WASHINGTON — Three formerly undecided Southern Democratic senators announced today that they are opposing Robert H. Bork's Supreme Court nomination, and one of them declared the nominee's defeat "an inevitability."
Three-term Sen. J. Bennett Johnston of Louisiana, known as a conservative Democrat, said he expects an anti-Bork steamroller among Southern Democrats. His announcement followed those of two-term Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.) and freshman Sen. Terry Sanford (D-N.C.).
The three were the first Southern Democrats in the Senate to announce opposition to Bork. Jerry Berman, chief legislative counsel for the anti-Bork American Civil Liberties Union, said the Southerners' announcements were significant because the White House "was counting on an easy victory" in the South.
But earlier in the day, Justice Department spokesman Terry Eastland said after the Pryor and Sanford announcements that the Reagan Administration had privately written them off anyway. And Senate Republican Whip Alan Simpson of Wyoming said the news on those two didn't affect his estimate that Bork supporters outnumber opponents by four votes with 20 to 24 senators still undecided.