Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, Richard Russell previewed the argument he intended to use to dissuade senators from voting for cloture. “The public accommodations section, as severe as it is, is not the worst provision in the bill.” Instead, he pointed to Title VI (cut off of federal funds) and Title VII (equal employment opportunity) as being “much more damaging” to the American economic and governmental system.
Humphrey, Democratic floor manager for the civil rights bill, said he would resist all efforts to change the House-passed bill.
Dirksen’s appointment books recorded a meeting on civil rights at 3:15 p.m.
The Senate passed the cotton-wheat bill. Senate leaders had decided to complete action on that bill before moving to civil rights. Mansfield announced that he would call up H.R. 7152 on Monday, March 9.
Following meetings with fellow Democrats Warren Magnuson, Phillip Hart, and Joseph Clark, Humphrey decided upon the following strategy for managing the civil rights bill:
1. Additional “captains” would be appointed to manage each title of H.R. 7152: Hart (MI) for Title I (voting rights), Magnuson (WA) for Title II (public accommodations), Wayne Morse (OR) for Title III (desegregation of public facilities and the attorney general’s powers), Paul Douglas (IL) for Article IV (school desegregation), Edward Long (MO) for Title V (Civil Rights Commission), John Pastore (RI) for Title VI (cutoff of federal funds), Joseph Clark (PA) for Title VII (equal employment opportunity), and Thomas Dodd (CT) for Titles VIII, IX, X, and XI (Community Relations Service and miscellaneous provisions).
2. A special whip system would be established to help senators respond promptly to quorum calls. The Democrats agreed to keep at least 35 senators in Washington each day to answer quorums. The Republicans promised 16. These special arrangements were designed to produce 51 senators as quickly as possible whenever a filibustering southern Democrat suggested the absence of a quorum.
3. Senators would be assigned on a rotating basis to monitor the Senate floor throughout the debate to guard against surprises from the southern Democrats.
4. Partly to demonstrate organizational effectiveness, the pro-civil rights forces would publish a daily bulletin, which would be distributed to friendly senators, providing them with the daily schedule, a list of the assignments for monitoring the Senate floor, and rebuttal points to make against the filibusterers.
5. A civil rights bipartisan leadership team meeting would be held in Humphrey’s whip office approximately 15 minutes before the Senate convened each day to discuss current plans. Twice a week the lobbyists from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights would be invited to attend these meetings.
Dirksen met with Nicholas Katzenbach at 4:00 p.m.
At a press conference, President Johnson said, “I think we passed a good civil rights bill in the House. I hope that same bill will be passed in the Senate.”
"The President’s News Conference"
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Humphrey reaffirmed the president’s promise to work for a civil rights bill that did not change the House-passed bill: “I think it would be desirable for us to take the work that has already been completed in the House and pass it in the Senate. That would avoid, sir, going back through the House again, through conference and bringing it back to the Senate.”
Humphrey said about Dirksen:
Senator Dirksen surely will be a very key person in this entire historic debate. ... I have a very high regard for Senator Dirksen. He is the Republican leader. He is a man who thinks of his country before he thinks of his party. He is one who understands the legislative process intimately and fully, and I sincerely believe that when Senator Dirksen has to face that moment of decision where his influence and where his leadership will be required in order to give us the votes that are necessary to pass the bill, he will not be found wanting.
Humphrey recalled his appearance on Meet the Press years later: “I praised Senator Dirksen, telling the nation that he would help, that he would support a good civil rights bill, that he would put his country above party, that he would look upon this issue as a moral issue and not a partisan issue. I believed it then, and my faith has been vindicated.” He continued:
In fact, I worked very closely with Dirksen at all times so there would be no split between us. I was told a number of times by Democrats that Dirksen was stealing the show, that I should be out in front. I knew that if I tried to push myself into the spotlight any more than I had, the bill would fail. Dirksen had to be out in front. Dirksen is a leader, he is a great dramatist, and a fine legislator. He had the right to be out in front, and I gave him every opportunity to be so.
