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Republicans, Democrats Alike Conflicted Over Miers Nomination

Republicans, Democrats Alike Conflicted Over Miers Nomination



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By JESSE J. HOLLAND
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- 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.

But some conservatives aren't yet sure. "I have said in the past that I would like a nominee with a proven track record on important issues to all Americans and whose judicial philosophy is well-formed, said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., one of Congress' most fervent anti-abortion lawmakers. "I am not yet confident that Ms. Miers has a proven track record."

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.

In a round of television interviews Tuesday, White House counselor Dan Bartlett sought to reassure conservatives who have expressed concern that Miers might not be conservative enough for their tastes because she had no strong record on hot-button issues like abortion and gay rights.

"She shares President Bush's judicial outlook and that is that justices shouldn't be creating law from the bench, they should be strictly interpret the Constitution," Bartlett said on CBS' "The Early Show."

Bartlett said that Bush had not asked Miers her views on issues like abortion or gay rights. "President Bush thinks it's very important not to impose a litmus test on judicial candidates," Bartlett said on NBC's "Today" show.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said conservatives put great weight in Bush's judgment but they would have preferred a nominee with a documented conservative track record. The president's recommendation "gives us some level of comfort but that has to be combined with some evidence," he told MSNBC. Perkins did not take a position on the nomination and said he will be looking for clues to her judicial philosophy during the confirmation hearings.

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.

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.

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On the Net:

Senate: http://www.senate.gov

White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov

Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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