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Reagan Bucks Up Bork as Votes Crumble

October 07, 1987|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — President Reagan met for 25 minutes with his battered Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork today and told him that he will continue to press the fight for his confirmation, the White House said.

"I urge you to keep going," Reagan told his embattled nominee, despite growing opposition to Bork's nomination and speculation that he might withdraw.

Through the day, Bork shuttled between meetings with Reagan and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. He refused to answer questions.

"He will not decide anything today and said he would be in touch," said Tom Korologos, a lobbyist brought in by the White House to help Bork.

Reagan was emphatic, however. The President, who has repeatedly declared that he wants a Senate vote on Bork, told reporters who questioned him briefly at unrelated ceremonial events: "I have not changed my position. . . . I have not changed my mind on anything."

'A Little More Determined'

And Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole said after Bork met with GOP senators for a combination pep talk and strategy session, "If he were on the fence when he walked in, I think he's a little more determined to hang in there."

Bork supporter Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), when asked if Bork indicated whether he will withdraw, said, "I haven't gotten an impression either way."

In the Senate, four more Democratic senators--John B. Breaux of Louisiana, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, Alan J. Dixon of Illinois and J. James Exon of Nebraska--declared their opposition. Breaux and Shelby were the ninth and 10th Southerners to make such announcements, a severe blow to White House officials who had hoped that the conservative appeals court judge could pick up support in the South.

Sen. David Karnes (R-Neb.) announced that he will vote for the nominee.

At the White House, presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said there was no indication from Bork that he intended to withdraw, despite Tuesday's 9-5 rejection by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the growing list of senators publicly opposed to the confirmation.

'He's in It'

"As far as we're concerned, he's in it," Fitzwater said.

One key Administration strategist, however, conceded that Bork's nomination is "not in good shape" and said "a certain reality is setting in" despite public insistence Bork still has a chance.

Reagan and Bork met for 25 minutes, with Vice President George Bush, Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III and Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr. sitting in, Fitzwater said.

Asked whether Bork had asked that his name be withdrawn, the spokesman said, "Absolutely not."

He said Reagan planned to meet with the 10 or 12 undecided senators during the day.

Reagan laxity blamed, Page 2.

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