Sen. Joseph Biden
This Cabinet position is the single most unique position of any Cabinet office. For it's the only one where the nominee or the Cabinet officer has an equally strong and stronger, quite frankly, responsibility to the American people as he does to the person who nominates him. . . . But the attorney general of the United States is both the president's lawyer and the people's lawyer. And I indicated almost 16 years ago, what I reiterated 16 days ago, and I reiterate now that for the office of attorney general, first, the question is whether the attorney general is willing to vigorously enforce all the laws in the Constitution, even though he might have philosophical disagreements; and then second, whether he possessed the standing and temperament that will permit the vast majority of the American people to believe that you can and will protect and enforce their individual rights.
...in my view, Senator Ashcroft has demonstrated repeatedly bad judgment, at a minimum, on matters relating to enforcement of civil rights and the attitude he has towards minorities, particularly African-Americans, an insensitivity in the extreme.
So, Mr. Chairman, I'm going to vote no. I am not happy about voting no. I don't feel good about voting no. I wish I could vote yes. I wish John had given different answers. I would vote for John in a heartbeat if he were going to be nominated for secretary of defense or secretary of commerce or secretary of energy. There his views on these issues don't matter, except in his own as a person. They don't matter from a public standpoint.
Sen. Herbert Kohl
But deference does not mean blind acceptance of the president's nominee. Not only must the president trust his attorney general, the nation must also trust him, for, after all, the attorney general is America's lawyer.
As Senator Ashcroft's record has become better known, my belief in deference has been truly tested, though not because of his conservative views. He should not be condemned nor rejected for that. Nevertheless, I believe that he will not be the people's lawyer. I believe that he will push and prod the law to conform to his own strongly held beliefs. And because I believe that his views are far out of the mainstream of American life, my vote will be no.
His record is out of the mainstream on central issues to the Department of Justice, issues like women's rights, civil rights, voting rights, gun control, as well as the nomination of judges. He has spent his entire public life devoted to reversing some of the very laws that he will be asked to administer. And there are indications that when he was responsible for enforcing Missouri's laws, he often chose to use the resources at his disposal to undermine them.
Sen. Diane Feinstein
Now, this is a very close election. We have a president who is president, who has not won the popular vote. And this is a key and critical appointment. It is going to determine, I think, how this nation goes in many different respects. This appointment has not united, it has divided. This nominee is extraordinarily controversial.
Let me just give you a couple of numbers to date. Through the end of last week, I have received 59,998 letters against this nominee, and 4,476 in favor. And these were passionate letters. This is not some objective remote figure. I mean people feel that this is the history of 200 years coming down to a given appointment. And until this morning, my office received 14,338 calls against the nomination and 7,502 for the nominee.
Sen. Charles Schumer:
Mr. Chairman, I will vote no on the nomination of John Ashcroft to be attorney general of the United States. Senator Feingold has appropriately called this nomination painful. It is painful to many in our country, it is painful to many in the Senate, and it is painful to me.
It is frustrating that during a period where we all hoped for reconciliation and healing after the elections, we received a nomination that threw salt on the country's wounds.
I believe we should give the president the benefit of the doubt on his Cabinet choices, and I have voted for many I have disagreed with on significant issues. But the deference we owe to the president's choices cannot be a blank check that would eviscerate our constitutional duty to advise and consent.
Sen. Richard Durbin:
Mr. Chairman, I speak, today, in opposition to the nomination of Senator John Ashcroft for attorney general of the United States. I will vote no because the only compass I have is what John Ashcroft has done in the past.
I cannot base my vote on what he has claimed he will do in the future when he public record is so clear and so inconsistent with his promises to this committee. . . . The attorney general, more than any other Cabinet officer, is entrusted with protecting the civil rights of Americans. We know from our history that defending those rights can often be controversial and unpopular. I find no evidence in the public career or voting record of Senator Ashcroft that he has ever risked any political capital to defend the rights of those who suffer in our society from prejudice and discrimination.
Sen. Maria Cantwell:
Senator Ashcroft's record of making inflammatory statements regarding reproductive rights and desegregation, his apparent disregard for protecting the individual liberties of all Americans, his affiliation and unwillingness to disavow extremist organizations and publications, and his penchant for supporting legislation to roll back our nation's environmental laws I find disturbing.
I don't see how they can justify a Yes vote on Gonzales.
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