The Reagan administration and congressional civil rights advocates squared off yesterday for the second year over competing versions of legislation to overturn a 1983 Supreme Court decision that narrowed the scope of federal antidiscrimination laws.
The Supreme Court ruling, involving Grove City College in Pennsylvania, limited enforcement of the 1972 civil rights law banning sex discrimination by educational institutions.
The court said the federal government could cut off funds only to specific programs that failed to meet federal standards and not to an entire institution.
Both the administration and the members of Congress say they want to overturn the decision. The major difference between the two groups is that the administration bill would reinstate the institution-wide mandates for education only, while the measure supported by civil rights groups also would apply to other fields such as transportation, housing and health.
The legislation was blocked last year when opponents of the broader version filibustered it to death in the Senate. But civil rights advocates contended yesterday that prospects for passage of their measure have improved this year and that there will be enough votes to break a filibuster if one develops.
At a news conference to launch the drive for the broader bill, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) decried the administration effort as a "Trojan horse to cut back on the protections" of major civil rights legislation.
"We reject proposals that would restore the law only for certain beneficiaries of federal aid and leave millions of others subject to discrimination," Kennedy said.
Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) contended that the measure would have broad bipartisan support, including a "solid majority of Republicans."
Introducing the other bill on the administration's behalf, Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) characterized it as a "middle-ground approach that can build a consensus."