The Civil Rights Act of 1964

In the US, there are three bodies of government, the Judicial, Executive and Legislative branches. For a bill to become a law, we must look directly at the legislative branch to find our answer. First, anyone can draft a piece of legislation, but the bill must be proposed by a member of congress.

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Afterwards, the majority leader of the house will consult parliament and send the bill to a selected committee. At this stage a hearing must be held for the bill, or the bill dies. If the bill passes the hearing, it enters the markup stage where amendments to the bill can be made. After the bill is amended, it goes to the senate where the bill is once again debated. Now, the constitution requires that the house and the senate pass identical bills, therefore a conference committee may be needed to amend the bill once again so that both bodies of congress agree. At the final stages of a bill becoming a law, the bill is sent to the president’s desk to be approved and signed or vetoed. Although the bill can die here, the legislature can override the president’s veto in a two-thirds vote. If the bill making process were up to me, I would still allow the law to be presented by any member of congress. Both houses would debate the bill, but a bill only dies if the legislator who introduced the bill decides to no longer follow it. This way, legislators will keep up with bills they deem as more important and prevent them from dying on the floor. And, if they find that their bill is no longer necessary, they can simply choose to officially kill the bill. The only exception is at the president’s desk, if it is vetoed, only the override can save the bill.

One major act of congress before the 21st century was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin for voter registration. The law guaranteed the fourteenth amendment was upheld for those who are discriminated against in America, therefore minorities would get equal pay and more job opportunities as well. This way, all citizens of America have equal voting rights and chance in the workplace. The bill was created by president John F. Kennedy, calling for “greater protection for the right to vote.” The bill was introduced to the public by John F. Kennedy himself in his Report to the American People on Civil Rights. In his speech, he asked congress to give all Americans a chance at faculties that are open to the public as well as a “greater protection for the right to vote.” Although the bill was first introduced by John F. Kennedy, it had to be reintroduced by Lyndon B Johnson, since JFK was assassinated after the bill died in a filibuster. With this reintroduction, Lyndon B. Johnson used this to his advantage to get legislation to pass the bill in 1963.

When reintroduced, the House of Representatives debated the bill for nine days and rejected nearly one hundred amendments designed to weaken the bill before passing on February 10, 1964. Republicans favored the bill 138 to 34; Democrats supported it 152-96. Democrats from northern states voted overwhelmingly for the bill, 141 to 4, while Democrats from southern states voted overwhelmingly against the bill, 92 to 11. In the senate, three groups of senators formed: pro-civil rights Democrats, southern Democrats opposed to the bill, and Republicans. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey and Mike Mansfield were determined to pass the legislation and even arranged twelve-hour daily sessions to wear down those who opposed the bill.

Senator Richard Russell, a Democrat from Georgia, led the opposition. Although a minority, his group exerted much influence because Senate rules allowed for a filibuster. The “”southern bloc”” relied on the it to postpone the legislation if possible, hoping that support for civil rights legislation throughout the country would waiver. The Democratic leadership and Humphrey could not control the southern wing of the party. To continue, Russell’s forces disliked civil rights legislation for several reasons. Many feared that their southern constituents would vote them out of office if, as senators, they voted for equal rights for African Americans. Southern senators could not compromise. Only by forcing cloture could they demonstrate that they had fought to the end against hopeless odds.

Several factors combined to convince senators to vote for cloture besides the merits of the bill. Many simply wished to move on to other Senate business. Some were candidates for reelection in 1964 and wanted to speed up the work so they could return home to campaign. In the end, it was the continuous work of Dirkson to persuade the senators that eventually led to the passage of the bill.

With passage in the senate, the bill returned to the House once more for reconsideration. House leaders brought the resolution up on the floor where members quickly approved the Senate-passed civil rights bill, 289 to 126. Only six representatives changed their votes from February when the House first sent H. R. 7152 to the Senate. Because there were no differences in the two bills, there was no need for a conference committee and the bill went immediately to the White House for President Johnson s signature. President Johnson welcomed the bill he had sought for so long. Within a few hours of passage, he signed it into law in a nationwide television broadcast from the White House.

This time when the bill came to the courts, the Civil Rights legislation did pass. Previous attempts were denied since the courts deemed it was unconstitutional to apply these laws to the private sector. This was different for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as previous court rulings deemed that it was now constitutional to prevent this discrimination in the workplace based on the commerce clause. This means that Congress has the constitutional right to regulate commerce between the states and foreign countries, and can therefore can regulate pay discrimination for all American Citizens.

In the end, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 yielded many benefits for citizens of America, especially minorities. Although not all discrimination has been alleviated, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark on our road to a fair America. Therefore, I am glad that this legislation was passed. One of the founding beliefs of America is egalitarianism, or rather, the equality of America’s citizens. This means even the forefathers of the constitution would be pleased with this act, as am I.

During this paper, it has become apparent to me that yes, America has come a long way to represent our minorities, but we still have a long way to go. I have acknowledged through this research the power of the legislature, even individual members, in making a difference in American society. The only question I have about the process is, is it still balanced? Does the executive branch still have too much power if it can introduce and pass the same legislation? Yes, the law is helpful and necessary, but should the legislation automatically be passed by the single member from the body of government creating it? Is more balance still possible?

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