Humphrey met with Leadership Conference principals Clarence Mitchell, Andy Biemiller, Joe Rauh, and Jack Conway; Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joe Dolan; and three Senate staff aides to organize in support of H.R. 7152.
Kuchel aide Horn reported on the list which he and Kuchel drew up on June 19, 1963, in which they felt that “we had 18 sure Republican votes, and seven on the borderline would be with us after four or five weeks of messy debate; eight would be bitter-enders.”
Southerners led by Richard Russell met in a strategy session and agreed to stage a lengthy debate on Mansfield’s motion to schedule the bill.
Kuchel and Humphrey met to review the plan for monitoring debate in the Senate. Like Humphrey, Kuchel reported, Dirksen had designated Republican floor captains: Kenneth Keating (NY) for Title I (voting rights), Roman Hruska (NE) for Title II (public accommodations), Jacob Javits (NY) for Title III (desegregation of public facilities and the attorney general’s powers), John Sherman Cooper (KY) for Title IV (school desegregation), Hugh Scott (PA) for Title V (Civil Rights Commission), Norris Cotton (NH) for Title VI (cutoff of federal funds), and Clifford Case (NJ) for Title VII (equal employment opportunity). Hruska and Cotton later declined to serve and were not replaced.
Humphrey and Kuchel believed a thorough title-by-title presentation by bipartisan teams on the Senate floor would help discredit the argument by southerners that the bill was being rushed through the Senate.
Kuchel also agreed to collaborate in publishing the daily civil rights newsletter and to invite the Republican title captains to the daily staff meetings in Humphrey’s office.
The challenge posed by the filibuster: A filibuster would place the greatest burden not on the southerners, who would simply have to show up one or two at a time to talk endlessly in shifts. The pro-civil rights forces, however, would have to be able to produce 51 senators on the floor at any time the southerners called for a quorum in order to keep the Senate from grinding to a halt.
Mansfield believed that the round-the-clock sessions in 1960 eventually weakened that civil rights bill not because it had worn down southerners, who could hold the floor with only a handful of well-rested colleagues, but “rather the exhausted, sleep-deprived, quorum-confounded” proponents of civil rights, who were only too happy to compromise in the end. Hence, Mansfield’s opposition to President Johnson’s preference for forcing round-the-clock sessions.
The challenge posed by quorum calls. Calling quorums when fewer than 51 senators were on the floor was a favorite device of the southern members. Not only did frequent quorum calls kill time but they also gave filibusterers some rest while the clerk called the roll of 100 names.
This strategy posed a parliamentary risk for the pro-civil rights senators. Under the Senate’s rules, each member was allowed to deliver just two speeches on the same subject in a single “legislative day.” If a quorum could not be obtained, however, the Senate would have to adjourn—instead of recessing, as was its more typical practice—thus starting a new legislative day. Beginning a new legislative day would allow the southerners to make even more speeches in opposition, thereby delaying final action even further. For example, if each filibusterer made two 12-hour speeches, that alone could use up eight to ten weeks.
Moreover, if the Senate adjourned while a motion to consider the civil rights bill were pending—as Mansfield had announced the motion to consider H.R. 7152 soon would be—the motion would die, and the process of calling the bill up would have to start all over again the next legislative day.
Bottom line: the civil rights supporters would have to deliver a quorum on demand in order to keep the current legislative day alive.
To confront the challenge, Humphrey devised a new system to bring senators to the chamber quickly to respond to quorum calls. Humphrey appointed six Democrats each of whom was expected to produce four to six colleagues on the floor as soon as a quorum call was issued. Republicans were expected to produce 16 of their colleagues.
Russell divided his faction into three-man groups to conduct quorum calls. The southerners aimed their attack on Title I (voting rights), Title II (integration of public accommodations), Title VI (cutoff of federal funds), and Title VII (equal employment opportunity).
