Supreme Court nominee David H. Souter gained three more votes on the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, assuring his approval by the panel when it votes today.
The endorsements by Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Herbert H. Kohl (D-Wis.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), brought to 10 the number on the 14-member panel publicly in favor of Souter's nomination. None had come out against him by late last night.
Grassley was the last of the committee's six Republicans to announce his support. He said he was concerned about Souter's testimony on activism by the courts.
Leahy and Kohl were the third and fourth of the committee Democrats to support Souter. Other Democrats on the committee have withheld their endorsement, largely because Souter refused to state a position on abortion rights.
"I cannot predict how he will vote in every instance," Leahy said. "But I do not think this country should have a completely predictable Supreme Court," he said.
Three liberal Democrats not on the committee, Sens. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), yesterday said they oppose Souter because he would not state his position on abortion.
Bradley said overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion would "return us to the day when illegal back-alley abortions put the lives of thousands of women at risk. That's a chance I'm not willing to take."
"To put it quite simply, Judge Souter refused to talk about whether, and how, the Constitution protects the women of America," Mikulski said. "We must fear the worst."
Added to California Democrat Alan Cranston's statement on Monday that he would oppose Souter, they brought to only four the number of senators to publicly oppose Souter.
Their announcements stood out against the broad Senate satisfaction with President Bush's nomination of the 51-year-old New Hampshire jurist.
Yesterday, Sens. Alan J. Dixon (D-Ill.) and Terry Sanford (D-N.C.) announced they would vote for Souter.
Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) was pushing for a quick Senate vote to put Souter on the bench Monday, the start of the court's fall session.