It was a grass-roots affair. Led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), the Congressional Black Caucus recently filled a Capitol Hill hearing room with prominent civil rights leaders and hundreds of advocates to oppose a House Judiciary Committee markup of the Civil Rights Bill of 1997. The legislation--the McConnell-Canady Bill (H.R. 1909)--aims to end all federal affirmative action programs.
Before November, the bill had gotten no further than a subcommittee. The markup proceeding, the final step before a full House vote, was considered a coup for Rep. Charles Canady (R-Florida) who reintroduced the bill last June. But when a robust audience of spectators arrived to oppose the bill, Pennsylvania Rep. George Gekas introduced a motion to table it. (Today there are close to 100 co-sponsors of the bill.)
It's no secret that GOP members are sharply divided over the bill; many consider it too harsh. "We must find effective substitutes for affirmative outreach and recruitment," says Gekas, who favors dismantling federal affirmative action programs. Others question the political wisdom of passing such a measure so close to the 1998 elections--the rationale behind the bill's demise in the 104th Congress.
But the struggle is far from over. "It's particularly sad that some members would vote to prevent a free and open debate on the issue from proceeding," said Canady following the tabling of the bill, adding that he looked forward to another opportunity to end preferences following the House return last month for its 1998 session.
So what's next? In addition to garnering greater public opposition against this bill and similar legislation at the state level, University of Maryland political science professor...