The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Powell amendment - a saga of years!

To read the polisci treatments, you'd have thought it was a case of Wham, bam, thank you Ad-am. (Couldn't resist. Must try harder.)

It wasn't. Enduring the extreme frustration of the New York Times archives - crumbs from the rich Lady's table [The boy can't help it. Ed.], I find that the Powell amendment (or something like it) was on the table (or on the cards, at least) since the start of 1955!

The evidence is of the sketchiest; but beggars can't be choosers: a piece dated February 1 1955 has hed and dek: BIAS ISSUE RAISED ON U.S. SCHOOL AID: Senate Hearings on Bills to Spur Building Wind Up in Segregation Wrangle.

The 'abstract' says:
Senate hearings on school construction bills closed today in a wrangle over an anti-segregation amendment.

Timewise, this falls between the in-principle decision in Brown (May 17 1954) and the implementation decision (May 31 1955).

To judge from the archives, both school aid (state as well as Federal) and the attachment of a desegregation condition to any Federal aid bill were recurrent features of political debates.

We get an interesting check with whip count information [1]. A count (of Dems only) was done in January 1956 which showed support for the school aid bill [2] sufficient to pass it (29 supporters from the Confederacy, for instance).

The question of the PA does not seem to have been asked, implying that it was not a foregone conclusion that he would move his amendment.

Also puzzling is why any bill made its way out of Howard Smith's Rules Committee (no light shed, that I could see, by the archives); or why Smith (or someone else) was not able, by parliamentary manoeuvres, to keep the amendment from being moved.

The more research, the more questions...

  1. From a paper (PDF) The House Whip Process by Laurence Evans.

  2. Which one? The Kelley bill HR 7535, to which the PA was ultimately attached, or an administration bill?

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