Senators Bar Promotion of Rights Chief
In a rare rebuff to President Reagan, the Senate Judiciary Committee today rejected civil rights chief William Bradford Reynolds for a Justice Department promotion, all but killing his chances of assuming the post.
“To say the President is disappointed is an understatement,” said White House spokesman Larry Speakes. “If the President’s got strong feelings on any subject recently, this is it.”
In a tense morning of political maneuvering, Republicans on the committee failed in three separate votes to muster enough support for Reynolds, the architect of the Administration’s controversial civil rights policies for the last four years.
Reynolds, who earlier in the year was expected to win easy confirmation to the No. 3 post at the Justice Department, ran into trouble during confirmation hearings when senators on the Judiciary Committee accused him of misleading them in his testimony on civil rights cases.
Charge by Speakes
Speakes, however, charged that Reynolds was rejected for carrying out President Reagan’s policies, not because he is unfit for the post.
“It is unfortunate that some members of the committee would use a confirmation process to attack a qualified candidate for public service on philosophical grounds,” he said.
Speakes said attacking Reagan’s policy by rejecting Reynolds “is not the way to do business up there.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who voted against Reynolds, said the committee’s message is that you “don’t reject people based on their philosophy but you base it on credibility.”
“You have a man who was just not credible,” Leahy said.
Seen as Important Test
Reynolds’ nomination as associate attorney general--a powerful post overseeing civil cases--had been considered an important test for the White House, and the defeat was widely viewed as a vote against the Administration’s civil rights policies.
Although the committee failed to send the vote to the Senate floor, the Senate could still consider the Reynolds nomination on its own if a majority voted to take it up.
The first clear sign that Reynolds would have trouble winning confirmation came when the committee recalled him to explain what some charged were misleading statements.
In a vain attempt to gather support for Reynolds, Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) put off the vote last week. His move was prompted, in part, by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who said last week that he would not vote for Reynolds because he misled the committee.
Others ‘Better Fit’
Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.), another swing senator, declared today that he would not vote for Reynolds.
“I’ve concluded there are many legal experts the President could appoint who would be better fit to carrying out the duties of the office,” Heflin said.
The committee first voted 10 to 8 against sending Reynold’s name to the floor with a favorable recommendation. It then refused, on a 9-9 vote, to send the name to the Senate without a recommendation.
Most committee Democrats refused to take part in a third ballot when Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) made a surprise motion to gather enough votes to send the name to the floor with an unfavorable recommendation.
That vote first passed 8 to 3, but then became a 9-9 tie when the Democrats demanded to be counted.