WASHINGTON -- A final climactic showdown today between accuser Anita Hill and accused Clarence Thomas has been averted by mutual agreement. The full Senate was scheduled to vote at 6 p.m. tomorrow on whether Thomas should replace Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court.
A session scheduled today to hear rebuttal testimony from Hil and Thomas was canceled after each agreed during private negotiations to mutually forgo a final appearance.
There was little in the emotional, sometimes lurid testimonyesterday and early today to shake firm Thomas supporters or his opponents. The focus now is on the senators who may have heard something to change their declared intention to vote for Thomas' confirmation.
The Senate Judiciary Committee ended the hearings at 2 a.m. today after a 14-hour Sunday session in which supporters of Thomas and Hill debated whether Thomas was capable of committing the aggressive behavior attributed to him, and whether Hill was capable of making it up.
"At this point, what more can be said?" concluded Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
"The whole thing was a disaster. The whole process was a disaster," Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., Thomas' chief sponsor, said as he walked from the ornate Senate caucus room that had been the scene of X-rated discussions aired on national television.
President Bush repeated his support for his embattled nominee, saying "I believe he will make it."
Yesterday's final proceedings were marked by electric moments outside the hearings as well as inside.
Four witnesses for Hill testified that she told each separately during the 1980s that Thomas had made inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances toward her.
To bolster her credibility, Hill voluntarily submitted to a polygraph test independent of the committee. The head of a Virginia security firm who administered the lie detecting test said he believed her.
The committee also released the transcript of staff interviews with another former employee of Thomas, Angela Wright, who said he had pressed her to date him and made inappropriate "comments about my anatomy." She said he once asked, "What size are your breasts?"
The committee also released a staff interview with a former co-worker, Rose L. Jourdain, who said Wright told her at the time she was increasingly uneasy about comments on "her figure, her body, her breasts, her legs ..."
Between now and the Senate vote, senators who watched the proceedings on television will weigh the testimony and measure the sentiment of an American public deeply divided by the proceedings. They will hear the intense feelings as well over Thomas and the sensitive issue of sexual harassment, which the hearings laid bare for national debate.
At least on the committee, which deadlocked 7-7 on Thomasconfirmation a week ago, it appeared no minds had been changed. No committee vote was required after the latest hearings.
"If they don't believe him, they believe Professor Hill, then he will not be confirmed," Leahy said.
Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., the ranking Republican on the panel, said flatly: "I think the judge has been vindicated. In my opinion, he'll be confirmed."
Hill's four corroborating witnesses were on for six hours, with Democrats using their questioning to offer speeches supporting Hill's credibility -- just as Republicans had used their questioning of Thomas to attack Hill's story the day before.
They were followed by 16 more witnesses who vouched for Thomas' character.
"She told me that she was being subjected to sexual harassment by her boss, whom she referred by name," said Susan Hoerchner, a California worker compensation judge. "That boss was Clarence Thomas."
"There is no way he is the man she alleges," said J.C. Alvarez, a former aide to Thomas.
Another Thomas friend, Phyllis Berry Myers, asserted that in her opinion Hill "had a crush" on Thomas that he did not reciprocate.
Thomas' future aside, the issue of sexual harassment remained a riveting focus throughout the long session yesterday. Witnesses both sides of the central dispute disclosed that they, too, had been victimized.
"Being a black woman you know you have to put up with a lot," said Ellen M. Wells, a friend of Hill.
A former aide to Thomas, Janet Brown, countered that while she, too, had been sexually harassed by another man on the job, "The last thing I would ever have done is follow the man who did this to a new job, call him on the phone, or voluntarily share the same air space with him ever again."