WASHINGTON -- Senate conservatives have agreed to halt their efforts to delay a vote on the nomination of Roberta Achtenberg to a senior post in the Clinton administration, clearing the way for the San Francisco gay activist's confirmation early next week.
After two days of extraordinarily bitter debate in which senators came close to trading personal insults on the floor, Republican conservatives led by Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina reached agreement with the Senate leadership to vote on Ms. Achtenberg's nomination Monday.
Ms. Achtenberg, chosen by President Clinton to serve as assistant secretary for fair housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is expected to win her confirmation and become the first openly declared lesbian to be appointed to a high federal office.
Aided by a handful of fellow Republican conservatives, Mr. Helms began a filibuster on Ms. Achtenberg's nomination on Wednesday, assailing her as a militant "extremist" unfit to serve in the federal government because of her public promotion of an "immoral" lifestyle.
Democrats, led by California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, rushed to Ms. Achtenberg's defense, accusing Mr. Helms of trying to smear the San Francisco attorney's reputation with "unseemly, untrue and nasty allegations" solely because of her sexual orientation.
"Enough is enough!" Ms. Feinstein said, accusing Mr. Helms of trying to polarize the Senate and "destroy her [Ms. Achtenberg] before she starts out."
"Throughout this century there have been periods of arrogance and bigotry," she said. "Let us not today create another ugly chapter in our country's history."
Mr. Helms, however, was unapologetic as he renewed his attacks.