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Kennedy hints at filibuster aimed at Ashcroft nomination

WASHINGTON (BP)–As the intense questioning over abortion and gun issues continued Jan. 17 in the confirmation hearings of attorney general designate John Ashcroft, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s leading liberal hinted he may stage a filibuster on the Senate floor to block a vote on Ashcroft, CNSNews.com reported Jan. 17.

Ashcroft, according to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., should apologize for saying that “a citizenry armed with a right both to possess firearms and to speak freely is less likely to fall victim to a tyrannical central government than a citizenry that is disarmed from criticizing government or defending themselves.”

“I think this nominee owes an apology to the people of the United States for that insinuation, talking about our government being tyrannical,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy’s statements, in turn came under attack from one of Ashcroft’s Republican supporters on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jon Kyl, R.-Ariz., CNSNews.com reported.

Kyl said he objected to Kennedy’s “mischaracterizations of Sen. Ashcroft’s positions.”

“It is important for us to raise the issues as Sen. Kennedy and others have done, to have a calm and rational discussion of all of the import of those issues with respect to Sen. Ashcroft’s nomination. But it’s very important for us to be careful about the language that we use,” Kyl said.

Kyl further admonished Kennedy, “I am concerned here about mischaracterization and I would assert, that when you suggest that Senator Ashcroft was asserting that the United States government is a tyrannical government, that is not an accurate representation of his views under any reading of what he has said or listening to what he has said.”

Kennedy responded, “… these issues are perhaps painful to be examined, but they should be. If you don’t appreciate the way that I present it, I accept that. But I wanted to make it very clear that I would restate those. … I won’t take the chance at this time, but I will on the floor of the United States Senate to take as much time as necessary, and it may take some time to debate those particular issues.”

Every U.S. senator has the right to filibuster, or extend debate of an issue on the Senate floor. Should Kennedy launch that effort in the case of Ashcroft’s nomination, it would take 60 votes to invoke cloture, which cuts off debate.

Kyl also defended Ashcroft on issues that were debated during Tuesday’s hearing, especially Kennedy’s criticism that the attorney general designee had failed to enforce school desegregation in Missouri.

“In my opinion, most of these attacks had the effect of distorting Sen. Ashcroft’s record and I think that they were unfair. Sen. Kennedy said that Sen. Ashcroft strongly opposed school desegregation. Now, that’s not true. He (Ashcroft) strongly supports desegregation, believes in integration, and protecting everyone’s civil rights,” Kyl said, according to CNSNews.com.

Kyl added that Kennedy’s allegation that Ashcroft opposed voter registration in St. Louis is “obviously incorrect on its face.”

Ashcroft sat impassively through Kyl’s statement but later said he appreciated the support.

However, Kennedy appeared to be seething during Kyl’s remarks and responded angrily that they amounted to “an assault in terms of representations that I made.”

“This is a condemnation of the messenger. My good friend from Arizona doesn’t like the message but the message is out there,” Kennedy said, also labeling Ashcroft’s response to the questions of school desegregation “plain, simple wrong.”
Burns is a senior staff writer with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Jim Burns