The challenge posed by the “morning hour” procedure. Morning hour was the period at the beginning of each workday reserved for routine housekeeping tasks—the reading of the previous day’s journal, the presentation of memorials and committee reports, for example. Because the Senate usually convened at Noon, morning hour usually began then and lasted for two hours, ending at 2:00 p.m.
During the morning hour, a motion to consider a bill—that is, to make it the pending business of the Senate—was not debatable. If the majority leader wanted to call up a bill as the first order of business, he could do so in seconds under the procedures allowed during morning hour.
At Noon, the Senate began debate on Mansfield’s motion to proceed to the consideration of H.R. 7152, a debate that lasted 16 days. A few minutes after Noon, during morning hour, Mansfield offered a routine motion to dispense with the reading of the previous day’s journal. If successful, this gambit would provide an opening for Mansfield to make the bill the pending business of the Senate.
Russell jumped up, asking that the journal be read “slowly and clearly enough for all members of the Senate to understand.” This was Russell’s way of consuming the two hours of the morning hour in order to prevent Mansfield’s motion to consider the bill without debate. After 2:00 p.m., the motion to consider the bill would be debatable.
Two hours and five minutes later, Mansfield took the floor again to make his motion to consider H.R. 7152 as the Senate’s pending business.
Southerners began talking in what amounted to a pre-filibuster on the question of whether to simply take up the bill—this filibuster did not address the substance of the bill itself. Civil rights supporters feared that Russell’s forces might just keep talking, preventing the Senate from even beginning to consider H.R. 7152, until Congress adjourned for the Republican Convention in July.
Senate Republican staff members met for lunch with Stephen Horn, Kuchel’s legislative assistant. Horn invited William H. Copenhaver, Associate Counsel, House Committee on the Judiciary, to present information about the House-passed bill. The Senate staffers wanted to know how much change Bill McCulloch would accept to H.R. 7152. Copenhaver believed “it’s nonsense to hold the bill intact as Senator Humphrey says.” All present agreed that no amendment would be offered unless at least 15 Republican senators agreed to co-sponsor it or to vote for it.
After Dirksen let it be known that he was working on amendments to the public accommodations, cut off of federal funds, and equal employment opportunity sections, Humphrey said that backers of H.R. 7152 and Dirksen were “not too far apart” on the public accommodations sections.
The Senate bipartisan civil rights staff met at 4:30 p.m. to discuss strategy. They agreed to meet at 5:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
The Senate bipartisan civil rights staff met at 5:30 p.m. in Capitol S-118, the Office of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. The discussion centered on amending strategy, on cloture, and on the Senate’s independence from the House.
At 6:15 p.m., most of the bipartisan civil rights staff moved to S-309, Humphrey’s office, to meet with Clarence Mitchell and Joe Rauh. Mitchell announced that the Leadership Conference would oppose any weakening amendments. Although Justice Department officials asked Mitchell to make a statement against strengthening amendments (which they feared would create a backlash against the bill), Mitchell refused to do so. Rauh and Mitchell described how they would like to improve the bill.
They discussed lobbying strategy, the need to clear any amendments with McCulloch and Celler, and the timing of cloture.
The Joint Senate House Republican Leadership meeting included a discussion of civil rights. Both Halleck and Dirksen responded to questions in the press conference following the meeting. Dirksen, for example, said that 155 amendments to H.R. 7152 had been presented in the House, of which 39 were adopted. “Now we just carry out our part of the legislative process,” he continued, “and amendments will be offered. I shall add some amendments. There will be others. I understand that it requires some technical changes in order to perfect the language and make it clear—on which there’s possibly agreement.”
The Senate bipartisan civil rights staff met. “It was a very jocular crowd. Department of Justice representatives are no longer present!”
Discussion topics focused on parliamentary procedures.
President Johnson taped a television interview with the three major networks to be broadcast the following day. “The Negro was freed of his chains a hundred years ago,” he said, “but he has not been freed of the problems brought about by his color and the bigotry that exists. I know of nothing more important for this Congress than to pass the Civil Rights Act as the House passed it.”
