." Writer and poet Archibald MacLeish, a native of Illinois, admitted that "I was not among your admirers when you first came to the Senate," before writing that "my present very great admiration for you is, therefore a true monument to the impressiveness of your achievements in Washington."
Dirksen received a letter from Roy Wilkins which read in part:
Let me be the first to admit that I was in error in estimating your preliminary announcements and moves. From my position, I must still regard any genuine palliation of the traditional Southern reliance on the sacredness of state action in Negro civil rights matters as an untenable move.
But there were certain realities which had to be taken into account in advancing this legislation to a vote. Out of your long experience you devised an approach which seemed to you to offer a chance of success. The resounding vote of 71-29 on June 10 to shut off debate tended mightily to reinforce your judgment and to vindicate your procedure.
Your leadership of the Republican party in the Senate at this turning point will become a significant part of the history of this century.
Dirksen complained about efforts by southerners to gut the civil rights bill via post-cloture amendment. In response to a proposal that the bill be put to a national vote, Dirksen said, “I thought I came here as a legislator and that I was not depending on a referendum for me to determine what I should do in the legislative field.”
The Senate defeated an amendment to delete Title I, on voting rights, 16-69. The floor leaders accepted an amendment to Title VII specifying that it would not be an illegal employment practice for an employer to administer and act on any ability test, so long as the test was not “designed, intended or used” to discriminate on the basis of race or sex—the amendment passed on a voice vote.
The bipartisan team captains announced in a news release: “To expedite the remaining consideration of the bill, we have agreed to relinquish all of the strengthening amendments which we have proposed.”
The Senate defeated an amendment to delete Title II, public accommodations, 23-63. Southerners lost on all 14 roll call votes that day.
Although Democrats Richard Russell, John Stennis, and Lister Hill, all southerners, were ready to accept the bill and end the delaying tactics, three other southern Democratic senators refused to give up: Strom Thurmond, Sam Ervin, and Russell Long.
Dirksen’s Your Senator Reports segment was entitled, “That Was the Year That Was” in which Dirksen retold the story of the civil rights legislation. This source is the most complete recapitulation of the senator’s role in his own words.
The Senate defeated an amendment to delete Title IV, desegregation of public schools, 15-74.
The Senate defeated an amendment to delete Title IX, authorizing the Attorney General to intervene in pending civil rights suits and permitting appeal from a decision of a district court remanding a case to state courts, 25-66.
The Senate defeated an amendment to delete Title X, the Community Relations Service, 16-69.
In an attempt to wear out Thurmond, Ervin, and Long, Senate Majority Leader Mansfield kept the Senate in session for over 13 hours (from 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, until 12:01 a.m., Wednesday), which resulted in the most roll calls (34) ever taken in the Senate on one day; the defeat of all 33 proposed amendments; and the weakening resolve of the three recalcitrant southern senators.
The Senate defeated an amendment to delete Title VIII, statistics on registration and voting, 19-74.
Strom Thurmond and Sam Ervin agreed to limit the number of amendments they would call up, thus assuring the third reading of the Dirksen-Mansfield substitute to H.R. 7152 that afternoon and final passage no later than Friday, June 19.
In the last day of voting on amendments, the Senate rejected 21 by southerners.
The Senate by a 76-18 roll-call vote adopted the bipartisan Dirksen-Mansfield substitute bill worked out in the May negotiations. This came 81 days after H.R. 7152 was first put before the Senate on February 26. The Senate took 106 roll call votes following cloture and through adoption of the substitute bill (there were 121 Senate roll calls on the civil rights bill in all).
Forty-six Democrats and 30 Republicans voted in favor of the substitute bill.
Now only one vote remained: final passage of H.R. 7152 as amended.
Richard Russell still had 19 of the 60 minutes available to him under Senate Rule 22. He opened debate that morning by conceding that he and his sympathizers had
used every weapon available. We have sought to appeal to the sense of fairness and justice of the members of this body. Finding that the ears of our colleagues were closed and a majority had already signed in blood to “follow the leaders,” we undertook to go over the heads and appeal to the American people.
Until we were engaged, we made no secret of the fact that we were undertaking to speak in detail and at length in an effort to get the message across to the American people. We did not deceive anyone as to our purpose.
In his speech to the Senate, Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), who would become the Republican presidential nominee, explained why he would vote against the bill, despite counsel from Dirksen to the contrary:
To give genuine effect to the prohibitions of this bill will require the creation of a federal police force of mammoth proportions. It also bids fair to result in the development of an “informer” psychology in great areas of our national life—neighbors spying on neighbors, workers spying on workers, businessmen spying on businessmen—where those citizens for selfish and narrow purposes will have ample inducement to do so. These, the Federal police force and an “informer” psychology, are the hallmarks of the police state and landmarks in the destruction of a free society.
Dirksen’s letter to Senator John Williams stating Dirksen’s interpretation of the civil rights act was inserted in the Congressional Record.
The Senate’s first order of business was to consider a motion to recommit the bill to the Judiciary Committee with instructions to report it back to the Senate with language prohibiting the federal government from cutting off any school aid funds unless a school district had violated a district court order. The motion was rejected, 25-74.
Hubert Humphrey delivered the next speech, followed by Mike Mansfield.
