Isles’ senators unsure of Miers
Hawaii's Democratic U.S. Sens. Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye reserved judgment on the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
Both said they had not met the Texas attorney, and Inouye added that he was surprised that President Bush named someone who had never been a judge.
"Since this nomination involves a lifetime appointment to our nation's highest court, I anticipated that someone who had experience serving as a judge would have been nominated," Inouye said in a press release.
But he also said, "From what I have heard so far, she is very sharp, very intelligent and very knowledgeable about the law."
Akaka noted that Miers was nominated to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was known for casting key swing votes on many 5-4 court decisions.
"I am hopeful that careful scrutiny of Ms. Miers' record will reveal a woman whose understanding of the Constitution is that of a moderate rather than that of an extremist," Akaka said.
Republicans, Democrats alike conflicted over nomination to Supreme Court
WASHINGTON » President Bush's decision to make White House counsel Harriet Miers his second Supreme Court nominee is causing some strange friction on Capitol Hill, with some Republicans unsure about her conservative credentials and some Democrats seemingly supporting her.
The mixed signals create some uncertainty about how Miers will be received in the Senate as the Judiciary Committee prepares for another round of confirmation hearings before the end of the year.
Bush portrayed Miers, who never has been a judge, as a strict constructionist, someone who "will strictly interpret our Constitution and laws."
"She will not legislate from the bench," the president said as the 60-year-old former private attorney stood with him in the Oval Office.
"If confirmed, I recognize that I will have a tremendous responsibility to keep our judicial system strong and to help ensure that the courts meet their obligations to strictly apply the laws and the Constitution," said Miers, who has worked on previous judicial nominations with many of the same senators who now will judge her candidacy.
She immediately began visiting senators in the Capitol, meeting with Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, all of whom had words of praise for her.
With Miers' selection, Bush was looking to satisfy conservatives who helped confirm Chief Justice John Roberts _ without inflaming Democrats who repeatedly warned against the selection of an extreme conservative to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has voted to uphold abortion rights and preserve affirmative action.
It seems he has done both, somewhat. Quite a few GOP senators praised Miers, just as they praised Roberts when his nomination was announced by the president.
"My conversations with Harriet Miers indicate that she is a first-rate lawyer and a fine person," said conservative Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a former prosecutor whose nomination to the federal court was stalled by Democrats.
Added Specter, R-Pa., an abortion-rights moderate, "Everything I know about Ms. Miers is good."
Democrats said Miers, with no judicial record, will need to answer more questions than Roberts did during his confirmation hearing. Most of her paperwork from her White House days will not be available to the Senate because it falls under executive privilege or lawyer-client privilege.
"If there ever was a time when the hearings are going to make a huge difference, it's now," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
At the same time, the White House worked aggressively Monday to allay concerns over Miers among conservatives determined to turn the court to the right.
Radio commentator Rush Limbaugh repeatedly challenged Vice President Dick Cheney on why Bush chose Miers over other nominees whose conservative credentials were more clearly based on long records as judges. But by day's end the White House trumpeted favorable comments from Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson, among other prominent conservatives.
Kyleen Wright, president of an anti-abortion group then known as Texans United for Life, said in an interview that Miers donated $150 to the organization as a "bronze patron" for its annual dinner in 1989.
Frist is pushing to have Miers confirmed by Thanksgiving, a compressed schedule. "She has demonstrated her leadership, her character, her integrity," said Frist, R-Tenn., who harbors presidential aspirations in 2008.
But some of the more conservative GOP senators are being reserved when it comes to Miers' nomination.
Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., an anti-abortion senator who is also considered to be a 2008 presidential candidate, pointedly declined comment on Miers. And Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, one of the conservatives newly elected to the Senate in 2004, said he was reserving judgment.
"It has been my expectation that President Bush would nominate someone in the mold of Justices (Antonin) Scalia and (Clarence) Thomas and it is my hope that Harriet Miers will prove to be such a person," he said. Both Scalia and Thomas have voted to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
Democrats also are sending mixed signals on Miers' nomination, with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada seemingly supporting Bush's pick of the White House counsel.
"Harriet Miers has served with distinction as a trial lawyer. That's what I am. I'm a trial lawyer," said Reid, standing next to Miers outside the Senate chamber. "So anyone with that background makes me feel good."
Miers was one of the names Reid suggested to Bush during a breakfast meeting two weeks ago, officials said, and the very first words in Reid's news release about Miers were, "I like Harriet Miers."
But other Senate Democrats aren't as gushing about Miers. "The president has selected a loyal political ally without a judicial record to sit on the highest court in the land," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.