“Transcript of Television and Radio Interview Conducted by Representatives of Major Broadcast Service,” (and audio)
Dirksen appeared on Issues and Answers [No transcript was located]
The agenda for the conference of Democratic civil rights floor leaders included the following item, which testified to the important of publicity:
Senator [Jennings] Randolph [D-WV] has informed the leadership that if the Morse motion is delayed until late this week or early next, his doctor may allow him to be wheeled into the Senate Chamber on a reclining stretcher-chair to vote. The value of Senator Randolph’s generous offer to proponents of the bill might well be immeasurable, not only in terms of publicity and drama but in terms of psychological forces in the Senate as well. It is suggested that if possible the vote on this motion be delayed until Senator Randolph is permitted by his doctor to make this trip, and to preserve its dramatic impact it should be kept in the highest measure of secrecy.
The “Morse motion” referred to Senator Wayne Morse’s (D-OR) intention to move that H.R. 7152 be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee rather than be placed on the Senate calendar [See March 26, 1964].
A handful of civil rights proponents met at 10:30 a.m. to check up on the views of the midwest and mountain state Republican senators “and whether or not they will switch to provide a vote on cloture.” They talked about other legislative business that might impinge on civil rights.
Stephen Horn learned from Congressman John Lindsay’s legislative assistant that Bill McCulloch “is getting progressively worried. He claims that they would lose 25 percent of the votes they had if a vote were to occur in the House on the Civil Rights legislation.”
Richard Russell introduced a proposal to give southern blacks $1.5 billion in incentives to relocate to parts of the country where few of them lived. It went nowhere.
More than 100 members of the United Church of Christ visited Washington to urge support of the civil rights bill.
Pro-civil rights senators and staffers met at 10:30 a.m. They discussed the difficulty of getting a hard count on votes, of the timing of the wheat-cotton bill and the civil rights bill, and the challenge of meeting evening quorum calls (on March 16, 15 Republicans answered on time, but it took 67 minutes to round up Democrats, and Senate President Pro Tempore Carl Hayden “was aroused out of bed”).
Said Humphrey: “Their duty is to be here. I could be away for speeches for 40 years with 50 invitations a day and I might be if you don’t watch it. [Laughter]”
William Copenhaver, minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee representing Bill McCulloch, met with Horn, legislative assistant to Kuchel, and the legislative assistant to John Lindsay at Noon:
Copenhaver believes that he has a Republican package which the House could accept. He would include state and federal elections in Title I; he would extend the Fourteenth Amendment to Title II; he would add due process to Title III; he would strike the requirements re findings on Title IV; he would give the Civil Rights Commission an indefinite extension and put the Community Relations Service under the Civil Rights Commission in Title V; he would include individual right to sue under Title VI; he would phase firms with 100-50-25 employees into Title VII over a three-year period; he would permit the Census Bureau to go into all the districts under Title VIII; and he would permit appeals and remands under Title IX.
The Republican civil rights staff met for lunch. Staffers for the following senators attended: Kuchel, Javits, Keating, Cooper, Fong, Hruska, Case, and other staff, including Copenhaver. Dirksen was not represented.
The New York Times reported that Mansfield, Dirksen, Humphrey, and Kuchel had met at 2:00 p.m. and agreed to seek cloture the following week if the southern Democrats continued to debate the motion to consider H.R. 7152.
Humphrey and Kuchel, however, feared that a premature move to cloture would fail and open the bill to weakening amendments.
The bipartisan civil rights staff met but by 5:30 p.m., they “had not decided anything. Some were inhibited by the presence of the three Dirksen assistants (Clyde Flynn, Neal Kennedy, and Bernard J. Waters).” Stephen Horn told the bipartisan group “to relax since Dirksen’s assistants do not know what Dirksen wants either and they are just as inhibited as the rest.” Senator Kuchel told Horn, “Don’t play around with Title II at all. Dirksen will be with us after an honorable licking.”
