Struggling to quell a conservative rebellion, the White House said on Friday Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers had long experience dealing with constitutional issues while serving as White House counsel.
On another front in the battle to get Miers confirmed by the U.S. Senate, three former justices of the Texas Supreme Court in Miers’ home state endorsed her in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee and cited her wide legal expertise.
“We feel confident that we know what it takes to be a justice. Harriet Miers exceeds that mark,” wrote former justices Joe Greenhill, John Hill and Thomas Phillips, who planned to meet President George W. Bush on Monday.
The conservative uprising among Bush’s Republicans has fractured the party a year ahead of mid-term congressional elections that minority Democrats hope to use to increase their numbers in the U.S. Congress and perhaps regain control.
Conservatives fear Miers is not a real conservative and are angry that Bush missed the chance to nominate an experienced, conservative judge who could give the high court a historic shift to the right. Some have called on Bush to withdraw the nomination, a demand he has rejected.
Vice President Dick Cheney urged conservatives to “keep your powder dry” and watch Miers during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on her nomination.
“I think there is no reason for them to have doubts about her and I think that her appearance before the committee will be very reassuring to those who do have those doubts,” he said in an interview with Fox News Channel.
Cheney said he supported Miers’ nomination, but declined to comment on whether he had favored her selection before Bush made his decision, saying he never discussed advice he gave the president.
Ever since Bush nominated Miers for the lifetime appointment October 3, some conservative opinion leaders have said Miers lacks the intellectual weight needed to handle the type of constitutional issues that the Supreme Court considers.
“She has deep knowledge of the constitution and constitutional law,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan countered.
Miers has dealt daily with laws governing war powers, commander-in-chief powers, pardons, executive privilege, the First Amendment to the constitution — which protects freedom of speech and religion — and other areas, he said.
NO PAPER TRAIL
But whether any White House internal documents that demonstrate Miers’ constitutional expertise will ever be made public was unclear.
While the Senate Judiciary Committee would love to see such paperwork as it considers Miers’ nomination, Bush has strongly indicated he will not permit release of documents that could hinder the ability of future presidential advisers to give unvarnished advice.
“There is a principle involved here when it comes to executive office deliberations,” McClellan said.
Miers’ case for confirmation has been hampered so far by the absence of a paper trail proving her knowledge.
Much of the documentation about her has been articles retrieved from her days as president of the Texas Bar Association, in which she often wrote in generalities, and gushing letters she wrote to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush praising his abilities.
Miers is to turn in a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire early next week that may shed more light on her views.
“I do think too many people have rushed to a judgment without having had an opportunity to know Harriet Miers,” said White House chief of staff Andrew Card in a CSPAN interview to be broadcast on Sunday night.
Card denied a report in a conservative magazine, The American Spectator, that he shouted down opposition to Miers in internal meetings.
“Total fiction,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro)
© Reuters 2005