You certainly do have problems, and some of the
difficulties you point out, it seems to me particularly on the
percentage of counties, I quite agree, it seems to me that that is a
weakness of that title of the bill. To explain to the audience what
we're talking about, there is a provision in the bill that authorizes
the attorney general to seek action, to protect and ensure the voting
rights of Negro citizens in counties where less than 15 percent of the
minority group in question are not registered.
Now, obviously, this leaves out counties where there
are 16, 17, 18, 20, 30 percent, which are badly in need of this protection. It also opens or invites the kind of circumlocution here that a county with 10 percent registered Negroes will go out and register another five, and then lower the boom and stop it. You can find going
through this legislation piecemeal many difficulties with it. I think
the point is that some of these measures can be strengthened on the
floor of Congress, if we can develop public discussion on this bill.
Now, really, I think the sense of Mr. Lewis
' remarks today, his
censored remarks indicated, to me, as you read them anyway, really the
legislative approach is so watered down that it's not much use to us.
This was a rather extreme statement, and not spelled out in the calmer
mood, in which you pronounced it now. But directed really against almost
any kind of legislation at all.
Now, this is not a position that it seems to me the
consensus of the civil rights groups or the Negro community support. And
it seems to me that this is one of the reasons why his remarks were
Please let me make two comments. Just two comments, first, it’s generally agreed in Congress here that there's going to be no strengthening on the floor. The bill, the strongest bill, is going to be
the bill that comes out of sub-cellar, Sub-Committee No. 5, and go into
the full committee.
It's agreed, it generally felt, that the house bill
will then be – that is the sub-committee bill will then be probably
weakened to a degree in the full judiciary committee where there are
many Southerners. Then going to the floor, through the Rules
committee, probably further weaken on the floor. Of course, we don't
want this to happen, but that's the general consensus here.
Secondly, the analysis of Mr. Lewis
' comments of being extreme, along
these lines, and being antithetical to the remedy of legislation, just
isn't accurate, in my view. I don't think that's there at all.