WASHINGTON -- Concerned about an erosion of support for the civil rights bill, the Congressional Black Caucus planned a meeting today with black, female and disabled activists to mobilize a lobbying effort for the measure.
Supporters predict that the bill, which would strengthen job discrimination laws, will be approved by the House, as it was last year, but they concede that it may have lost as many as 20 votes, an indication that once again Congress would be unable to override a veto by President Bush.
The drop in support has been attributed largely to the Republican success at labeling it a "quotas bill" and deploying it as a campaign issue against Democrats. That tactic is widely credited with lifting Republican Sen. Jesse Helms to victory in his tough re-election fight last year in North Carolina.
Nonetheless, supporters hope the measure will pick up strength from a possible backlash against the White House for scuttling negotiations between business and civil rights leaders last month "They are going to go to make assignments to all the people that come and send those people to every legislator," said a member of Congress. "They want people to know that this is the No. 1 civil rights push for the year."
The bill, which has been approved by the House Judiciary, Labor and Education committees, would reverse the impact of six Supreme Court decisions and make it easier for minorities, women and disabled people to win job discrimination suits against employers. The White House has proposed a far less stringent bill.