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Nation: Dirksen’s Bombers

4 minute read

Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen heads a pathetically small congressional minority, but that doesn’t stop Dirksen from rising to his favorite role —that of leaving his personal imprint on Democratic-sponsored legislation. Last week Ev was at it again.

A principal collaborator in drawing up President Johnson’s civil rights bill last year, Dirksen now has his sharp-eyed legal staff (known as “Dirksen’s Bombers” for their accuracy in pinpointing loopholes in proposed legislation) scrutinizing the Administration’s new voting-rights bill line by line. Reason for the close look: a growing feeling that the proposed law, for all its tough language, contains holes that could permit continued disenfranchisement of Negroes in the South.

Under discussion is an amendment to bring under the measure Southern states currently unaffected by it. Since the bill, as proposed, applies only to areas where less than half the adult populace was registered or voted last November, and where voter-qualification tests were required, it now affects only seven Southern states—Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, South Carolina, and 34 counties in North Carolina. Outside the net are such states as Lyndon Johnson’s Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas, which impose no tests—but which harbor one-fourth of the South’s unregistered Negroes. Civil rights leaders charge that “pockets of discrimination” in those states use subtler methods, such as job reprisals, to keep Negroes away from the ballot box.

The patchwork did not stop the main body of the historic bill from moving ahead. The House Judiciary Committee completed hearings on it last week; the Senate Judiciary Committee is under instructions to report the bill out by this week; both chambers hope to have the proposed law ready for floor action before Easter.

Last week Congress also:

>Approved in the House, by a vote of 392 to 0, a three-year extension of the Manpower Training and Development Act, under which 320,000 of the nation’s unemployed have been taught skills, lengthening the training period from one year to two and boosting family allowances.

> Passed in the House, 383 to 0, a ten-year, $160 million water-resources planning bill that would grant $5,000,000 a year to the states to encourage water programs of their own, establish half a dozen or more river-basin commissions, and create a Water Resources Council, including the Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, Army, and Health, Education and Welfare. The Senate had already passed a similar measure.

— Approved, in the House Appropriations Committee, the first money installment under the $1.1 billion Appalachia program—$344,328,000, more than half of which is for highways and access roads in the eleven-state region.

>Paved the way, in the Senate Education Subcommittee, for speedy finalpassage of the House-approved, $1.3 billion education bill, by unanimously approving it 10 to 0 after beating down 15 Republican amendments.

> Passed in the House, 394 to 1, and sent to the Senate a bill to create an Administration on Aging under the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, with an initial two-year budget of $17.5 million for planning on how to ensure adequate income, proper health care, suitable housing, and worthwhile activities for persons over 65.

> Cleared, 6 to 4 in the House Rules Committee, a Senate-passed proposed constitutional amendment to permit the Vice President to take over temporarily as Acting President during a period of presidential “inability,” with the consent of the Cabinet and a two-thirds majority of Congress.

> Approved, in the House Appropriations Committee, an additional $4,000,000 in the next Secret Service budget, for protecting the President. The service said that it needs the funds to hire 259 additional agents, disclosed that it now has in its files 130,000 names of “persons who may be a danger to the President.”

> Rebuffed, by a 9-to-4 vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, an attempt by Committee Chairman J. W. Fulbright of Arkansas to split the $3.38 billion foreign-aid package into separate economic and military bills—a tactic by which he hoped to pare away more easily at the military portion. But the committee also rejected a request by President Johnson for authority to engage in blank-check military-assistance spending in Viet Nam. The committee softened the blow by increasing the President’s contingency fund, designed to meet unforeseen cold-war crises anywhere, to $100 million, twice the amount requested.

> Heard, in the Senate Commerce Committee, from the director of a New YorkState cancer-research hospital, Dr. George E. Moore, that his institute is experimenting with “nontobacco cigarettes made of lettuce, cabbage, catalpa [a tree leaf], papaya and paper.”

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