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Democrats Say They Will Scrutinize Next Nominee : Senate Leaders Vow Swift Action on Bork

October 12, 1987|DON IRWIN | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders from both parties professed eagerness Sunday to speed final action on the nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court, but Democrats said they will scrutinize any other nominee President Reagan submits if Bork is rejected as expected.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Assistant Majority Leader Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) agreed during a joint appearance on ABC's televised "This Week With David Brinkley" that the sooner the curtain goes up on the final act of the Bork nomination, the better. Fifty-three of the Senate's 100 members are on record against confirmation.

Dole suggested it might even be possible to take up the apparently foredoomed nomination on Tuesday and bring it to a vote "late this week." Cranston, asked if Democrats plan delays so that action on another appointment would be deferred into 1988, said he is ready for a vote "at any time."

'Beat a Dead Horse'

The Judiciary Committee's chairman, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), said prospects for the next nominee would depend on how the Bork debate is handled by the Republicans. If Administration forces "beat a dead horse" so that debate is drawn out until after Thanksgiving, Biden said, "I think there's no possibility of confirmation of a new nominee until well into the next year."

Cranston pointed out that the Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to file its report on the nomination. Senate rules specify a three-day waiting period after a report is filed before a nomination can be taken up, but the rule can be waived with unanimous consent from the membership.

Democratic Senate aides said Sunday it is possible that the committee, which voted 9 to 5 last Tuesday against Bork's confirmation, will have majority and minority reports in hand this Tuesday and could begin debate late in the week if objections do not force delays.

GOP 'Not Delaying'

Dole said Republicans "are not delaying," but made it clear that GOP senators will strive to use the debate on Bork to "address the process" of applying the Senate's constitutional power to advise and consent to judicial appointments in an age of television and high-powered public relations, which some Bork supporters blame for building sentiment against him.

"We're going to address the process," Dole said. "Should it become a political race? How should we view a nomination for the Supreme Court? I happen to believe that if you're going to see who can spend the most money on slick advertising, who can distort the record the most, then we've gotten a long way from the Constitution."

Discussing chances for confirmation of the jurist Reagan will name to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat if Bork is rejected, Cranston said Democrats will not rebuff Reagan's next choice just because he is conservative.

"We will take a hard look at the nominee," he said. "If he's mainstream--or she is mainstream--it won't be a big problem. But if it's an extremist--one that's erratic, one that's expressed views like Judge Bork did about privacy--there will be grave problems again."

'A Very Narrow View'

In a similar vein, Biden said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that even if President Reagan nominates a judge who has "very strong views on basic conservative philosophy but acknowledges the progress that has been made thus far and does not seek to turn it around, I think that person would be confirmed."

Bork, "by his own definition and by my definition, is neither a liberal nor a conservative," Biden said. "He has a very narrow view of the Constitution."

Biden took exception to charges by Republicans, including President Reagan, that he has led a "lynch mob" that unfairly grilled Bork during his 30-hour interrogation by the Judiciary Committee. He denied any "inclination" to slow down Senate action if the debate turns "venomous," but indicated readiness to fight back if pressed.

"I'm inclined to debate the issues of principle that I've been debating from the beginning," Biden said. "If they want to debate those issues on the floor, I'm fully prepared to do it for as long as they want to."

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