WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said yesterday that she will vote against Judge Clarence Thomas' nomination to the Supreme Court when the matter comes before the Senate, possibly Friday.
Her misgivings reflect the qualms many Democrats -- and a few Republicans -- have expressed about President Bush's latest Supreme Court nominee.
Judge Thomas, once expected to win Senate endorsement easily, has been criticized by lawmakers of both parties for testimony during his confirmation hearings that struck many as overly evasive.
Several times before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which deadlocked 7-7 on whether to endorse his nomination, the 43-year-old federal appeals judge disavowed controversial statements from his past, when he acquired a reputation as an outspoken black conservative.
"I don't know what the real Judge Thomas is," said Ms. Mikulski, responding to questions after a lunchtime address at the National Press Club. "I have no way of knowing what's real and what's a throwaway line."
Nevertheless, Democratic aides predict no more than 40 votes against him, ensuring sufficient votes to choke off any liberal-led filibuster of the nomination. Already, nine Democrats have announced their intention to vote for the nominee.
In addition to the seven Judiciary Committee Democrats who voted against Judge Thomas, Ms. Mikulski joins a small group of outspoken liberals -- including Democrats Alan Cranston of California and Paul Wellstone of Minnesota -- who have pledged their opposition. But one of them said, "Basically, he's home free."
Maryland's other senator, Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes, has not indicated how he will vote.
Ms. Mikulski singled out Judge Thomas' refusal to reveal his opinion about abortion. During his Senate testimony, he begged off questions on that subject, falling back on a position that has become standard at such confirmation hearings, that the issue is expected to come before the high court and that any effort to prejudge it could undermine his appearance of impartiality as an associate justice.
"He was silent, he was evasive, he was not forthcoming," Ms. Mikulski said. "I will not be silent; I will not be evasive. I will declare my position, and that position will be no."