Negotiations to produce a compromise version of the oft-diluted Humphrey-Hawkins "full-employment" bill continued fitfully and unproductively in the Senate yesterday, with final voting to begin this morning.
During an endless round of meetings and conferences yesterday, the staunchest supporters of Humphrey-Hawkins agreed among themselves that some features of the latest compromise proposals had gone too far in an attempt to please conservative republicans.
Many backers of the bill were clearly uncomfortable at the very thought of negotiations with these conservative republicans.
Many backers of the bill were clearly uncomfortable at the very thought of negotiations with these conservatives who have long ridiculed the idea of the Humphrey-Hawkins legislation. In effect, they indicate, their long-sought bill has become a hostage to political forces they find anathema, and they don't like it.
Both saides admitted privately that the fight was largely symbolic, since the bill has been substantially gutted of its significant provisions already. But some friends of the measure comtinued to insist that it could bring a constructive change to the way governmen manages economic policy by requring periodic planning for the reduction of unemployment.
One of these was Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.), the author of various compromise proposals to satisfy Republican demands that any bill include targets for the reduction of inflation and federal spending as a percentage of the gross national product, as well as for lower unemployment.
Nelson's staff produced draft language yesterday that did incorporate targets on inflation and spending, but qualified them by saying that nothing done to reach those goals should "impede achievement of the goals and timetables for the reduction of unemployment" appearing elsewhere in the bill.
Nelson's draft was intended to give the impression of primacy for the unemployment targets. Proponents of Humphrey-Hawkins have felt that any inclusion of inflation and spending targets would vitiate the unemployment provisions by providing any excuse for ignoring them.
Last night it appeared that the proponents would not accept language suggesting that overall federal spending should be reduced in speps to 21 percent then 20 percent of the GNP (it is now about 23 percent).
"That runs against everything we believe in," one union lobbyist said. "We want more people programs, more spending, not less."
Rep. Parren I. Mitchell (D-Md), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said after a meeting of that group yesterday: "What programs would be cut (to meet a spending goal)? Defense? No, they would be the job program."
The caucus decided that it wanted further changes before it could accept any compromise, a key element is yesterday's politicking.
The key senator on the Republican side appeared to be Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), regarded as an arch-enemy by organized labor and other supporters of Humphrey-Hawkins. Hatch continued to encourage the idea that a compromise was possible, but proponents wondered aloud whether he was just stringing them along.
Hatch has filed hundreds of amendments to Humphrey-Hawkins that he could bring up if the bill's friends can muster 60 votes this morning to invoke cloture cutting of extended debate. Hatch apparently plans to use those amendments as needed to prolong consideration of the bill for many days, unless it is charged to please him.
The Senate's rules are imprecise on the question of a "post-cloture filibuster." The late Sen. James B. Allen (D-Ala.), the Senate's master parliamentarian, was convinced that such a filibuster could be conducted, and Hatch at least threatens to try it on this bill.
Since the Senate is anxious to adjourn tomorrow night, even the threat could be enough to do in Humphrey-Hawkins sometime today. Partly because it did so little business yesterday, the Senate must get through a large pile of conference reports and other measures before adjournment.
The Humphrey-Hawkins bill that is the subject of all this attention would not authorize a single penny to deal with unemployment, nor guarantee any new programs to provide jobs.
Instead, it would require the president to set out short-and-medium-term goals for reducing joblessness, and also require the Federal Reserve Board to declare annually how it would handle monetary issues in the coming year to help reduce unemployment.