Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers said she would try to give more information about herself to senators in charge of her confirmation after one said that reaction to what she has submitted so far ranged from “incomplete to insulting.”
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter, and the top Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy, agreed Wednesday to begin Miers’ hearings on Nov. 7. Specter, R-Pa., and Leahy, D-Vt., also sent a letter to the White House counsel asking her to more fully answer a questionnaire she submitted Tuesday.
The senators also plan to ask the White House to provide information about Miers’ work for President Bush, something the White House has said it will not do. “A number of Republicans have asked for nonprivileged information,” Specter said at a news conference.
In her 57-page questionnaire, Miers answered questions about her legal career and background. She addressed issues such as how she would deal with court cases involving the Bush administration, if she were confirmed to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Specter and Leahy said Republicans and Democrats on the committee felt that Miers did not tell them enough.
“The comments I have heard range from incomplete to insulting,” Leahy said.
Specter said he and Leahy “took a look at it and agreed that it was insufficient.”
Miers, in a letter Wednesday to the committee, said she would “work to provide additional materials to the committee.”
A White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said that since Miers was nominated, she has told Specter she had “years of files to go through and she would work to finish the questionnaire as soon as possible, but she would likely have to send follow-ups to provide additional information.”
The senators said an official request for “nonprivileged” information from the White House would come after they saw Miers’ response to their new questions.
Bar suspension cited
The lawmakers want her to explain more about her temporary suspension from the Washington, D.C., Bar Association for nonpayment of dues and double-check that she submitted all of her litigated work to the committee.
Miers, in her letter, also disclosed that her Texas law license had been suspended from Sept. 1-26, 1989, for late payment of bar dues. She said it happened because of an “administrative oversight.”
Perino said Miers’ Dallas law firm inadvertently had left her and two other lawyers out of the bulk payment it typically made to cover its attorneys’ bar dues. After the problem was discovered, the firm corrected the error, she said.
Specter and Leahy also want Miers to explain how she would handle cases dealing with the Bush administration, which she serves now as White House counsel. In her questionnaire response, Miers said she would comply with the “spirit and letter of the law ... the Code of Conduct for United States Judges and other applicable requirements.”
Specter and Leahy responded that decisions by a justice to withdraw from cases “are more complicated because they are not subject to further review. The committee would like you to address the issues specific to your situation.”
Answers sought by Oct. 26
The two committee leaders want the answers from Miers before Oct. 26.
Miers’ private law practice consisted almost entirely of representing corporate clients. Many Republicans had hoped Bush would pick a prominent conservative with a record on abortion and other issues.
While not a single Senate Republican has publicly opposed her nomination, the reaction among conservatives has been mostly tepid.
Democrats who support abortion rights also are beginning to question Miers after the disclosure that that she pledged unflagging opposition to abortion as a candidate for the Dallas City Council in 1989.
O’Connor has cast the pivotal vote in a string of 5-4 rulings in recent years that sustained abortion rights, upheld affirmative action and limited the application of the death penalty.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Miers has taken “the most extreme position of anyone I have ever known on abortion, assuming she believes that there ought to be a constitutional ban on abortion which would make it a crime except if a woman’s life is at stake.”
Specter refused to guarantee when a vote would take place, though some had hope it would be before Thanksgiving.
“We’re going to do it right. We’re not going to do it fast,” he said.