Pro-civil rights senators and staff met at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the procedures associated with referring H.R. 7152 to the Senate Judiciary Committee with instructions.
Humphrey sent a memo to President Johnson describing how he would approach Dirksen. The minority leader, Humphrey wrote,
is a man in his later years, probably not intending to serve another term in the Senate, one who is, therefore, not open to direct pressure on the civil rights bill or any other bill. He is increasingly concerned, I believe, about his historical role, about his place in history. He is a brilliant, gifted man, who somehow slipped off the track and wound up with the image of a clown—“The Ev and Charlie Show” routine, for example. In actual fact, he is a skillful, imaginative, and patriotic man, to whom an appeal can be made subtly to win his place in history as a real decision maker on the Civil Rights bill.
The best way to [handle] Dirksen is to have people express confidence in him, to say they believe him to be a patriot, that they believe him to be a man dedicated to right and justice, and they believe that he will use his great power and influence to secure passage of the bipartisan bill passed by the House.
By this point, the southerners were dragging out the debate by asking unanimous consent to make off-topic speeches that would not count against their allotted total time on civil rights. They had so far used only 12 of 38 speaking slots available to them under the two-speeches-a-day rule.
The Senate bipartisan leadership staff met with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Discussion centered on the timing of cloture, the status of amendments, the need to avoid a conference committee, the role of lobbying by church groups in senators’ home states, parliamentary strategy, and the status of Wayne Morse’s motion to refer the bill to the Judiciary Committee.
No one representing Dirksen or Mansfield attended the meeting.
The bipartisan Senate leadership met at 10:30 a.m. with representatives from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. They discussed the Morse motion and the wisdom of seeking cloture. There was a difference of opinion on whether or not an early vote on cloture would help or hurt the prospects for H.R. 7152. The group prepared a post-meeting memorandum on suggested steps to reach a vote on Mansfield’s motion to proceed to consideration of H.R. 7152 without resorting to cloture.
The bipartisan Senate leadership met at 10:30 a.m. in Humphrey’s office. Discussed centered on the strategy for dealing with the Morse referral motion. Concern was expressed about Republican sentiment in the House. In the case of Charles Halleck, for example, “Sixty of the House Republicans put a black Neville Chamberlain umbrella on Halleck’s desk” after he voted for H.R. 7152.
Dirksen prepared the following letter to respond to constituents who wrote him about the civil rights bill:
The Civil Rights bill, if enacted in the form as it passed the House of Representatives, will have a tremendous impact upon the way of life of this country. It contains so many imperfections and ambiguities that I hope before we get through in the Senate we can rework this measure to keep it within due bounds and also make it conform to our constitutional concepts of the rights of all citizens and not merely a segment of our citizenship.
I anticipate that many weeks will be devoted to this issue and that there is little likelihood that the Senate will impose cloture on itself in the face of this all important issue.
On March 23, it was still the “Legislative Day of Monday, March 9,” and the southerners kept talking. The House, on the other hand, had taken just nine days to debate, amend, and pass H.R. 7152. The Senate had already taken two weeks just debating a motion on whether to consider the bill.
At 10:00 a.m., Dirksen met with the National Association of Social Workers to discuss civil rights. The meeting was widely reported in the press, particularly Dirksen’s exchange with seven black members of the organization.
As the Chicago Daily News reported, “Dirksen expounded principle; they countered with morality. He began to filibuster with statistics on progress; they cut him off with recent personal experiences of discrimination. They sought to lecture him; and the Senate’s quickest wit fired back with Supreme Court precedents and historic arguments, resonantly stated.”
The bipartisan Senate leadership met at 10:30 a.m. in Humphrey’s office. It appeared that Morse might offer his referral amendment on March 25, and the participants discussed how to line up votes to oppose the motion. Humphrey reported that he had told the administration to “motivate some of the religious groups” to “liven up the people on the Democratic National Committee.”
