Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., warned President Bush he risks becoming the "anti-civil rights president" by vetoing a newly passed bill restoring victims' rights in job discrimination cases.
The House, ignoring an almost certain Bush veto, approved the compromise measure by a 273-154 vote Wednesday and sent the bill to the White House for Bush's signature. The Senate passed it 62-34 on Tuesday.The Civil Rights Act of 1990, as the measure is known, would overturn or modify up to 10 Supreme Court decisions in the past five years that narrowed victims' rights in job bias cases.
The measure also expands the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act by allowing victims of intentional discrimination to recover compensatory damages and, in the most severe cases, punitive damages.
Despite extensive negotiations with the White House and changes in the original versions of the bill, Bush continues to oppose it on grounds that it would cause employers to set hiring quotas in order to avoid costly lawsuits.
Even before the House vote, White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said the measure "in its current form will be vetoed."
But Kennedy, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Bush to "reject the misguided advice of his misguided advisers and heed the legitimate call for simple justice for the millions of minorities and women who bear the burden of bigotry on the job."
Kennedy, saying the bill would only restore rights enjoyed before the high court rulings, denied that the measure would lead to job quotas.
"The old law never led any employer to adopt quotas, and the new law won't either," Kennedy's statement said.
"Mr. President, listen to the other side of the argument before you take an action that may well make you the anti-civil rights president for the rest of your term," he said.
He challenged Bush to have a "neutral panel of Republican lawyers whom you respect" examine the measure and decide whether "this is a civil rights bill or a quota bill."