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The Bush Presidency: Senate Democrats Delay Ashcroft Hearings

Aired January 26, 2001 - 1:08 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Whether and when John Ashcroft will be sworn in as the U.S. attorney general is anybody's guess. The former Missouri senator still has to get past the Senate Judiciary Committee, and assuming he does that, the full Senate will have the final word. The committee vote was postponed while Democrats sought answers to more than 300 written questions, many of them dealing with Ashcroft's views on civil rights, abortion rights and gun laws.

CNN national correspondent Bob Franken is following all of this from Capitol Hill.

Bob, what's the latest?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is is that the Democrats and the people who are opposed to John Ashcroft are questioning some of his testimony, saying that it may not have been entirely truthful. As a matter of fact, we're told that top-ranking Democrats are putting together a document which is going to outline their charges of inconsistencies of effect that were part of that testimony.

Now, we already heard about the questions that were raised about his testimony that he has never discriminated against gays and does not plan to. We heard of the man who came forward who says -- that's Paul Offner -- who says that, in fact, in 1985, he was asked some questions about his sexual preference which he believes would contradict Ashcroft's claim. Ashcroft says he does not recall the meeting, much less saying anything like that.

We also are told that Senator Edward Kennedy has not made a decision yet on whether he's going to try and conduct a filibuster once this gets to the Senate floor, and that operating on the assumption that Ashcroft will pass through the committee. Kennedy is still pondering that; we're told he'll have a decision on that early next week. The filibuster would raise the bar a little bit. It would mean that before Ashcroft could have a vote on his confirmation, he'd have to get a supermajority -- they call it: 60 votes in the Senate to break a filibuster.

So there's a lot swirling around. This is one that is not sailing through, the one fly in the ointment for the Bush administration: John Ashcroft and his nomination to be the attorney general. WATERS: Well, Bob, after Ashcroft's testimony before the Judiciary Committee, we heard several indications that this perhaps, although rough, would go through. It was all but assured that Ashcroft would be confirmed. From what you just said, it sounds like the earth's moved.

FRANKEN: Well, the earth hasn't moved yet, but there are people with shovels out there trying to -- to get it to move. They are -- I've sort of tortured that one, I suppose -- but what it is that they're trying to do is just to create some sort of uproar. They've taken what many people believe are their best shots and have not succeeded in doing that, but they're not ready to give up. The Democrats delayed committee consideration for a week in the hope that some sort of controversy could get started.

WATERS: OK, watch those shovels -- Bob, we'll be back at you -- Bob Franken, on Capitol Hill.

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