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Looking for support, Ashcroft pays courtesy calls on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (CNN) - John Ashcroft, President-elect George W. Bush's pick for attorney general, visited several of his former Senate colleagues Wednesday, hoping to shore up support for his nomination.

Ashcroft -- a Missouri Republican who lost his bid for a second Senate term in November -- met first with Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, who has said he will support the nomination and, according to a spokesman, "stands by that."

The attorney general designee also met with Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Illinois, who held a press conference following the meeting to go on the offensive touting Aschroft's record promoting diversity.

"John Ashcroft had an outstanding record -- not just a good record -- but an outstanding record of appointing a diverse bench in the state of Missouri," said Fitzgerald.

"He appointed many African Americans to the appellate court in Missouri and he had a distinguished record in that regard and so I think the totality of his record will bode well for him, and I do think that ultimately after senators have examined both sides of the record that they will be supportive."

A spokesman for Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, of Mississippi, said he believes Ashcroft will be approved with unanimous support from Republicans. Lott, said the spokesman, hopes Democrats will also support Ashcroft.

If Democrats work against Ashcroft, it would "sour a major opportunity to work together," said the aide. "Despite interest groups' efforts, senators are the only ones who vote and should support Ashcroft."

Ashcroft has been under fire from civil rights groups for his conservative views and for leading the fight against black Judge Ronnie White's nomination to the federal bench.

White is expected to testify at Ashcroft's nomination hearing next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Fitzgerald rejected the suggestion -- raised by some civil rights advocates -- that Ashcroft opposed White because of his race.

"I think when you view Senator Ashcroft's record in totality you see that of the 28 of the African Americans upon whose confirmation he was called upon to vote during his tenure in the Senate, he voted for 26 of them," he said.

Ashcroft is expected to visit Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, Wednesday afternoon, according to a Bush transition official.


Wednesday, January 10, 2001


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