President Bush has proposed new legislation to replace the Civil Rights Act of 1990 and challenged Congress to pass it by Monday. White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Bush would veto on Monday the civil rights bill Congress approved last week because it would encourage employers to impose hiring by quotas to avoid lawsuits in discrimination cases. Fitzwater insisted the new legislation would do a better job to protect women and minorities, but civil rights leaders scoffed at that contention.
Ralph Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said the White House had spent the day arguing between "something awful and something more awful for civil rights." He said Bush should sign the legislation on his desk.
The presidential statement came after Bush and his aides engaged in a marathon battle over how much to compromise with supporters of the Civil Rights Act in order to avoid a veto just before the 1990 election.
Friday night and all day Saturday, Bush's aides drafted and redrafted new language in key provisions of the legislation.
By 6 p.m. Saturday, after a review by White House Chief of Staff John Sununu, the effort was abandoned and a new version of the legislation was sent to Congress.
Passed by both houses of Congress with large, but not veto-proof, majorities, the civil rights bill would nullify six Supreme Court decisions last year that had the effect of making it more difficult for women and minorities to win job discrimination suits.
Bush's senior aides spent weeks before the legislation was adopted trying to negotiate a compromise.
House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash., said he doubted if changes such as those he heard discussed by the White House would cause Congress to reopen the issue. "I doubt very much if any of the suggestions that the president has made, which seem to me to be just a recycling of previous complaints, are going to lead to any reconsideration of the legislation," he said Saturday.