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3rd GOP Senator Opposes Bork; It's Over: DeConcini : 'Over My Dead Body' --Reagan

October 05, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Robert H. Bork's chances of winning a Supreme Court seat were dealt three new blows today when formerly undecided Sens. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) and Majority Leader Robert Byrd of West Virginia said they will oppose confirmation.

President Reagan said he will fight on for the nomination, declaring that only "over my dead body" would it be defeated before reaching the full Senate.

However, DeConcini told reporters, "I think it's over." And Senate Majority Whip Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) said his "very accurate projection" shows 52 opposed, 42 in favor with six senators' positions unknown.

"The outcome is now preordained," Cranston said. "I don't see how it can be turned around now."

Weicker became the third Republican to speak out against the nominee. The others are Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a member of the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon.

On the 14-member Judiciary panel, eight senators have now announced their opposition to Bork, five are in favor and Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) is publicly undecided.

That lineup assures that the nomination will go to the floor after Tuesday's committee vote with either no recommendation or a negative recommendation. Cranston said it "would likely turn out to be a negative recommendation."

Vigorous Reagan Comment

Reagan, at a Rose Garden ceremony on education, was asked whether he believed the nomination would fail in committee. "Over my dead body," he responded vigorously.

Asked if the committee vote would have an effect on the full Senate, he responded, "Wait and see."

Earlier, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said that despite the committee vote on Tuesday, Reagan had no public events on his schedule dealing with any effort to win a favorable vote.

"We've got two weeks, we've got plenty of time," Fitzwater said. "We intend to go about this in a methodical fashion." He said he expected Reagan to make phone calls to senators today.

On Sunday, Reagan, rebuffing suggestions that he withdraw the nomination, indicated he would embark on a string of events designed to highlight support for the embattled jurist. (Story, Page 20.)

The President and his aides are looking beyond Tuesday's vote on the nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee and are concentrating instead on winning the nomination on the Senate floor.

Today, DeConcini said in a statement that Bork views the Constitution "as a bloodless and sterile contract," and he added that the nominee's "entire career indicates a lack of understanding of the effect of judicial decisions on real people."

DeConcini said Bork is different from other conservative nominees for the high court because he "has spent his career as a legal scholar criticizing in the harshest terms the court and its decisions. He has used inflammatory terms to criticize the decisions that most people in this country credit with giving some measure of equality and respect to all of us."

Weicker said he could not accept "sophisticated banter" by Bork as a "substitute for that nominee's lifetime of unrelenting criticism or disdain for . . . laws giving our constitutional ideals their highest . . . meaning."

He added that in making the decision, "I searched to find and waited to hear that unequivocal commitment to opening the door of America to those outside. It wasn't there. It isn't there."

Reagan, returning to Washington on Sunday on the eve of today's new Supreme Court session, said "no" when reporters asked if he thinks his nomination of the conservative appeals court judge is dead.

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