- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2001

The senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said yesterday he will not support a filibuster against Attorney General-nominee John Ashcroft, increasing the likelihood of his confirmation as early as Thursday.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont said Mr. Ashcroft's nomination should be voted up or down without Democrats subjecting him to prolonged floor debate. But Mr. Leahy said he will vote against Mr. Ashcroft.

"John Ashcroft's unyielding and intemperate positions on many issues raise grave doubts both about how he will interpret the oath he would take as attorney general to enforce the laws … and about how he will exercise the enormous power of that office," Mr. Leahy told the Senate.

The Judiciary Committee will vote on Mr. Ashcroft's nomination this afternoon. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said a vote by the full Senate could come as early as Thursday.

As liberal interest groups made their final push to derail the nomination, freshman Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, announced yesterday that she, too, will vote against Mr. Ashcroft. It will be the former first lady's first high-profile vote.

Speaking at a news conference in New York, Mrs. Clinton said that Mr. Ashcroft's "record and his views placed him on the distant shores of American jurisprudence."

The liberal People for the American Way is spending $260,000 on full-page advertisements today in 11 newspapers, including USA Today and the New York Times, targeting senators in Connecticut, North and South Dakota, Maine, Louisiana and Wisconsin.

Some senators in those states have already said they intend to vote for Mr. Ashcroft, including Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, and Democratic Sens. Byron L. Dorgan and Kent Conrad of North Dakota.

"The bitter left is still trying to squeeze the Democrats as much as they can," Mr. Lott said. He has predicted all 50 Senate Republicans and at least 10 Democrats will vote for Mr. Ashcroft. A nominee needs 51 votes or more to be confirmed.

It is rare for senators to oppose a former senator Mr. Ashcroft represented Missouri in the Senate until losing his re-election bid in November. One of the few former senators to be defeated in the confirmation process for an administration post was former Sen. John Tower, who was nominated for defense secretary by Mr. Bush's father.

Conservatives have been fighting back. Yesterday the Arlington, Va.-based Republican Majority Issues Committee announced it was paying for television ads in Montana calling on Democratic Sen. Max Baucus to vote for Mr. Ashcroft.

"Will Senator Baucus give in to the extremists?" the ad states. "Tell him to reject partisan politics and vote for Ashcroft and the Bush Cabinet."

In a floor speech yesterday, Mr. Leahy accused Mr. Bush of being two-faced for submitting a contentious nominee and pledging to heal the nation.

"We have seen two distinct sides of the new president since he was declared the victor after the November election," said Mr. Leahy. "One side is the optimistic face of bipartisanship… . On the other side of the ledger, though, is the president's decision to send to the Senate the nomination of John Ashcroft."

He called into question the legitimacy of Mr. Bush's presidency by referring to him at least twice as the "declared victor" by the Supreme Court.

"This is an especially sensitive time in our nation's history," Mr. Leahy said. "For the first time, a candidate who received a half a million more votes lost, [and] the person who received half a million fewer popular votes was declared the victor of the presidential election by one electoral vote."

Mr. Leahy said the president promised in his inaugural address to "work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity."

"The nomination of John Ashcroft does not meet the standard that the president himself has set," Mr. Leahy said. "It was a crucial miscalculation for the president and his advisers to believe this nomination would have brought all of us together."

Mindy Tucker, a spokesman for Mr. Ashcroft, said she was "not surprised" by Mr. Leahy's arguments.

"This has really turned into a partisan battle for the Democrats," Miss Tucker said.

A Bush official said congressional Democrats "are finding it impossible to disagree with the president" on education and tax cuts. "So they're looking for other ways to disagree with the president just to remind people they're Democrats," the official said.

Mr. Leahy said liberal interest groups who have mounted an intense campaign against Mr. Ashcroft have had no effect on senators' decision-making.

"The only political pressure groups that have had a decisive role so far in this nomination are the far right-wing elements of the Republican Party who insisted on this particular nominee and even bragged to the press that they had vetoed other more moderate candidates," he said.

Conservative groups again came to Mr. Ashcroft's defense yesterday.

"John Ashcroft is an honorable man of integrity and everyone knows it," said Beverly LaHaye, founder and chairwoman of Concerned Women for America. "Those who are trying to destroy his reputation are revealing their own lack of character. I urge senators to look at the man they know and vote to confirm Senator Ashcroft as attorney general."

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