“Humphrey stresses that the Southerners use dramatic words and phrases. We have to bring out the gruesome details. Show what has happened to educated Negroes who have been deprived of their rights and quit arguing about details. The opposition is saying this is a bad bill and these incidents are local. We need to build up a backdrop so people will understand it.”
Word circulated on Capitol Hill that the southerners were ready to allow a vote on the Mansfield motion to consider the bill. The southern caucus had voted 7 to 5 to let the bill come up. According to students of the process, the precise reason for this about-face has never been clear. The best guess is that Richard Russell had begun to fear that continued foot-dragging on the mere consideration of the bill might prompt more Republicans to support cloture once H.R. 7152 reached the floor.
The bipartisan Senate leadership met at 10:30 a.m. in Humphrey’s office. Discussion centered on the best way to use President Johnson’s influence and the Morse referral motion. “Horn suggests that we let Senator Dirksen make a speech and get it out of the way on Thursday. When Dirksen speaks, we should just smile and have patience.”
At 4:30 p.m., the Senate bipartisan leadership staff met. “There is a feeling that Martin Luther King should stay out of the gallery when the vote [on the Morse referral motion] is underway.”
At 5:30 p.m., Horn and other staff met with Clarence Mitchell to assess votes on the referral.
Dirksen committed his thoughts about H.R. 7152 to paper. Alluding to Bill McCulloch’s description of the House Subcommittee No. 5 bill as a “pail of garbage,” Dirksen wrote that the House-passed version was “not salvage or garbage but can be improved. … I have been and still am studying every aspect of Title II of this bill and I will have a substitute for this Title which I will present later.”
Under the heading “Impatience,” Dirksen wrote: “If this measure is the most important in several generations, is it not time to show patience and do a workmanlike job?”
In dealing with the subject of “Threats,” he observed: “How worthy can we be as a deliberative body if threats of demonstrations and taking to the streets moves us to hurried and careless craftsmanship?”
After convening at 9:00 a.m., the Senate voted 67-17 to take up H.R. 7152. The southerners had ended the pre-filibuster.
Senator Wayne Morse then moved to refer the bill to the Judiciary Committee with instructions to report it back to the Senate not later than April 8. Morse defended his motion on these grounds: (1) the committee would have an opportunity to hold hearings, and (2) the committee could file majority and minority reports on the legislation, which Morse believed would be needed by the courts to determine the bill’s legislative history.
Dirksen supported Morse’s motion to refer the bill to Judiciary and said that it needed “the most careful scrutiny.” “If this bill is as important as the zealots say,” Dirksen said, “that is all the more reason that it should be referred.” “This bill is going to remake the social pattern of this country … nobody should be fooled on that score,” he said.
Majority Leader Mansfield opposed the motion and noted that the bill, upon its return from the Judiciary Committee on April 8, would have to motioned off the calendar, providing the southern Democrats with still another opportunity to filibuster the motion to take up the bill. Mansfield moved to lay Morse’s motion on the table. His motion carried easily, 50-34. The last impediment to the Senate’s consideration of the bill itself had been overcome.
Selected Senate Republican staff members met for lunch.
The Senate adjourned for the Easter weekend.
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., held a press conference in the Capitol building. He said that if a filibuster on the bill itself lasted more than one month, beyond May 1, his Southern Christian Leadership Conference would “engage in a direct action program here in Washington and around the country.”
Richard Russell planned strategy for the southern senators. He counted on the filibuster to allow time for public sentiment to rise against the bill. Various factors were seen as contributing to anti-civil rights sentiment: (1) continued racial unrest and disruptions throughout the country; (2) the entry of Alabama’s governor, George C. Wallace, in the Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland presidential primaries; and (3) the national campaign against the bill sponsored by the Coordinating Committee for Fundamental American Freedoms.
