The White House has summoned Attorney General Edwin Meese III and Labor Secretary William E. Brock to a meeting Thursday in an effort to resolve the stalemate over the proposed executive order on affirmative action, administration sources said yesterday.
White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan arranged the meeting to determine if the Cabinet's leading antagonists in the affirmative-action debate can iron out their differences on minority hiring requirements for government contractors. It is the first time Regan will be actively involved in the dispute.
However, sources said that Justice and Labor Department officials have put forth no new compromise proposals and remain at an impasse after five months of negotiations.
A White House official said the meeting with Regan is not expected to produce a final agreement. But even if a compromise is reached, he said, it would be political folly to announce anything in the next week, when President Reagan is involved in celebrations of the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The issue surfaced last August, when Meese proposed a draft presidential order that would eliminate minority hiring goals and timetables for federal contractors. Meese contends that the Labor Department program, which operates under a 1965 executive order, amounts to illegal racial quotas.
Brock, who has blocked the Justice Department proposal, has defended the program's effectiveness and the use of goals and timetables in spurring minority hiring. Meese aides recently suggested a compromise that would allow businesses to set voluntary hiring goals, but Brock has maintained that no new executive order is needed, only changes in the program's enforcement rules.
Regan does not want the president to consider the issue until the Cabinet reaches agreement. Sources say Regan is worried about the political opposition to the Meese plan, which includes 69 senators, 180 House members, civil rights activists and part of the business community.
Brock has been supported by Cabinet moderates like Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole and Secretary of State George P. Shultz, while Meese has received strong backing from such conservatives as Civil Rights Commission Chairman Clarence M. Pendleton Jr. and Clarence Thomas, chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.