(SB) Utah Senators Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch voted to sustain President Reagan's veto.
WASHINGTON (AP) The Senate voted 73-24 Tuesday to override President Reagan's veto of a civil rights bill designed to reverse a Supreme Court decision that narrowed the scope of laws to prevent federally funded discrimination against women, minorities, the elderly and the handicapped.The Civil Rights Restoration Act went directly to the House, where leaders also said they had the votes to override the veto in that chamber.
The Senate vote was more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. The bill initially passed 75-14.
The House and Senate votes capped a four-year struggle to overturn the 1984 Supreme Court decision.
The Senate vote came after several senators, including acting Republican Leader Alan Simpson of Wyoming, condemned what they called a misinformation campaign launched by conservative opponents of the bill.
Some opponents have claimed the bill would require churches to hire active homosexual drug addicts with AIDS to counsel children. Proponents of the bill say it offers no protection for homosexuals or drug or alcohol addicts.
Even as the Senate prepared to vote, President Reagan urged Congress to sustain his veto.
"I ask every senator and representative to rise above the pressures of an election year, to make a stand for religious liberty by sustaining my veto of this dangerous bill," Reagan said in a speech to local Republican officials from around the country.
"The truth is, this legislation isn't a civil rights bill," the president said. "It's a power grab by Washington, designed to take control away from states, localities, communities, parents and the private sector and give it to federal bureaucrats and judges.
"One dollar in federal aid direct or indirect would bring entire organizations under federal control, from charitable social organizations to churches and synagogues."
The court ruled that an organization or governmental body getting federal support must comply with anti-discrimination rules only for the program receiving the federal aid, not for the entire organization. The bill would cut off aid for the whole organization if discrimination against minorities, women, the elderly or the disabled was practiced by any part of the organization.
"Obviously there's a very organized and promoted campaign" against the bill, said Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd said. "Apparently the White House let the word out, as we began getting hundreds of calls (that) all said the same thing."
"I think a lot of misinformation has been spread," Byrd added. "There's a great deal of misinformation, distortion of truth and fact."
The Civil Rights Restoration Act passed both chambers earlier this year by lopsided margins far greater than the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Supporters and opponents said there was little chance the veto would be sustained.
Congress had tried since the Supreme Court decision to pass a corrective measure but became enmeshed in various controversies involving regulation and abortion. The final bill had broad bipartisan support, and many Republicans asked the president not to veto it.
An 11th-hour push by the conservative Moral Majority group resulted in thousands of phone calls, letters and telegrams urging lawmakers to uphold the veto.
The liberal People for the American Way responded Monday with newspaper ads warning that "the Far Right could defeat civil rights" unless people call their representatives and "tell them your tax money must not pay for discrimination."
The restoration act says entire institutions and government agencies must not discriminate if any program or activity within them receives federal aid. Entire corporations are covered if they provide a public service such as health care.