Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Thursday that two weeks of negotiations failed to change the Civil Rights Act of 1990 enough to avoid a veto by President Bush.
Still, a conference working out differences in House and Senate versions of the bill sent an amended version back to the two houses for final approval, hoping enough changes were made to draw sufficient Republicans support to override a veto.The Democratic-backed bill is designed to overturn five Supreme Court rulings from last year. It would make suing employers for job bias easier and put more of the burden of proof on employers. Critics such as Hatch claimed the bill would just encourage racial hiring quotas.
Republicans managed to soften the bill with numerous amendments, but Hatch said that was not enough.
"It has been made clear to me that the administration cannot support S2104," he said. "They still believe that the numerous problems with the bill have not been resolved adequately.
"I can understand their concerns. Many of their fears I have voiced repeatedly during the consideration of this bill."
Hatch - the earliest and strongest opponent to the bill - was one of the main negotiators trying to work out differences among civil rights activists, Congress and the administration on the bill.
Some of the concessions won included an amendment saying nothing in the bill was meant to encourage employers to adopt hiring quotas. Another would shift some of the burden of proof off employers who are charged with hiring bias.
Such changes were enough to please Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who said many senators are calling the White House urging support for the bill.
Both sides wonder if enough Republicans support it to override a veto.