Thursday, October 27, 2005

GOP senators push for more on Miers

Yahoo! News
GOP senators push for more on Miers

By Kathy Kiely, USA TODAY

Republican senators stepped up their calls Tuesday for more information on Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. They said there should be documents the White House can release without violating executive or attorney-client privilege.

President Bush seemed to shut the door Monday on the such requests, saying that releasing documents by Miers, a close friend who serves as White House counsel, "would breach very important confidentiality" and make it more difficult for his advisers to give him candid advice.

But senators, including a number from the president's party, say there are less sensitive materials the White House can release without infringing on Bush's right to confidential counsel.

"The Senate has not asked for anything falling under executive privilege," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who will preside over Miers confirmation hearings starting Nov. 7.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Miers' home state of Texas, suggested it would be wise for the White House to try to comply. "I trust that they are doing that," he said. Other Republicans publicly urging the White House to provide more paperwork on Miers include Sam Brownback of Kansas, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Trent Lott of Mississippi.

The senators contend that it's important for the White House to make documents available because Miers has never served as a judge and doesn't have a series of written public opinions that senators can study.

A questionnaire that Senate Judiciary Committee leaders asked Miers last week to revise is due today. Specter and the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, called her first response "inadequate." Among other information, they want a list of major issues on which Miers gave Bush legal advice.

The senators said such a list would help them determine how often Miers might have to recuse herself from Supreme Court arguments. Among the controversial Bush administration decisions that could come before the Supreme Court: a dispute over the constitutionality of military tribunals for foreign terrorism suspects and a case that tests the legal rights of a U.S. citizen suspected of terrorist activities.

Ken Duberstein, a former chief of staff for President Reagan, used a golf analogy to underscore the importance of Miers' revised questionnaire. "You only get one do-over, one mulligan," said Duberstein, who helped shepherd the confirmations of Justices David Souter and Clarence Thomas for the first President Bush.

Some GOP senators reacted sharply to new websites by conservative groups, including Americans for Better Justice, urging Miers' withdrawal. "You ought to give her an opportunity to appear before the committee," said Grassley, a Judiciary member.

"I am puzzled by calls for Harriet Miers to withdraw," Collins said. "It's premature."

In a sign of the discontent on the GOP's conservative flank, Miers is focusing largely on Republican senators in her courtesy calls. On Tuesday, she met with two Republican conservatives, John Ensign of Nevada and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, but only one member of the Judiciary Committee, Russ Feingold, D-Wis. Miers has not yet met with two of the panel's most senior Democrats, Joseph Biden of Delaware and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.