Senators offer new civil rights compromise The bill would apply the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act to minorities and women.


September 25, 1991|By Arch Parsons | Arch Parsons,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- A group of seven moderate Senate Republicans announced yesterday yet another attempt to fashion a civil rights bill that would be acceptable to the Bush administration. The White House, however, appeared to reject it.

Sen. John C. Danforth, the Missouri Republican who has been leading the group's search for a compromise bill ever since President Bush vetoed last year's measure, said the senators were introducing a measure that would apply to minorities and women the exact anti-discrimination language in a law approved last year by Mr. Bush to protect disabled workers' rights.

Senator Danforth described the latest version of civil rights legislation at a news conference as "the latest of the long, long series of attempted accommodations with the administration to try to put together a bill which can become law."

The senator said the new proposal for a civil rights bill was based on an "invitation" from Evan Kemp, chairman of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Mr. Kemp, Senator Danforth noted, suggested in an article recently that in the fight over a civil rights bill, those seeking a compromise should "take some lessons" from the Americans with Disabilities Act, which Congress approved by "lopsided margins" and Mr. Bush described as "landmark" legislation when he signed it.

The key issue that would be dealt with by compromise language, Senator Danforth said, was the "all-important" definition of "business necessity," the term often used by employers to defend employment practices that may result unintentionally in the exclusion of women or minorities from certain jobs.

The disabilities act "bars 'qualification standards, employment tests or other selection criteria' that screen out disabled individuals, unless the practices are job-related," Senator Danforth explained. "This is the standard of protection for disabled Americans. Our legislation would extend it to women, minorities and others."

The compromise should resolve "the one remaining decisive issue with the administration," the senator said.

"It is absolutely incomprehensible to me how anybody could argue that the same civil rights protections that are available to the disabled should not be available to blacks and Hispanics and women," Senator Danforth said.

Nevertheless, the Associated Press reported last evening that a White House spokeswoman, Judy Smith, said that Mr. Bush continues to oppose the civil rights legislation and believes it would still encourage employers to use racial quotas in hiring. She said that adoption of eight words from the disability rights act "does not state a rule that the courts can follow in deciding these kinds of cases," according to the AP.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., a leader of those in Congress who are determined to bring about another civil rights showdown with Mr. Bush, praised the Danforth proposal earlier in the week as "a fair basis for compromise," and said he would support it.

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