Resolution Condemning Bigotry Divides
By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer (March 23,
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A simply worded Republican resolution
denouncing bigotry of all kinds turned into a nasty exchange on
the House floor and ended in defeat Tuesday.
"This bill is a ruse that is totally characteristic
of Republicans who want civil rights on the cheap," thundered
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.
"When I have had racist attacks made about me,"
retorted Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, the only black Republican
in Congress and the author of the resolution, "no one ran to the
floor to condemn that."
The resolution was brought up under special rules
requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. It failed to reach that,
with 254 in favor, most of them Republicans, 152 opposed and 24
It stated that the House "reaffirms the determination
of all its members to oppose any individuals or organizations
which seek to divide Americans on the grounds of race, religion
or ethnic prejudice."
The Republican leadership, over Democratic objections,
crafted the measure as a substitute to a Democratic resolution
that would have condemned a particular group, the St. Louis-based
Council of Conservative Citizens, accused by critics of having
a racist agenda.
The CCC gained national attention after it was
revealed that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and
Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., had addressed the group.
Barr said he condemned the teachings of the CCC
and accused the Democrats of hypocrisy for not criticizing a fellow
Democrat for addressing the same group. He alleged that Minority
Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., spoke to the group.
However, a CCC spokesman denied that, as did
Watts said there were 537 hate groups recognized
by the Southern Poverty Law Center and his resolution encompasses
all of them.
"To be so particular would be to commit a crime
of omission by giving a pass to other groups that espouse prejudiced
racist views, in effect saying that their bigotry is not so offensive
as to be worthy of our condemnation," Watts said.
But Rep. Bob Wexler, D-Fla., who sponsored the
measure condemning the CCC, said the GOP proposal was "nothing
but a sham." It "confronts nothing," he said. "It is designed
only to derail our resolution and if successful hand the CCC an
CCC Chief Executive Officer Gordon Baum, in a
statement last week on the Wexler bill, denied that the group
supports white supremacy and anti-Semitism, and called the resolution
"the product of left-wing partisans who seek to silence all conservative