WASHINGTON — President Reagan on Wednesday vetoed major legislation aimed at expanding civil rights protections and sent Congress a substitute bill that he said would guarantee "equality of opportunity for all Americans" while protecting them from too much "government interference and control."
Civil rights advocates immediately attacked Reagan's veto as "shameful" and called his substitute bill "a sham." House and Senate leaders planned quick action starting today to try to override the veto, a move that would require a two-thirds' vote in Congress.
Although some congressional experts said the vote could be close, depending on how many Republican legislators who supported the bill switch their votes out of loyalty to Reagan, it was widely believed that the override effort will succeed.
Seen as Election Issue
The landmark legislation, called the Civil Rights Restoration Act, passed the Senate and House by wide margins, and many Republicans were expected to remain committed to the far-reaching bill with an eye toward minority votes in an election year.
The bill has been a top priority of civil rights groups since 1984, when the Supreme Court ruled that federal anti-discrimination protections at Grove City College, a small Pennsylvania institution, applied only to programs that received federal aid. Programs not r1701012841follow discriminatory procedures.
The legislation, drafted in response to the court's restrictive ruling, would apply federal civil rights protections to entire institutions even if only parts of those institutions received federal aid.
Reagan, in his veto message, said the legislation that reached his desk earlier this month "would vastly and unjustifiably expand the power of the federal government over the decisions and affairs of private organizations, such as churches and synagogues, farms, businesses and state and local governments."
Cites Religious Liberty
The bill "would seriously impinge upon religious liberty because of its unprecedented and pervasive coverage of churches and synagogues based on receipt of even a small amount of federal aid for just one activity," the President said.
But an undeterred Senate will consider an override vote today, congressional aides said. If it succeeds, the House probably will consider a vote of its own Friday. If Congress overrides the veto, Reagan's substitute bill would not even be taken up, they said.
The measure passed the House two weeks ago by a vote of 315 to 98. The Senate had approved identical legislation by 75 to 14 last month, with 27 Republicans joining 48 Democrats to support it. All 14 "no" votes in the Senate were cast by Republicans.
Ralph Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and its chairman, Benjamin J. Hooks, said in a joint statement that Reagan's veto was "shameful and unconscionable" for a bill that resulted from four years of bipartisan congressional effort.
Neas said Reagan's substitute bill would scale back the institution-wide coverage provided in the legislation approved by Congress and "would virtually gut Title IX" by allowing thousands of private colleges and secondary schools to escape federal restrictions on discrimination based on race, religion or sex.
Impact on Company Bans
In addition, Neas said, the Reagan substitute would eliminate companywide bans on discrimination among so-called "public service function corporations," envisioned in the legislation he vetoed. In the Civil Rights Restoration Act, a corporation that ran five nursing homes, for example, would be barred from discriminatory practices at all five homes if at least one home received federal financial assistance, he said.
The Reagan substitute would cover only the single nursing home that received financial aid or, by another example, only a single housing project that received financial aid among 10 projects owned by the same company, Neas said.
Reagan, objecting to "such sweeping coverage" in the legislation he vetoed, declared: "Persons with disabilities seeking to enhance their job skills are not helped if businesses withdraw from federal job-training programs because of their unwillingness to accept vastly expanded bureaucratic intrusions" under the legislation.