Conservatives still uneasy about Miers
The White House is reaching out to a variety of lawmakers and groups
WASHINGTON – Conservative senators normally loyal to the White House expressed persistent doubts about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers on Wednesday despite President George W. Bush’s assurances that his counsel is the best person for the job.
«That’s the president’s, his description. It would not be mine,» said Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican. «Who knows, maybe a month from now, I’ll say ‘gosh no wonder he thought that.’ At this stage I don’t know enough.»
Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, told MSNBC, «I’m not comfortable with the nomination and so we’ll just have to work through the process in due time.»
As Republicans normally loyal to the White House expressed concerns about where Miers stands on such hot-button social issues as abortion, the White House continued its push to bolster support for its Supreme Court nominee, who has never been a judge.
«The White House is reaching out to a variety of lawmakers and groups to talk about Harriet’s qualifications, conservative judicial philosophy, professional accomplishments, and record of community service,» said spokeswoman Dana Perino.
Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman helping shepherd Miers through the Senate, met privately with Senate Republicans and made the case for the nominee.
Afterward, Gillespie said while many lawmakers have questions, «I feel the nomination is in strong shape …. There is a lot of support among Senate Republicans for Harriet Miers.»
At this point, no member of the Republican-controlled Senate has announced opposition to Miers, and members on both sides of the aisle, including Democratic leader Harry Reid, have spoken glowingly of her.
But many, including Reid, have also said they are anxious to hear Miers’ answers at her confirmation hearing before deciding whether to confirm the nominee to the high court.
Bush’s nomination of Miers has drawn complaints from the right that she may not be as conservative a justice as the president had promised during his 2000 and 2004 White House campaigns.
Bush defended his choice on Tuesday, a day after nominating her to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, saying Miers would be the type of justice he promised — one who would rule in strict compliance with the U.S. Constitution and not try to legislate from the bench.
«I picked the best person I could find,» Bush said.
But some conservatives complain that Miers’ positions on major legal issues are unknown and that the nominee, a former head of the State Bar of Texas, has too little experience.
«I expect her to be confirmed,» said Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee that will hold her confirmation hearing, expected early next month.
Emerging from a meeting with Miers, DeWine said he would wait until after the hearing to announce if he would back the nomination, but described Miers as «extremely bright,» «tough as nails» and «very independent.»
Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, appearing on ABC’s «Good Morning America,» was asked whether he would vote against Miers if she says that the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion is settled law. «There’s a good chance then that I would,» said Brownback, a staunch abortion foe who plans to meet with Miers on Thursday.
The big unknown is just which questions Miers will answer at her confirmation hearing.
At Chief Justice John Roberts’ confirmation hearing last month, Roberts said he respects legal precedent but refused to say if he would reverse the 1973 abortion decision.
Roberts said to stake out a position would be to improperly rule on a case that could come before him. Republicans backed his position; Democrats complained he was dodging hot-button questions.