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Credit Where Credit Is Due: The Republicans Passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act
GOPUSA ^ | August 8, 2003 | Michael Zak

Posted on 06/30/2004 12:15:42 PM PDT by ZGuy

During the Kennedy administration, the Republican minority in Congress introduced many bills to protect the constitutional rights of blacks, including a comprehensive new civil rights bill. In February 1963, to head off a return by most blacks to the party of Lincoln, Kennedy abruptly decided to submit to Congress a new civil rights bill. Hastily drafted in a single all-nighter, the Kennedy bill fell well short of what our Party had introduced into Congress the month before. Over the next several months, Democrat racists in Congress geared up for a protracted filibuster against the civil rights bill. The bill was before a committee in the House of Representatives when John Kennedy was murdered in November 1963.

Invoking his slain predecessor, Lyndon Johnson made passage of the bill his top priority, and in his first speech to Congress he urged Representatives and Senators to do "more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined". Though he shared Johnson's convictions on safeguarding the constitutional rights of blacks, if Nixon had been in the White House then instead, Democrats in favor of segregation and those unwilling to see a Republican achieve the victory would have blocked his legislative initiative in Congress.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act was an update of Republican Senator Charles Sumner's 1875 Civil Rights Act. In striking down that law in 1883, the Supreme Court had ruled that the 14th amendment was not sufficient constitutional authorization, so the 1964 version had to be written in such a way as to rely instead on the interstate commerce clause for its constitutional underpinning.

Mindful of how Democrat opposition had forced the Republicans to weaken their 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts, President Johnson warned Democrats in Congress that this time it was all or nothing. To ensure support from Republicans, he had to promise them that he would not accept any weakening of the bill and also that he would publicly credit our Party for its role in securing congressional approval. Johnson played no direct role in the legislative fight, so that it would not be perceived as a partisan struggle. There was no doubt that the House of Representatives would pass the bill.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Everett Dirksen had little trouble rounding up the votes of most Republicans, and former presidential candidate Richard Nixon also lobbied hard for the bill. Senate Majority Leader Michael Mansfield and Senator Hubert Humphrey led the Democrat drive for passage, while the chief opponents were Democrat Senators Sam Ervin, of later Watergate fame, Albert Gore Sr., and Robert Byrd. Senator Byrd, a former Klansman whom Democrats still call "the conscience of the Senate", filibustered against the civil rights bill for fourteen straight hours before the final vote. The House of Representatives passed the bill by 289 to 126, a vote in which 79% of Republicans and 63% of Democrats voted yes. The Senate vote was 73 to 27, with 21 Democrats and only 6 Republicans voting no. President Johnson signed the new Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964.

Overall, there was little overt resistance to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The struggle was not yet over, however, as most southern state governments remained under the control of segregationist Democrats. It was a Republican federal judge who desegregated many public facilities in the South. Appointed by President Eisenhower in 1955, Frank Johnson had overturned Montgomery, Alabama's infamous "blacks in the back of the bus" law in his very first decision. During the 1960s, Judge Johnson continued to advance civil rights despite opposition from George Wallace, Lester Maddox, and other Democrat Governors.


This essay is adapted from Back to Basics for the Republican Party (3rd ed.), Michael Zak's history of the Grand Old Party from the Republican point of view. See Back to Basics for the Republican Party for more information about the book.

TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: anniversary; civilrightsact; michaelzak
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To: Uncle Kermie

I realize this was an old post of yours but I happened to be doing some research on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and came upon the figures you sought. Since I couldn't find anywhere on the post where your question was answered, I thought I'd provide them.

Vote statistics
Vote totals:
· The Original House Version: 290-130
· The Senate Version: 73-27
· The Senate Version, as voted on by the House: 289-126
By Party: The Original House Version:
· Democratic Party: 153-96 (39% against)
· Republican Party: 138-34 (21% against)
The Senate Version:
· Democratic Party: 46-22 (32% against)
· Republican Party: 27-6 (18% against)

The Senate Version, voted on by the House:
· Democratic Party: 153-91 (37% against)
· Republican Party: 136-35 (20% against)
By Party and Region:
The Original House Version:
· Southern Democrats: 7-87
· Southern Republicans: 0-10
· Northern Democrats: 145-9
· Northern Republicans: 138-24
The Senate Version:
· Southern Democrats: 1-21
· Southern Republicans: 0-1
· Northern Democrats: 46-1
· Northern Republicans: 27-5

21 posted on 12/13/2005 9:16:12 AM PST by bcsco
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