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House of Representatives Passes Civil Rights Bill

Feb. 10, 1964 - The House of Representatives passed tonight the most far-reaching civil rights bill ever considered by the Congress. (Pictured below, Rep. Emanuel Celler [D-NY], who was floor manager of the bill, calls President Johnson with the news.) On a roll-call vote, ordered at 7:55 p.m., the bill passed by a margin of 290 to 130. The measure will be sent to the Senate next Monday. There it will receive a first reading at once but will not be debated before the end of the month.

The sweeping legislation would strengthen voting guarantees for Negroes in the South, ban discrimination in privately owned public accommodations as well as in publicly owned facilities, and prohibit discrimination by employers and by unions. It would empower the Attorney General to sue for desegregation of schools and would seek to bar discrimination in Federally assisted programs.

In the Senate, the measure faces strong opposition. The Senate’s Southerners, armed with the filibuster, will mount a far more formidable attack on the bill than could the Southern bloc in the House and its handful of Republican allies. In the House, debate is limited by agreement, ruling out a filibuster — extended talk for the purpose of killing a bill or forcing modification of it. The Senate has no limitation on discussion except by closure — a motion to close debate, requiring approval by two-thirds of the members present and voting.

From the moment the House debate started nine days ago, the issue in that chamber was never in doubt. The coalition of Northern Democrats and Republicans that supported it outnumbered the opponents of the bill by about 2½ to 1. Voting for the bill were 152 Democrats and 138 Republicans. Voting against it were 96 Democrats and 34 Republicans.

President Johnson hailed House passage of the measure tonight. He said it marked a “historic step forward for the cause of human dignity in America.” “Now the task is for the Senate,” he said in a statement. “I hope the same spirit of nonpartisanship will prevail there to assure passage of this bill, guaranteeing the fundamental rights of all Americans.”

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