Russell also hoped that the pressure brought by civil rights proponents would alienate Dirksen, who, as time passed, might urge the Senate to adopt major amendments to the House-passed bill, forcing a parliamentary crisis when the bill returned to the House. Russell imagined a war of attrition resulting in a significantly weaker bill.
The Reverend Billy Graham held a service for 35,000 intermingled black and white congregants in a football stadium in Birmingham, Alabama, the largest integrated audience in the history of Alabama.
At 11:30 a.m., the bipartisan Senate leadership met in Humphrey’s office with representatives from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. They talked about strategy for giving speeches and allowing interruptions. About Humphrey: “Since there was no legislative history in committee, he feels that it must be done in a committee of the whole. We should not be running because ‘lynch mob’ and ‘tyranny’ are being yelled by Senator Russell.”
Formal debate on H.R. 7152 began in the Senate. Hubert Humphrey opened debate with a three-hour-and-ten-minute exposition of the entire bill, followed by Thomas Kuchel (R-CA), Republican floor manager for the bill, who spoke from a 56-page text.
At this point, the southern filibuster on the bill itself began. The floor captains appointed by Dirksen and Humphrey occupied the Senate debate until April 9 with a title-by-title discussion of H.R. 7152.
Eighty leaders from the 74 member organizations of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights met for an all-day strategy session.
Pro-civil rights forces in Congress and outside the institution were not content to rely on congressional processes and politics to achieve their legislative goals. They worked with church groups which had joined the civil rights movement in full force for the first time in 1963.
Churches provided the only possible civil rights constituency for most of the uncommitted senators, those whose votes Dirksen needed for cloture. These senators typically represented small population or rural states without a black constituency or, consequently, a civil rights problem at home. Absent that, these senators feared that voting for cloture would set a dangerous precedent and erode their ability to protect small-state interests.
According to Andrew Young, who worked at Martin Luther King, Jr.'s side during this period, the pressure exerted by churches in the home states of senators from Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Kansas proved decisive:
When it no longer became a matter of right and left or liberal and conservative, but when it was demonstrated by this group of church and civil rights leaders that there were clear moral and religious issues involved, you gave those senators, eight of the ten of whom were Republican, a clear rationale for opposing something [unlimited debate] that they felt to be a lifelong part of the democratic tradition and very important in the case of a minority in a constitutional body.
Hubert Humphrey agreed. "We needed the help of the clergy, and this was assiduously encouraged," Humphrey noted. "I have said a number of times, and I repeat it now, that without the clergy, we couldn't have possibly passed this bill."
Richard Russell had his first opportunity to speak to H.R. 7152, and the point-counter-point debate over the bill began in earnest.
The bipartisan Senate leadership met at 10:40 a.m. in Humphrey’s office. They discussed the timing of applying pressure to Senator Roman Hruska (R-NE), a conservative Republican; the pace of debate; the schedule for bringing up the bill’s titles; and Democratic absentees from quorum calls.
At the weekly meeting of the Republican Policy Committee, Dirksen explained the basic elements of the amendments under consideration to H.R. 7152. He brought subsequent modifications of these amendments to the next three Policy Committee luncheons.
Dirksen outlined, for example, some possible amendments to Title VII (equal employment opportunity) that might keep the bill from “harassing businessmen,” as he put it. These included proposals intended to ease employment record-keeping requirements, plus other measures intended to avert conflict between state and federal fair employment rules, and to give precedence to states with effective laws already on the books.
He also floated the far more controversial idea of revising Title II of the bill, the all-important public accommodations section, to allow for voluntary compliance within one year before the attorney general could sue for an injunction to block discriminatory practices.
Dirksen’s strategy in previewing his changes with the Policy Committee was to court the conservatives in his party who used the committee as their power base. The New York Times reported that Dirksen said he had found “substantial support” among his party colleagues for the amendments he would offer to the civil rights bill.
His colleagues persuaded Dirksen to hold off on any changes in Title II for the moment, however.