Ashcroft Confirmation Highlights Great
By Dave Andrusko
but unbowed, pro-life former Senator John Aschroft is now the Attorney General
of the United States.
In winning Senate confirmation 58-42, Mr. Ashcroft weathered a barrage of scurrilous attacks reminiscent of the infamous 1987 offensive against Robert Bork which derailed his nomination to serve on the United States Supreme Court.
Fittingly, Ashcroft was sworn into office by Justice Clarence Thomas, who repelled a similar all-out assault launched in 1991 against his nomination to the United States Supreme Court.
Described by Senate Republicans as one of the most qualified nominees in history, Ashcroft's long and distinguished career was caricatured and distorted beyond recognition. His service in the Senate and his terms both as governor of Missouri and as its attorney general were ignored in a witch hunt intended to demonize a nominee loathed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
In the weeks leading up to the final vote, pro-abortion stalwart Ted Kennedy (D-Ma.) floated the idea of a filibuster. However, in the end Senate Democrats were content to lambast Ashcroft unmercifully two more times, first in committee, then on the floor of the Senate.
Ashcroft narrowly received approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans. Pro-abortion Russ Feingold (Wi.) was the lone Democrat to vote for Ashcroft, making the January 30 committee vote 10-8. On February 1, Ashcroft picked up the votes of eight Democrats, winning confirmation by the full Senate 58-42.
Pro-abortion Democrats sought to take the confirmation that they were unable to stop and spin it into a victory. For example, Charles Schumer (NY) said the 42 nay votes were a "shot across the bow."
Kennedy went further. After the vote Kennedy said, according to the Washington Post, that the criteria for Supreme Court nominees have been broadened to include "commitment to the core values of the Constitution," which he defined as including the right to abortion.
Ashcroft has already made important appointments, including Washington attorney Ted Olson as Solicitor General. Ashcroft will oversee a far-flung department that includes more than 125,000 employees.
The hard-fought confirmation battle was part of a very successful two weeks from the pro-life vantage point. On January 22, the same day that pro-life President George W. Bush sent a stirring message of support to a gigantic March for Life rally, he reinstated the "Mexico City Policy," instituted originally by President Reagan and defended by Mr. Bush's father when he succeeded Mr. Reagan.
That key pro-life policy was in place from 1984 until January 22, 1993, when President Clinton nullified it on his third day in office. By acting promptly--before a February 15 deadline set by Congress--President Bush ensured that the policy will govern funding for the entire current fiscal year.
The policy requires that private overseas organizations, if they wish to be eligible for funding under the U.S. population- control aid program, must agree not to perform abortions (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest), and not to "actively promote abortion as a method of family planning" (for example, by campaigning to weaken or repeal the pro-life laws of foreign nations), either with U.S. funds or any other funds.
In addition, with minimal opposition, pro-life Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Finally, President Bush reiterated his position on using so- called "stem cells" from unborn babies. He said on January 26, "I believe there's some wonderful opportunities for adult stem cell research.
I believe we can find stem cells from fetuses that died a natural death. But I do not support research from aborted fetuses." (See story, page 8.)