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Senate Defeats Bork in Largest Ever Negative Vote

October 25, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate rejected by a 58-42 vote Friday the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork, whose reputation for brilliant legal scholarship could not overcome fears that he would fail to protect the privacy and civil rights of Americans.

The 60-year-old appellate judge thus became the 26th nominee in history to be denied confirmation to the high court. He was the 11th candidate defeated by a vote of the full Senate.

Six Republicans joined 52 Democrats in the largest negative vote ever recorded for a Supreme Court nominee. Forty Republicans and two Democrats voted for confirmation.

President Reagan, who nominated Bork last July, said in a statement issued at the White House, "I am saddened and disappointed that the Senate has bowed today to a campaign of political pressure."

He said the confirmation process had been "a spectacle of misrepresentation and single-issue politics" that must not be repeated.

"My next nominee for the court will share Judge Bork's belief in judicial restraint--that a judge is bound by the Constitution to interpret laws, not make them," Reagan said.

Bork himself said he was "glad the debate took place" because "there is now a full and permanent record by which the future may judge not only me but the proper nature of a confirmation proceeding."

Justice Department spokesman Terry Eastland said Reagan probably would appoint a new nominee by the end of this week. Eastland said Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III talked Friday with Reagan about a new appointment.

White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr. said no decision will be made until Reagan consults Senate Democratic as well as Republican leaders.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., who led anti-Bork forces on the Senate floor, said after speaking with Baker that the two will meet next Monday or Tuesday, along with Senate Democratic Leader Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas.

However, Biden (D-Del.) said he doubted that hearings and a confirmation vote could be finished by the time the Senate adjourns for the year. The Supreme Court is already well into its 1987-88 term with only eight of its nine seats filled.

Promises Statement

Bork, in a statement issued at his judicial chambers, said, "A time will come when I will speak to the question of the process due in these matters, but that time is not now."

His supporters had complained bitterly that the process was distorted by an aggressive anti-Bork campaign by liberal groups.

The judge expressed his "deep gratitude to President Reagan, to the senators who supported me so magnificently, to all those in and out of government who assisted me, and to the many Americans I will never meet who expressed their support so warmly."

Bork's wife, Mary Ellen, along with sons Robert and Charles, had been in the visitors' gallery earlier Friday but did not stay for the vote.

Bork had insisted that the nomination be debated on the floor, even though a majority of the Senate already had gone on record opposing him.

25 Hours of Debate

The debate lasted 25 hours over three days, often with the same passion that had generated an intense lobbying campaign by both sides.

Bork's critics attacked what they said was his narrow reading of constitutional protections, calling him anti-civil rights, anti-consumer and against equal rights for women.

But Bork's backers accused opponents of distorting his record, and painted the nominee as a compassionate man who fervently believed that judicial rulings should track the intent of the Constitution's framers.

Senate sources said the Administration is giving the closest consideration to four potential nominees, all federal appeals court judges.

They are Clifford J. Wallace of San Diego and Anthony M. Kennedy of Sacramento, both on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; Pasco M. Bowman II of Kansas City, Mo., who is on the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Ralph K. Winter Jr. of New Haven, Conn., who is on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The sources, who agreed to speak only if they were not identified by name, said Laurence H. Silberman, like Bork a federal appellate judge in Washington, is considered a dark horse.

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