WASHINGTON — Under pressure from the Bush Administration, a group of corporate executives said Friday that it was dropping efforts to reach a compromise with civil rights leaders on an anti-discrimination bill.
The Business Roundtable, a group of big-business leaders, disclosed it was halting the talks one week after White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu and other Administration officials were reported to be pressuring the business community not to compromise with civil rights groups.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) accused the Bush Administration of thwarting a compromise.
"The Administration's strong-arm tactics to undermine the efforts by business leaders to reach a fair compromise on civil rights are unacceptable," Kennedy said. "Such tactics add further proof that the White House would rather have a divisive campaign issue next year than a fair civil rights bill this year."
AT&T Chief Executive Officer Robert Allen had been leading the big business efforts toward a compromise, which began with informal negotiations last December and appeared to be nearing agreement in principle on a bill as recently as this week.