WASHINGTON -- President Bush has rejected a compromise plan on civil rights legislation offered by moderate Republicans, forcing a showdown between Congress and the White House.
A disappointed Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo., chief sponsor of the GOP proposal, made public a letter from Bush that --ed the Missourian's months-long hopes of breaking a stalemate between the White House and Congress over the controversial bill.
"I think it's a serious mistake for the president, his administration and the Republican Party to try to turn the clock back on civil rights," Danforth said yesterday.
In his letter, the president said only that the GOP moderates' plan would undercut his education policy by limiting employers' discretion to require diplomas or similar credentials for hiring and promotion.
But Danforth, who tried for weeks to get the president to go along with the compromise, argued that his measure would only prevent employers from using employment qualifications unrelated to the job to unfairly screen out minorities and women.
"This is not a quibble," he said. "There is a fundamental disagreement between those of us who support civil rights legislation and the president on a fundamental civil rights policy."
Danforth said he expected the Senate to pass a civil rights bill this fall by a veto-proof margin, despite the president's objections.
At issue is whether Congress should overturn a 1989 Supreme Court decision that civil rights advocates contend narrowed the scope of laws against job discrimination and gave employers greater latitude to follow employment practices.
But the president -- introducing a new argument in the long-running debate over the scope of a new civil rights bill -- said employers should have the right to hire on the basis of educational achievement.