An extraordinary bipartisan consensus has developed in support of extending a presidential order requiring companies that do business with the government to promote equal employment opportunity. A majority of the Reagan Cabinet, led by Secretary of Labor William E. Brock III, is for it. The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and the House are for it. A substantial majority of the Republican-controlled Senate is for it. The National Assn. of Manufacturers and other business leaders are for it.
But Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III and Asst. Atty. Gen. William Bradford Reynolds are not. As a result, the battle to protect affirmative-action programs will never end until President Reagan stops the intramural skirmishing within his own Administration and indicates that he, like four Presidents before him, will support the executive order as is.
Meese and Reynolds want to change the 20-year-old order, ostensibly to ensure that nothing in it allows the use of numerical quotas in hiring and promoting women and members of minorities. But the regulations that spell out how the executive order is to be applied already specifically preclude the use of quotas. Recent Labor Department studies show that the goals and timetables called for in the executive order have not led to quotas.