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Thomas Back for 5th Day of Testimony Before Panel

From Times Wire Services

Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas returns for a fifth day of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee today amid growing indications that he will be confirmed as the second black judge ever on the high court.

“If the vote were held today, he would be confirmed,” Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.), a committee member, said on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.

Most “moderate conservative Democrats . . . would vote for him unless he really stubs his toe,” said Heflin, who said his own mind was not made up.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who also contends he is undecided on the nomination, said on the same program that Thomas has done reasonably well in the hearings so far, but added: “It’s not over until it’s over.”

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Specter, who questioned Thomas last week about his hostility toward affirmative action programs, said that the nominee would bring “real diversity” to the nation’s top court and broaden the GOP’s appeal to black voters.

Thomas, a 43-year-old conservative federal appeals court judge, was nominated by President Bush in July to succeed retiring liberal Justice Thurgood Marshall, the only black to serve on the nine-member Supreme Court.

Specter said that “race played an enormous factor” in President Bush’s choice of Thomas, whose up-from-poverty background makes him “a man who has a very, very different view of the world, a real diversity, which that court badly, badly needs.”

Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) tried to complete Thomas’ testimony Friday but some of his fellow Democrats said they had more questions.

The eight Democrats and six Republicans on the committee have already questioned Thomas for more than 14 hours during his four days of testimony.

After Thomas finishes his testimony, the committee will hear witnesses for and against him for the rest of the week.


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