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Special Event

Sen. Kennedy Voices Opposition to Ashcroft Nomination

Aired February 1, 2001 - 11:40 a.m. ET

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

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Back now for a view of the -- well of the Senate, where Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts is offering his comments on the confirmation of Attorney General- candidate John Ashcroft.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: My belief is based on Senator Ashcroft's quarter-century track record as a relentless opponent of civil rights. As an architect a continuing, legal strategy to dismantle Roe v. Wade, as an outspoken advocate of extreme Second Amendment rights, and as a harsh and unfair opponent of the nominations of well-qualified men and women, to important positions of government.

On the issue of segregation -- on the issue of segregation in the schools of St. Louis, Senator Ashcroft testified before the Judiciary Committee, that the state of Missouri had done nothing wrong, and not been found guilty of any wrongdoing. But that is not true. On numerous occasions, the courts specifically found that the state was responsible for the desegregation.

Senator John Ashcroft testified that he complied with all court orders in the desegregation case. But that's not true. In fact, the court ruled that he had a deliberate policy of defying the court's authority.

Senator Ashcroft testified that he never opposed integration. But that's not true. In fact, he referred to the St. Louis Voluntary Desegregation Plan as an outrage against human decency. And he fanned the flames of racial division by campaigning against the desegregation plan in his race as governor in 1984.

On the issue of voter registration, Senator Ashcroft's record as governor is equally troubling. In heavily, white St. Louis County, he endorsed a policy of training volunteers to registered voters. But in St. Louis City, which has the state's largest African-American population, he and his appointed election board refused to allow volunteers to be trained, to register voters. In fact, he even went so far as governor to veto two bills to use volunteer registrars in the city. And as a result, there were 1,500 volunteers involved in voter registration in St. Louis County and zero in St. Louis City. And Governor Ashcroft vetoed the two-voter registration bills. The voter registration rate in St. Louis dropped by almost 20 percent after those vetoes. With this record, how can anyone believe that Senator Ashcroft will be a champion of voter rights, for all Americans, particularly African-American?

Senator Ashcroft testified that Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land, and that he would not try to overturn it. But his record of three decades of nonstop attacks on a woman's rights to choose tell a different story.

As attorney general of Missouri, he defended a state rule that prevented poor women from obtaining abortions that were medically necessary to protect their health. He even tried to prevent Missouri nurses from providing basic, family planning services.

As governor of Missouri he continued his intense assault on a woman's right to choose. He made clear that his mission was to have the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

He boasted about Missouri's record of having more anti-choice cases in the Supreme Court than any state in the nation. He even proposed legislation to prohibit many common forms of contraception. As a senator, he has strongly supported a constitutional amendment to ban abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.

The power of the attorney general is vast. The person who holds that position must have a genuine commitment to enforce the law fairly for all citizens. But Senator Ashcroft has a deeply disturbing record on issue after issue of enormous importance to millions of Americans.

Throughout his long career, he has been a relentless opponent of fundamental rights. He was wrong on the issue of civil rights. He was wrong on the issue of protecting a woman's right to choose. He was wrong on keeping guns out of the hands of children and criminal elements. He is wrong on many other basic and fundamental issues as well. And it is wrong to send him to be the attorney general of the United States. And I intend to vote no.

FRAZIER: Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts voicing his opposition to the nomination of John Ashcroft to be attorney general.

We have about six or seven senators who are still scheduled to speak. And as we have been telling you, the vote on the John Ashcroft nomination is now scheduled for 1:45 Eastern time.

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