Minority Leader Dirksen, in his final speech on the pending legislation, stressed the Republicans’ contribution to the civil rights cause and stated
On occasion a number of the “boys” up in the gallery have asked me, “how have you become a crusader in this cause?” It is a fair question, and it deserves a fair answer. I am involved in mankind, and whatever the skin, we are all involved in mankind. Equality of opportunity must prevail if we are to complete the covenant we have made with the people, and if we are to honor the pledges we have made when we held up our hands to take an oath to defend the laws and carry out the Constitution of the United States.
There is a moral basis for our case.
So, Mr. President, I commend this bill to the Senate, and in its wisdom I trust in bountiful measure it will prevail. I am prepared to vote.
Senator Allen Ellender (D-LA) warned that strife would follow adoption of the civil rights bill:
The moral, intellectual and cultural standards of the white race perhaps leave a lot to be desired, but until the American Negro approaches this standard in large numbers, he will not be accepted. It is not possible to force one, by law, to associate with another not of his own choosing. What is not recognized is that in many parts of the nation, and especially in the South, integration is considered immoral.
At 7:40 p.m., the clerk announced that H.R. 7152, as substituted by the Dirksen-Mansfield amendment, had passed, 73-27. All but six of the Senate’s 33 Republicans voted for it, compared with just 46 of its 67 Democrats. Two Republicans who had voted for cloture—Cotton and Hickenlooper—voted against the bill, while two who had voted against cloture—Milton Young of North Dakota and Wallace Bennett of Utah—voted for the bill.
The passage vote came exactly one year after the bill was submitted to Congress by President Kennedy.
Dirksen appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Why was Dirksen motivated to lead, to help the Democrats overcome the opposition of their own party to the bill? “I come of immigrant German stock,” he explained to a reporter. “My mother stood on Ellis Island as a child of 17, with a tag around her neck directing that she be sent to Pekin, Illinois. Our family had opportunities in Illinois, and the essence of what we’re trying to do in the civil rights bill is to see that others have opportunities in this country.”
Three young civil rights workers, in Mississippi for the summer voter registration drive, were reported missing after being released from jail. Their bodies would be found on August 4 near Philadelphia, Mississippi.
The Senate-passed bill returned to the House.
Judiciary Committee chairman Emanuel Celler and Republican Bill McCulloch issued a joint press release:
Not all the amendments are to our liking. However, we believe that none of the amendments do serious violence to the purpose of the bill. We are of a mind that a conference could fatally delay enactment of this measure. We believe that the House membership will take the same position.
All along, the civil rights forces had wanted to avoid a House-Senate conference committee, in which the bill might be amended further, requiring it to go back to the Senate where it would face the threat of yet another filibuster.
Celler requested “unanimous consent to take from the Speaker’s table the bill (H.R. 7152), with Senate amendment thereto, and agree to the Senate amendment.” His motion required the unanimous consent of the House members. Several southerners voiced objections, however.
Celler immediately filed H. Res. 789 “to provide for the Concurrence of the House of Representatives to the Senate amendment to H.R. 7152.” Speaker McCormack referred the resolution to the Rules Committee immediately.
Under House Rule 11, any three members of the Rules Committee could request a meeting and, if the chairman failed to call a meeting within seven calendar days, including at least three legislative days, any eight members of the committee could demand a hearing at a time of their choosing. The civil rights supporters were prepared to force Chairman Smith’s hand.
Mike Mansfield wrote to Dirksen: “We have come through a most trying period in the Senate. In retrospect, the issues were such that they might have opened schisms which would have been years in closing,” Mansfield confided. “That did not happen, and I want you to know how grateful I am for the help, the understanding and the cooperation which you gave to me in striving to prevent it.”
Dirksen, who was not generally inclined to write such letters to colleagues, replied in full measure. “I don’t know what we would have done about the civil rights struggle if it had not been for your humility, your understanding, your self-effacement and your appreciation of every problem as it arose.” Concluded Dirksen, “When all is said and done you are the one who should have had the lion’s share of the credit because you are the Majority Leader and because you cooperated so superbly at every step of this tortuous road.”
President Johnson and Dirksen spoke twice on the telephone about civil rights and other topics. President Johnson told Dirksen, "You are the hero of the nation. They have forgotten that anyone else is around. Every time I pick up a paper it is 'Dirksen' in the magazines. The NAACP is flying Dirksen banners and picketing the White House tomorrow."
Writing in his memoirs years later, Johnson recalled, "In this critical hour Senator Dirksen came through, as I had hoped he would. He knew his country's future was at stake. He knew what he could do to help. He knew what he had to do as a leader."
After waiting the required three days, Richard Bolling, Democrat from Missouri, filed a formal request that House Rules Committee chair Smith hold a hearing on Resolution 789. Smith knew that he was outgunned and reluctantly scheduled a hearing for the last possible day under the rules—Tuesday, June 30.
The Congressional Record printed several tributes to Dirksen on his role in civil rights.
Chairman Smith began Rules Committee deliberation at 10:30 a.m. with testimony from Manny Celler and Bill McCulloch. After answering a quorum call, the committee returned at 1:30 and, following parliamentary maneuvering by the pro-civil rights members of the committee, voted 7-4 to end all testimony by 5:00 p.m.
At 5:00 p.m., the committee went into executive session. A motion to grant a rule to H. Res. 789 passed 10-5. The rule specified one hour of floor debate and that the resolution be reported immediately.
The committee took control of the bill out of Smith's hands, assigning to another member the task of reporting the rule to the House.