In September 1981, after a bitter debate, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to authorize up to $25,000 for a bust or statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The bill was a step toward correcting the fact that there had never been a statue in honor of a black American gracing the Capitol's imnposing marble corridors.

A handful of conservative congressmen opposed the move on the grounds that the Nobel Prize Peace Prize winner had associated with subversive groups and promoted racial violence while preaching nonviolent civil rights confrontation. Rep. Larry McDonald (D-Ga.) argued at the time that King "believed violence was necessary to achieve his ends."

The House bill was sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D-N.Y.), and had nearly 200 cosponsors. Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr., (R-Md.) has sponsored an identical Senate version, but it has gotten a lukewarm reception--only four cosponsors.

At present the bill is mired in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. The reason the bill is not scheduled for action is that it's not a priority item right now, according to committee staffer Jack Sapp. "Keep in mind," he said, "that the priority of this committee right now is the budget."