Ashcroft Confirmation Hearings Begin Tuesday

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - One of President-elect Bush's most controversial Cabinet nominees, former Missouri Senator John Ashcroft, faces a contentious confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He is expected to take tough questions about his qualifications to be attorney general and his willingness to enforce laws presently on the books.

Ever since President-elect Bush nominated him, Ashcroft has been a lightning rod for liberals and conservatives alike, and his nomination continues to receive both strong endorsements and bitter opposition.

Late Monday, the liberal environmentalist group Friends of the Earth said Ashcroft should not be confirmed because of "potential harm to both the environment and the federal laws designed to protect it."

"As a senator for the state of Missouri, John Ashcroft had a consistent record of promoting the interests of polluters over citizens rights and supporting attempts to weaken or roll back federal environmental protections. To place the discretion of enforcement and the responsibility of leading the nation's largest environmental law squarely in the hands of someone with a long record of opposing the laws he will be sworn to uphold would be a grave mistake," Dr. Brent Blackwelder, President of Friends of the Earth said.

But Ashcroft did pick up support Monday from the Law Enforcement Alliance of America. LEAA believes Ashcroft is a "choice pick" for the Bush cabinet.

"Because of his proven tough on crime record, not only in the U.S. Senate, but also as Missouri's former Governor, Attorney General, John Ashcroft has consistently demonstrated his profound respect for the sanctity of the law," said Jim Fotis, LEAA's executive director.

Fotis continued, "Because the law and order issue is fundamental to the demands of an Attorney General, Senator Ashcroft exemplies the kind of individual who can be trusted to uphold the law. There is no doubt that John Ashcroft will be a guardian of liberty and equal justice."

People for the American Way announced Monday it has formed a "broad-based coalition of organizations" opposed to Ashcroft's nomination. It also announced that coalition representatives will hold a series of press conferences at various cities in 9 states this week while Ashcroft faces his Senate hearing.

"The coalition consists of a wide variety of groups including those representing civil rights, gun control advocates, labor, women's rights and pro-choice organizations," according to a statement from People for the American Way.

However, the American Legislative Exchange Council issued "A Call to Action" in hopes of prompting people to call their U.S. Senators to convince them to confirm Ashcroft. They also said they would launch a "massive media campaign over talk radio" in support of Ashcroft.

"ALEC supports John Ashcroft, an honorable man of unquestionable integrity, for attorney general of the United States. Mr. Ashcroft personifies the Jeffersonian principles of limited government and federalism. And he'll make a great attorney general for all Americans," said Duane Parde, ALEC's Executive Director.

See Earlier Stories:
Conservatives Mobilize in Support of Ashcroft (12 Jan. 2000)
Women's Groups Rally to Ashcroft's Defense (11 Jan. 2000)