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Boxer announces opposition to Ashcroft nomination

January 10, 2001
Web posted at: 9:24 p.m. EST (0224 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, announced Wednesday evening her opposition to the nomination of former Sen. John Ashcroft to be attorney general, becoming the first senator to do so

"You don't unite this country when you pick someone for your Cabinet who is so far out of the mainstream, that it really divides the country," Boxer told CNN in an interview taped in California.

Boxer speaks to CNN about her opposition to Bush's attorney general nominee

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Boxer speaks to CNN about her opposition to Bush's attorney general nominee

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In the CNN interview, Boxer noted Aschcroft's opposition to abortion rights and his leading role in defeating the nomination of Missouri Judge Ronnie White to the federal bench, a move that infuriated many civil rights activists. At the time, Ashcroft said he opposed White's nomination because of his handling of several death penalty cases.

Boxer also cited Ashcroft's suing the National Organization for Women, while he was Missouri attorney general, because they were fighting for an equal rights amendment in the state.

Boxer said she was "trying to reach out my hand to George Bush" by suggesting he withdraw Ashcroft's nomination.

"I would strongly recommend," Boxer said, "that George Bush reconsider this nomination in light of what he told the American people when he finally found out that he won this election and he said 'I want to be a uniter not a divider, I want to heal this nation, I want to bring us together, I'm going to govern from the center.'

"These words meant something to America and this nomination says something else," Boxer said.

Boxer said her decision "isn't personal" and suggested Ashcroft could still be given a less sensitive Cabinet post or ambassador's post.

"There are other people who could come -- good Republicans who could come forward who don't have this record that has been so hurtful to so many people," Boxer said.

Boxer has strong ties to liberal and feminist groups both nationally and in California, and has been an outspoken advocate of abortion rights. While not a member of the Judiciary Committee, a close aide said she is likely to "lead the charge" in opposing Ashcroft on the Senate floor if and when his name clears the Judiciary Committee.

Democrats on the committee have not yet announced which way they will vote, but there are some clues to their thinking. Sources close to the committee said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York., will take the lead on tough questioning of Ashcroft. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, has praised Ashcroft's "able mind," but said he has serious concerns over the conservative's positions on women's rights and civil rights. Another critic will likely be Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, who is expected to become a member of the committee when the new panels are announced later this week.

Other Democrats on the committee appear to be more committed to a wait-and-see approach, including Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, is said to have a "friendly working relationship" with Ashcroft from their days serving together on committee's Constitution subcommittee and is expected to support his nomination.

Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-New Jersey, who may be leaving the Judiciary Committee when the new assignments are announced, called the Ashcroft nomination "a very good choice" in a recent interview. As chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last year, Torricelli helped orchestrate Ashcroft's upset loss to the late Gov. Mel Carnahan for the Missouri Senate seat. Carnahan's widow, Jean, was sworn in to take the seat.

The committee chairman, Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, is said to be committed to an "evenhanded" approach to the confirmation hearings, which are set to begin Tuesday. Judge Ronnie White, whom Ashcroft opposed when he was nominated to the federal bench in 1999, will testify on Thursday.


Wednesday, January 10, 2001


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