WASHINGTON -- Judge Clarence Thomas is likely to receive as many as 60 Senate votes to confirm his nomination as a Supreme Court justice, according to the private estimate of his chief Senate sponsor, Missouri Republican John C. Danforth.
The Senate floor debate on whether to confirm President Bush's black conservative nominee is scheduled to begin today. The Senate is to vote on the confirmation at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
A source close to Mr. Danforth, speaking on the basis of anonymity, revealed the estimate yesterday while the senator himself, a respected vote-counter in the Senate, was being publicly optimistic -- but more cautious.
"It looks very good," Mr. Danforth said in a radio interview, but he added, "When the gavel falls next Tuesday night, that's when it's over, and I'm not going to stop working until then. . . . It's not going to be 75 or 80 votes, but it's going to be a very clear, very convincing result."
Later in the day, Mr. Danforth, in a statement, said, "It is clear to me that Judge Thomas has the votes to be confirmed."
On the eve of the debate, Judge Thomas appeared likely to receive at least the 51 votes he requires for confirmation by the 100-member Senate. So far, 11 of the Senate's 57 Democrats have announced they will vote for Judge Thomas.
One other Democrat, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, has said he was inclined to support the judge.
Meanwhile, none of the Senate's 43 Republicans has publicly stated an intention to vote against Judge Thomas.
"The Republicans are locked in," said Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, an outspoken opponent of Judge Thomas' confirmation, speaking on the CBS "This Morning" television program yesterday. "Every single Republican, as I see it, will vote for confirmation."
Mr. Metzenbaum insisted that some Democratic senators may be harboring second thoughts about voting for confirmation.
To take up consideration of the confirmation today, the Senate decided late Tuesday to delay until after the confirmation vote a 10-day recess, which had been scheduled to begin tomorrow.
Even so, it will be impossible for Judge Thomas to be confirmed, sworn in and take his seat on the Supreme Court bench before
the court begins the first hearings of its new session Monday.
Court sources, in fact, estimated yesterday that he would miss all of the court's first round of hearings in the new term. If confirmed, he would be expected to start hearing cases Nov. 4.
Meanwhile, Senate consideration of a controversial civil rights bill -- Mr. Danforth's proposed compromise version, which the White House rejected last week -- has been postponed until later this month.