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Senator Feingold Discusses Ashcroft Nomination During Judiciary Committee DebateAired January 30, 2001 - 4:32 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are looking at live pictures of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is debating the nomination of Senator John Ashcroft for attorney general. We're seeing Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, who is speaking in the panel. There are nine Democrats and nine Republicans on this panel; let's listen to what Senator Feingold has to say:
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: It could be hardly be more different, and there's no question that the opposition has raised significant and serious concerns about the appropriateness of this nomination.
Let me begin by noting a few positive aspects of former Senator John Ashcroft's responses on two issues that I care deeply about: racial profiling and the federal death penalty. First, on racial profiling, as I've indicated before, more than any other member of the opposite side of the aisle, John Ashcroft assisted in making possible an excellent hearing on the racial profiling issue, and then, when I quizzed him about this in committee and in writing, John Ashcroft was unequivocal, saying that he believes racial profiling is unconstitutional and response to a specific question about what his priorities would be, for the civil rights division, he said -- went out of his way to indicate that stopping racial profiling would be one of his very highest priorities.
On the death penalty, I'm terribly disappointed with John's view on the death penalty in general. When I asked him specifically about the on going study in the Justice Department, about the wisdom of the way the current death apparently is administered, in particular with regard to racial and geographic disparities, instead of being evasive, he said he would guarantee the study would continue, would finish, and he would take its conclusions seriously.
Having noted at least those areas where I am hopeful about working together with John Ashcroft, let me indicate my belief, that this process has brought forth extremely serious information that could lead any reasonable person to conclude, as many of my colleagues have done, that this nomination should not go forward.
First, the comments in the "Southern Partisan" magazine and the acceptance of the degree from Bob Jones University. I was not happy with the adequacy of John's answers on those issues. I think it does raise some questions of insensitivity to the pain caused by racially biased publications and institutions. And on Ronnie White, it was just plain unfair, what was done to Ronnie White. And that's why I join Senator Durbin and apologizing personally to Ronnie White. It's an extremely sorry chapter in Senator Ashcroft's long public record.
I noted David Broder's column suggesting that this nomination shouldn't go forward, except with regard to the issue of Ronnie White. And I, today, adjoin in this is suggestion. That this president, my colleagues in this body on the opposite side of the aisle, should make it their first priority to renominate Ronnie White the first opportunity arises. I think that is critical: because it is right on the merits of his abilities and his talents and his qualification, but it is also right, because this incident did raise the specter of race in the halls of the United States Senate.
And let me also suggest, as I did in the questions, there's another opportunity here -- that our friends on the opposite side of the aisle and our new president should seize -- and that relates to the recess appointment of Judge Roger Gregory to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court of appeals has the largest African-American population in the country. And no African-American has ever...
CHEN: All right, our viewers have been watching Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his concerns about John Ashcroft as a nominee for attorney general.
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