In December 1963, Judiciary Committee Chairman Emanuel Celler, frustrated by the dilatory tactics of the Rules Committee, used this discharge petition to attempt to force H.R. 7152, known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to the House Floor for consideration. Discharge petitions are an infrequently used procedural maneuver to bring a bill out of committee for consideration by the full House if it has been stalled for more than 30 days. Celler failed to gather a majority of signatures for the discharge petition, and his strategy failed.
The Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 7152 in October 1963. The bill moved to the Rules Committee, which governed the way the bill was considered on the House Floor. Using his position as Rules Committee chairman, Howard W. Smith refused to consider the legislation, leaving it to an uncertain fate. Despite the failure of Celler’s discharge petition to release the bill from the Rules Committee’s grasp, Representative Smith ultimately scheduled hearings on the bill, sensing the rising tide of support for it. The House passed H.R. 7152 on February 10, 1964. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964.