Panel members expect Senate to confirm Thomas for Supreme Court

September 16, 1991|By Arch Parsons | Arch Parsons,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Two so-called "swing" members of the Senate Judiciary Committee cautiously indicated yesterday that they expect the Senate eventually to confirm the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas for a seat on the Supreme Court.

But on the question of how the two key senators will vote when the committee decides whether to recommend confirmation of Judge Thomas to the full Senate, both Democrat Howell Heflin of Alabama and Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania hedged. Mr. Specter seemed more willing to indicate that he will support Judge Thomas.

Mr. Specter said that Judge Thomas has done "reasonably well" in his testimony before the committee -- four days last week and a final session that is planned for this morning. But, he added that "there's just a lot of merit in the old saying, 'It's not over till it's over.' "

Mr. Heflin said, "I have previously stated that if the vote were to be held today, he would be confirmed. That's from talking to members of the Senate.

"That doesn't mean the committee will confirm him. That doesn't mean that I've made up my mind.

"But I think that from public statements and conversations privately with a good number of the moderate conservative Democrats," he said. "I think they basically would say that they would vote for him unless he really stubs his toe."

As the two senators were interviewed on the CBS television program "Face the Nation," Mr. Specter said that the judge has revealed "a strength of character" in his testimony and has a "very, very different view of the world" which would bring to the Supreme Court a "real diversity" that it "badly, badly needs."

"It may be that he's not a Holmes or a Brandeis," said the senator, referring to two legendary jurists, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Louis Brandeis. "But it may also be that we don't have a Holmes or a Brandeis on the Supreme Court today."

Meanwhile, the official list of those who will testify this week for and against Judge Thomas' confirmation -- a product of negotiations by aides of the eight Democrats and six Republicans on the committee -- is likely to be made public today.

Among those expected to testify against Judge Thomas are NAACP Executive Director Benjamin L. Hooks and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Another possible witness against Judge Thomas reportedly is the eminent scholar in black history, John Hope Franklin.

Mr. Franklin, professor emeritus of history at Duke University, wrote an "epilogue" to a staff report of the NAACP. The report, which the NAACP has withheld from distribution to the public, was the basis for the NAACP's decision to oppose Judge Thomas' confirmation.

In a copy of the report obtained by The Sun, Mr. Franklin attacked what he described as Judge Thomas' "doctrine" of self-help, saying that while it was "passionately advanced" by the judge, it was as "a myth regarding advancement up the ladder of success in the United States."

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