Democratic Groups Form Anti-Ashcroft Coalition

“It’s appropriate to ask the attorney general nominee, ‘Will you enforce the laws properly?’ … But to create innuendo or insinuate that there are reasons to believe he won’t, I think, is inappropriate,” Kyl said on NBC.

And Bush, for his part, is standing by his attorney general-designate.

“I know there’s going to be some withering questions for some of the people that we’ve nominated for the positions,” the president-elect said Monday as he met with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders on defense issues in Austin, Texas. “But I’m convinced all of them will be able to withstand the withering questions.”

Ashcroft’s supporters point to a number of his actions as a public official to combat suggestions he harbors a racial bias. As Missouri governor from 1985 to 1993, for example, Ashcroft signed into law a state holiday honoring King; established musician Scott Joplin’s house as Missouri’s only historic site honoring a black individual; created an award honoring black educator George Washington Carver; named a black woman to a state judgeship; and led a fight to save Lincoln University, which was founded by black soldiers.

Ashcroft was elected to the Senate in 1994, but lost his re-election bid this year to the late Missouri governor, Mel Carnahan, whose wife Jean has been appointed to replace him for two years.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has not scheduled a hearing, but Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democrat who is chairman until Bush takes office Jan. 20, has said he wants to begin before then and continue after inauguration.

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