An article published July 30 mentioned a letter sent to the secretary of labor, opposing certain proposed regulations on affirmative action and signed by 19 members of the House Wednesday Group, an organization of moderate Republicans. A spokesman for the group wishes to clarify that the letter was not written on that organization's letterhead and that the 19 signatories were acting as individual members of Congress.
Top White House officials have decided to scrap controversial proposals to shrink the scope of federal affirmative action enforcement, at least until after the November elections, according to Reagan administration sources.
The decision reportedly was reached in a White House meeting on July 19, despite a pitch by Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan, whose department has been working on the regulatory changes for more than a year.
The proposals had drawn fire from virtually the entire spectrum of political interests, uniting some women's, business and minority groups in opposition. Since the changes pleased almost no one, White House advisers, led by top aides James A. Baker III and Michael K. Deaver, reached a consensus that it was politically senseless to let them go forward, according to one White House source.
Donovan declined to comment. Other Labor Department officials who have worked on the proposals reportedly were shocked by the White House decision.
A new set of rules eventually will be issued, according to a terse statement from Ellen M. Shong, head of the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which is responsible for enforcing affirmative action rules for federal contractors. But if this happens, the next approach is expected to be significantly different from the first attempt.
"My understanding is the proposals they published are gone forever and will never be published in final form," said Martin Gerry, counsel to the moderate Republican House Wednesday Group. "They sent up the trial balloon and somebody pierced it. I would hope they'd have the good judgment to fade off into the sunset on this."
In late May the Wednesday Group had sent a letter, signed by 19 Republican members of Congress, to Donovan, asking that the proposals be withdrawn.
What administration officials view as simplification of the regulations often turns out to be more burdensome because they don't fully understand the problem they are dealing with, Gerry said. "I think a theme of this administration is 'save us from our saviors.' "
The proposal was designed to relax the regulations federal contractors must follow to encourage affirmative action. The regulations had been among those targeted for priority review by the President's Task Force on Regulatory Relief.
The proposed changes would have reduced the number of contractors covered by certain paperwork requirements, eliminated most smaller ones and given employers greater leeway in the percentages of women and minorities they were required to employ.
Business groups objected to the proposals because they failed to deal with major concerns, such as back pay awards to victims of discrimination, and in some ways further complicated existing obligations.
Administration officials at the Justice Department, Office of Management and Budget and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also were divided on what shape the proposals should take.
Minority and some women's groups, hostile to a whole range of administration initiatives in the civil rights area, had called this set of proposals potentially "devastating" to equal employment opportunity efforts.