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Ashcroft limited approval

A slight U.S. Senate majority approved the confirmation of John Ashcroft for attorney general Thursday, but four California and Nevada senators stacked their votes against the nomination by a 3-1 margin.

U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both D-Calif., joined Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., to oppose the controversial Missouri governor, while Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., voted in favor of President George W. Bush’s last cabinet appointment.

“The vote sends a strong message to George W. Bush; when it comes to policies or court nominees where the agenda is extreme, we’re going to stand up and fight back hard,” Boxer stated, shortly after the 58-to-42 vote.



However, Ensign objects to the recent criticism surrounding whether the reportedly devout Christian may draw a personal and professional line when he’s asked to uphold the laws he’s vehemently opposed to.

“You know, I asked him about that,” the Nevada senator said, assuring his constituents Ashcroft would do so by using a recent example in Missouri.



Ashcroft opposed the lottery in his state but signed it into law when it became evident the people of his state wanted it, he cited.

Dishonesty or incompetence are the only reasons Ashcroft’s nomination should have failed, Ensign said, adding that “neither of which would fit John Ashcroft.”

“John has the concrete experience,” Ensign said, chiding his colleagues who appeared to drag Ashcroft through a tough approval process.

“Unfortunately, the thing is now – I think the process is being poisoned for the future,” he said.

To a certain degree, Ensign is right, Reid’s spokesman David Cherry said.

All 50 Republicans in the split Senate voted in favor of Ashcroft. The Democrats sent out a symbolic tally to show Bush they, “(were) going to give you this one,” he said.

“We could’ve filibustered. We had the votes,” Cherry said, referring to the magic 41 number required for such a tactic used to defeat a nominee.

However, if the president tries to send an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court with similar views to Ashcroft’s, Democrats may be obliged to use their legislative right to influence the outcome of such a pivotal position, Cherry explained.

There’s one thing Ensign and Feinstein agree on related to the Ashcroft vote.

“I truly believe that a president is entitled to his or her cabinet,” Feinstein stated.

The agreement stops there, as Feinstein called into question Ashcroft’s views on civil rights, desegregation, guns and abortion.

The senior senator called Ashcroft “an enormously divisive and polarizing figure,” citing a lengthy list of previous statements of record over the last 25 years of public office.

“Sen. Ashcroft’s commitment to enforce the law in view of the extremeness of his record, as well as, on occasion, the harshness of his rhetoric, makes it difficult to believe that he can, in fact, fairly and aggressively enforce laws he deeply believes are wrong,” Feinstein summarized.


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