WASHINGTON -- Some key members of the Congressional Black Caucus, an early opponent of the appointment of Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, acknowledged yesterday that President Bush's nominee is likely to be confirmed by the Senate.
As an estimated 20,000 politically minded black Americans began arriving here for the caucus's annual "legislative weekend," Representative John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., senior member of the caucus, said Judge Thomas would win Senate confirmation unless there is a "surprise" during the current hearing "or he shoots himself in the foot."
Another Democratic member of the caucus respected for his political astuteness, speaking on the basis of anonymity, said flatly that Judge Thomas would be confirmed.
The caucus consists of all 25 black Democratic members of the House and a lone black Republican, conservative Gary Franks of Connecticut, who has stood against his Democratic colleagues and favored confirmation of Judge Thomas since Mr. Bush nominated him in July.
The caucus will have on hand this weekend a potential army of fTC lobbyists to press for Senate rejection of Judge Thomas, but it is expected to make only cursory use of it. Only a relatively small number are expected to be called upon to lobby their senators against Judge Thomas' confirmation.
Participants in the "legislative weekend," which is formally sponsored by the non-profit Congressional Black Caucus Fund, philanthropic arm of the House members' organization, will devote most of four days to forums and workshops. The focus, according to Representative Mike Espy, D-Miss., chairman of the weekend program, will be on black Americans' "tragedies, dreams and hopes."
The weekend will also include a fashion show and prayer breakfast.
Mr. Espy announced that Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who is retiring after 24 years as the first and only black to serve on the court, will be honored at an awards dinner -- and plans to attend it. Justice Marshall, 83, was released from the hospital on Saturday after surgery to implant a heart pacemaker.
Mr. Espy said the "galleries" at the Judiciary Committee hearing, where Judge Thomas is testifying, will be "full of our people" today and tomorrow.
Mr. Conyers is to chair a meeting this afternoon on "opposition to the Clarence Thomas nomination." But Mr. Conyers said the session would be essentially "cerebral."
The workshop will be held against the backdrop of a recent New York Times/CBS Poll that found that while only 23 percent of the nation's blacks favored Judge Thomas' confirmation, only 15 percent opposed it and a huge 63 percent responded that they "can't say."