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Byrd, 3 Others Join Bork Foes : DeConcini Gives Panel Majority to Opponents; Reagan Still Adamant

October 06, 1987|DAVID LAUTER and JAMES GERSTENZANG | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd, joining a growing list of moderate and conservative Democrats, announced Monday that he will oppose the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork and declared that Bork's bid for confirmation is "doomed."

Byrd's announcement, along with a similar one by Democrat Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, brings to eight the number of senators on the 14-member Senate Judiciary Committee who have pledged to vote against Bork.

Barring last-minute parliamentary maneuvering by Bork's supporters when the committee meets today, opponents of the nomination now would appear to have the margin to make Bork the first high court nominee in this century to receive a negative recommendation from the committee.

Two Republicans who are not members of the panel, Sens. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. of Connecticut and John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, also announced Monday that they would oppose Bork, becoming the third and fourth Republicans to break ranks with President Reagan on the issue.

'Over My Dead Body'

However, Reagan gave no indication that he will withdraw the nomination. "Over my dead body," he said, when told by a reporter earlier in the day that the committee probably would reject Bork's nomination. "It's getting tougher, but we're still working on it," White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said after hearing of Byrd's announcement.

"We're kind of down to the only way to deal with it is personal persuasion, one-on-one," he said. "The President is calling people and Bork is making visits on the Hill."

Republican adviser Tom Korologos, who has been leading the pro-Bork lobbying effort in the Senate for the White House, said that, although "we keep losing votes every time I turn around . . . arithmetically, it's still possible."

"Until someone looks me in the eye and says, 'I'm voting against' or 'I'm voting for,' I don't write it down. That's the vote counters' first law," Korologos said.

But the day's four announcements of opposition probably have sealed the nominee's fate, most Bork opponents and many Bork supporters agreed.

In Algona, Iowa, campaigning for his party's presidential nomination, Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas said of the nomination: "Right now, it's sort of hanging by a thread."

Based on counts of prospective votes, at least 51 of the 100 senators now either have announced opposition to Bork or are considered likely to vote against him. Forty-two are either committed to support him or likely to do so. Seven senators are considered undecided.

Cranston Counts 53 Against

DeConcini and California's Sen. Alan Cranston, the Democrats' assistant majority leader and chief vote counter, said Monday that they count 53 votes against Bork.

In addition, some Republican senators are becoming restive about being pressed to vote for a controversial nominee who might lose anyway, which is increasing the pressure on the White House to abandon the campaign, several GOP staff aides said.

Byrd and DeConcini went out of their way in their statements to emphasize that defeat is inevitable and that a prolonged effort for Bork would jeopardize Reagan's chances of getting another nominee approved this year.

"Someone has to tell this President this isn't going to go," DeConcini said.

'Pain' of Rejection

"The President can spare Judge Bork the pain" of rejection and avoid "divisiveness" in the country by withdrawing the nomination, Byrd said. "This nomination is going down, there's no other way it can go . . . . Newton's law of gravitation is taking over."

Reagan, although showing no signs of relenting, Monday did not press his high-profile public campaign for Bork, which in recent days has featured speeches and statements in a variety of settings. He made no reference to it in a Rose Garden ceremony on quality education, responding only in terse comments to shouted questions about Bork from reporters before ducking back into the Oval Office.

But Fitzwater said Reagan had talked by phone with three senators to ask for their support. Fitzwater would not name them.

No TV Speech Planned

Although there was some pressure on Reagan from conservatives outside the Administration and from the Justice Department to deliver a nationally televised speech on the nomination, White House officials said that such a dramatic appeal is not planned.

Fitzwater said that the White House would stick with the current lobbying strategy.

"The nomination is very much alive. The numbers show that votes are still there to get," he said. "I will not entertain any scenario that calls for losing, pulling out, retrenching or anything of that sort, period."

Korologos cited several other examples of tough battles in Congress won by the Administration--including the confirmation of Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III and the sale of AWACS radar surveillance aircraft to Saudi Arabia. However, when those victories were won in Reagan's first term, the Senate was Republican-controlled.

Time a Key Factor

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