In an apparent attempt to press the issue of race, two Missouri Democrats are asking President Bush to renominate the black judge who was the key witness for the opposition during Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's confirmation hearings.
Reps. Richard A. Gephardt and William Lacy Clay asked the president to appoint Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie L. White to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will have a vacancy in April.
White, nominated in 1997, was the first nominee since conservative jurist Robert H. Bork in 1987 to suffer defeat on the Senate floor, and the first district court nominee so defeated in four decades.
Ashcroft, then a Missouri senator seeking reelection, called White "pro-criminal" because of his votes to overturn death penalty sentences.
Democrats are currently threatening to filibuster a controversial Bush nominee, Charles W. Pickering Sr. of Mississippi, whose nomination they blocked last year after civil rights groups questioned his race-relations record.
On the same political front, top congressional Democrats said they will hold a forum on civil rights Friday in Washington. In a written statement, they said the session "will provide a snapshot of the nation's progress in civil rights and help develop an aggressive agenda to ensure equal opportunity."
Democrats have appeared eager to return to the subject since Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), a friend of Pickering's, sparked a firestorm last month after speaking warmly of the 1948 segregationist presidential campaign of former Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).
During Ashcroft's confirmation hearings, White testified that Ashcroft "seriously distorted my record." He added: "The question for the Senate is whether these misrepresentations are consistent with the fair play and justice you all would require of the U.S. attorney general."