WASHINGTON -- While the 14-member Senate Judiciary Committee presses Judge Clarence Thomas to explain his qualifications for the Supreme Court, all 100 senators are under rising pressure to explain their views of Judge Thomas.
There were these signs of activity yesterday:
* About 300 black pastors, representing congregations totaling more than a million churchgoers in 30 states, held a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court and then personally lobbied their senators to support confirmation of President Bush's nominee as a Supreme Court justice.
The ministers, men and women, were recently organized into a conservative-oriented Coalition for the Restoration of the Black Family and Society, with the first item on its agenda being Judge Thomas' confirmation.
* A television ad in support of Judge Thomas, shown in four Southern states where senators face re-election campaigns next year, attracted 10,000 calls, according to Gary Bauer, organizer of the conservative Citizens Committee to Confirm Clarence Thomas, which financed the ad's production.
The ad carries an 800 number viewers are asked to call to register support for Judge Thomas; callers are then sorted by states, and the lists are to be sent to targeted senators.
The ad is one of two being aired in support of Judge Thomas. Mr. Bauer's ad praises Judge Thomas as a "civil rights fighter," while the other has raised a storm of controversy by directly attacking the ethics of some senators who are liberal Democrats.
* On the other side of the Thomas confirmation issue, the National Abortion Rights Action League reported that senators have begun to receive the first of 500,000 anti-Thomas postcards NARAL has distributed to the constituents of targeted lawmakers whose votes against Judge Thomas' confirmation are regarded as critical.
* The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a bipartisan group organized in 1963 to assist the government in civil rights law enforcement, announced that 86 of about 110 members of its board of directors have decided to oppose Judge Thomas' confirmation. The announcement said that Judge Thomas' legal philosophy reflected a "hostility to and rejection of the core of civil rights jurisprudence."
At the ministers' Supreme Court rally, the Rev. Keith Butler, national chairman of the new coalition, issued a warning to senators conducting the Thomas hearing just a few blocks away: "The senators should treat [Judge Thomas] fairly during the questioning period -- or we will remember."
Mr. Butler, founder and pastor of the 6,000-member Word of Faith Christian Center in Detroit and a city councilman, also had a few words for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which decided last month to oppose Judge Thomas' confirmation.
"The NAACP should support one of their own -- one who has come up from the roots -- a true role model," he said. "We don't understand why they [the NAACP] reject that."