CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - SENATE
MARCH 10, 1960
DEBATE ON CLOTURE ON CIVIL RIGHTS BILL.
Mr. MUSKIE. Mr. President, I have been a member of minority groups for most of my life. As a matter of fact, I suspect I am a member of the minority group on the question of cloture. So out of that experience I think I may say that I am a believer in full and free debate. But full and free debate may mean one thing to a taciturn New Englander, and another to our southern friends. But by their standard, I am sure we can agree as reasonable men that a time comes when we must stop talking and begin legislating. I confess that the answer to this question is not an exact one.
It is not possible to add up numerical quantities and to reach an answer upon which everyone can agree. It is a question of judgment. In deciding the question of judgment, it seems to me that we have a tactical problem which appears differently to all of us, depending upon our views on the main question. We also have a substantive problem.
From the point of view of the pro-civil-rights advocates, the tactical question is, At what point can we get cloture in such a way as to exert the maximum pressure for meaningful legislation?
The tactical question from the point of view of the anti-civil-rights Senators is, How long can we delay the bringing of pressure for legislation so as to minimize the effectiveness of such legislation?
Then, of course, there is the third group among us, who would like to define or develop as broad an area of agreement as possible.
On the tactical point, I take the position which prompted me to sign the cloture motion. It seems to me that if we are to get meaningful legislation, and also legislation which will take a broader ground concerning the rights of minorities, now is the time for us to begin hammering out the details.
The substantive question involved in the cloture motion relates to the kind of legislation which we hope to enact. The substantive question is this: Shall we wait before invoking cloture until 67 Senators agree upon the nature of the bill we should have? Or shall we begin to legislate, in effect, as a committee of the whole on the various proposals before the Senate, knocking them up or knocking them down, and coming up with a bill on the floor of the Senate which reflects the consensus of judgment on the floor?