An attempt to push an anti-busing provision through the Senate yesterday ran into a threat by Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) to fight it and other "anti-civil rights, anti-Constitution" proposals every step of the way. He then launched into a lengthy speech denouncing the provision, in a move that may delay a vote for some time.
Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) had offered as an amendment to the Justice Department's annual authorization bill language recently adopted by the House which would forbid the department to "bring or maintain any sort of action to require directly or indirectly" the busing of students beyond the closest neighborhood school for racial balance.
Helms said the purpose of the language is to stop the department from initiating or intervening in federal court suits seeking busing orders to integrate school systems. Helms said such busing is opposed by most Americans, has been a great expense to taxpayers and is a waste of gasoline.
Congerss has already forbidden use of the government's other school desegregation weapon, the threat to cut off the federal funds of offending school districts.The new language thus in effect would take the government out of the school desegregation business.
Both the House and the Senate approved the language last year, but President Carte vetoed it. The Senate is expected to wear down opposition eventually and approve the language again, and President Reagan is expected to sign it into law. Some opponents believe the courts would strike down the language as an unconstitutional bar against enforcement of constitutional rights.
The busing provision is the first of several emotional issues that the conservative-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to place before the Senate in this Congress. Others probably will involve efforts to dilute the Voting Rights Act, to restore school prayer to public schools and to stop affirmative action to help minorities obtain education and jobs.
Weicker served notice on the Senate that "nothing of this nature -- anti-civil rights, anti-Constitution -- is going to be achieved easily in this Senate. It is going to be fought every inch of the way." Weicker said "demagoguery is once again afoot" in the Senate chamber, and he sought to weaken the Helms language by offering an amendment to the amendment stating that nothing in the Helms proposal should be construed as limiting the power of the Justice Department to enforce the Constitution.
Weicker said he expected the debate on the issue would continue "over the next several days."