The Republican-controlled Senate today refused for the second time to end a filibuster blocking legislation that would slap tougher economic sanctions against South Africa than President Reagan has imposed.
The vote on a Democratic-led assault on the filibuster was 57 to 41, three shy of the 60 needed to bring the measure to final passage.
Republicans said they would seek to postpone a final vote on the measure for several months, until the impact of Reagan’s sanctions can be gauged in racially segregated, white-ruled South Africa. Democrats vowed to continue their fight for the bill, which Reagan says he will veto.
“This is no longer an issue of what’s good for South Africa. It’s a raw political issue,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas in an appeal for GOP senators to close ranks.
Final Vote Pledged
He pledged to seek a final vote on the measure “if there’s any slippage, if there’s any turning back” by Reagan, who abandoned his longtime opposition to sanctions on Monday.
But Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said the Senate “should have a chance to vote on this bill,” and Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) said, “The sooner we act, the less lives will be lost.”
It was the second time in three days that Democrats tried to force a final vote on the sanctions bill in what has become as much a nasty partisan political struggle as a debate over foreign policy. The first attempt failed on a 53-34 vote, seven shy of the total needed.
Congress appeared ready earlier in the week to approve the sanctions measure. But Reagan, working to head off a certain foreign policy defeat, announced he would impose many of the same measures on his own and would veto the legislation if it reached his desk.
Action Called Too Weak
Senate GOP leaders said they were satisfied with Reagan’s decision, and announced plans to delay a final vote on the measure until next spring. But Democrats complained that the President’s sanctions were too weak, and pressed ahead with plans to force a final vote on the bill.
Since then, the partisan rhetoric has escalated on both sides.
Dole said Monday that some senators were trying to “punish Ronald Reagan” rather than South Africa. A day later, he added, “They see it as a political issue and we see it as something the President has accomplished.”
Kennedy, a leading Democratic supporter of sanctions, said Republicans must “decide whether to be the party of Lincoln or the party of apartheid,” a reference to South African racial policies that discriminate against the 23-million-member black majority.
Reagan said Monday that the sanctions he was ordering were designed to pressure South Africa into abandoning apartheid.
His sanctions include restrictions on the sale of computer equipment and nuclear technology, and on bank loans to the South African government. In addition, he said he would seek permission under an international trade agreement to ban the importation of krugerrand gold coins into the United States.