The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said yesterday he will vote against attorney general-designate John Ashcroft as the Senate neared showdown votes on the contentious nomination and Republicans continued to predict Ashcroft”s confirmation.

Paul Wong
Women line up for relief aid yesterday in Bhuj, a town in India which was devastated by last week”s earthquake.<br><br>AP PHOTO

The announcement by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the highest ranking of about a dozen Democrats who have thus far said they will vote against Ashcroft, came as the judiciary panel scheduled a vote this afternoon on the nomination. The Senate could vote by the end of the week.

Ashcroft”s supporters and foes worked furiously to court the unusually large number of senators, virtually all of them Democrats, who have yet to declare a position on the nomination.

Nowhere was the focus more intense than on Wisconsin”s two Democratic senators, Herb Kohl and Russell Feingold. Both serve on the Judiciary Committee, and neither has said how he will vote. With each party having nine votes on the committee, a tie is possible a development that, although it would do little to block Ashcroft”s confirmation, could boost the morale of his foes.

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