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Special Event

Sen. Leahy to Vote Against Ashcroft

Aired January 29, 2001 - 12:07 p.m. ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live now to the floor of U.S. Senate where Vermont's Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat in the Judiciary Committee, is announcing how he plans to vote on the John Ashcroft attorney general nomination.

Let's listen in.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: (JOINED IN PROGRESS) this weekend.

I know that the distinguished senator -- the distinguished chairman of the committee, Senator Hatch, is out of the country. But I'm perfectly willing, certainly on this side, to go for it with the committee vote on him as soon as he comes in, especially now that the papers have come up from the White House today.

I have -- I notified the White House this morning -- notified the president's office this morning that I would not take part in any -- speak about Ashcroft this morning. I will not take part in filibuster, nor do I expect that there will be any filibuster on this -- on this nomination.

But I assure the majority leader we will move as rapidly as we could. And now we have -- we now have the nominations now actually arrived.

And the schedule is now in the hands of my friend from Mississippi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thank the senator from Vermont for that information. And I think it is appropriate that we receive the nomination before we vote. A little small detail, but that has been taken care of. And I will be talking further to your leadership about how we schedule it this week. And look forward to getting it completed as soon as possible.

I yield you the floor, Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

Under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. Under the previous order, there will now be a period for the transaction of morning business for not to extent beyond the hour of 2:00 p.m.. Under the previous order, the time until 1:00 p.m. shall be under the control of the Democratic leader or his designee, senator from Nevada, Mr. Reed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would ask unanimous consent that the sometime for morning business...

PHILLIPS: Once again, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, a very influential, ranking Democrat, coming out saying he will vote against John Ashcroft to the U.S. attorney general.

We're now going to go to Kate Snow, who's now live on Capitol Hill. She's been following the story and may have a little bit more insight for us.

Hi, Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi.

Well, you heard a little dig there at the end from Senator Majority Leader Trent Lott. Let me tell you what that was about.

He said, look, maybe we should have the nomination before -- for a vote before we start talking about it. A little bit of consternation there from the Republicans.

Not a big surprise, that Senator Patrick Leahy came out against John Ashcroft. He's been voicing concerns. You might recall, on Friday, he had expressed serious concerns about some of the answers to some of those hundreds of questions that the Judiciary Committee had put to John Ashcroft. John Ashcroft had answered the questions in written form, over 100 pages of answers. And Patrick Leahy, at that time, had expressed a lot of concern about what he saw as omissions or things that weren't put well.

But the fact that he has now come out publicly, the senior most Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, come out on the floor and made this very public statement, is noteworthy. You might say he's trying to influence, perhaps, some of the other Democrats, trying to show Democrats where he stands and perhaps others will follow.

Leahy, in a written statement that went along with what you just heard him say on the floor, urged his fellow senators to look beyond Senator Ashcroft's service to the Senate. He said, look beyond the camaraderie that you feel with this man. He said, while I admire his personal devotion to family and his commitments to the principles that he firmly holds, he says, just because many of us who serve with Ashcroft like him, it doesn't mean we should not faithfully serve and carry out our constitutional responsibility in acting on this nomination. He said the Senate's constitutional duty is to "advice and consent, not advice and rubber-stamp." Those, Senator Patrick Leahy's words.

He also, in his written statement, went on, interestingly, to criticize George W. Bush. He said that the president is talking about bipartisanship and then brings before the Senate John Ashcroft. And he criticized that move. He said that shows that there is partisanship within this White House. He also went on to note some of the issues that Senator Leahy had the most trouble with, those being Judge Ronnie White and the way that Ashcroft acted on that nomination. The Hormel nomination. He said, my impression was that there was something unspoken about that. You might remember that was the gentleman who had been nominated to be ambassador to Luxembourg, who was gay.

Also he talked about Bob Jones University, and that bothering him that Ashcroft had appeared there. And he felt not taken enough of a stance on why he had appeared there, and explained why he had appeared there.

Leahy joining a handful of other Democrats in opposing Ashcroft, coming out very publicly. But we should note that Republicans still say -- I talked to Senator Orrin Hatch's office this morning. They still feel that they have 50 votes in favor of Ashcroft. They don't think they'll have any trouble. And indeed, Democrats acknowledge there will be no trouble getting Ashcroft's nomination through.

We believe that we will have a committee vote as soon as tomorrow, and possibly a Senate vote on John Ashcroft by Wednesday.

And again, you heard Senator Leahy say he has no plans to filibuster.

Back to you in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: All right, Kate Snow, live from Capitol Hill, with that sum-up and reaction. Thank you very much.

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