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GOP senators call for qualified conservative

Brownback, Lott tell MSNBC's Matthews that Bush must do as promised
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After Thursday's announcement that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers will withdraw from consideration, Republican senators called on the president to nominate someone with strong experience and conservative credentials to take her place.

"Moving it on forward, I think it's time we have the discussion with America about which way the Supreme Court goes. I would put forward, and I think the president should put forward a well-qualified conservative jurist like he campaigned for during the campaign, and let's have the big discussion," Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) told MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

Brownback, who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he supported the withdrawal of Miers.

"I think it was the right move. We were at this impasse on documents that they said they could not produce," he said. "The hill for the nominee had grown bigger, not smaller, so this is really a big move by the White House and one I appreciate."

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) who also appeared on MSNBC Thursday with Matthews, agreed.

"Number one, you've got to make sure your nominee is highly qualified, by their life experience, by their education, by their connection to the constitution and the judiciary. Not necessarily as a sitting judge, but they need to be highly qualified," Lott said. " Then, you should also weigh, do they have gravitas? Are they conservative?

"Look, the president is not going to pick anything but a strict constructionalist conservative. That's who he is, that's what we voted for, that's what he told the American people they were going to get, and he's got to do that," Lott added. "But, first and foremost, they have to have strong traditional and good qualifications."

Both of California's Democratic senators called for a mainstream replacement.

"I hope that this president, in looking at this next nominee, realizes that this position should not be the captive of a small segment of our society, namely, the right wing. That an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court is a justice for all the people - that's liberal, conservative and moderate - and look for someone who meets that criteria," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told Matthews.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) went further, saying Miers' excuse for withdrawing was laid out by the right wing.

"I would suggest that he looks very weak right now. It looks like he cow-towed to the right-wing of the party. This whole fig-leaf excuse that 'Well, I can't hand over the papers,' - that was laid out by the right-wing press," she said.

"The bottom line is that he looks weak," Boxer added. "The way for him to pull the country together and look strong is to pick a mainstream nominee, like a Sandra Day O'Connor. ... If he goes to the right, he looks weaker than ever."

Regardless of the choice, Lott said that the president needs to expand his circle of advisors when making his next choice.

"I think if they had bothered to check with some of their friends up here (on the Hill), they would have said 'Wait, we're not sure about this nominee's qualifications, are you sure you want to do that?'

"I suspect this time, they will go back to what they did on the John Roberts nomination, and maybe check - even if they're leaning toward one nominee or another - check with some of their people that can warn them if there's going to be a real mine field there," Lott added.  "If you're just consulting with the vice president, Karl Rove and Andy Card on supreme court nominees, that's not a big enough crowd. I think they could use a little more graybeard counsel over there at the White House."

Boxer agreed.

"It's been about 20 years since something like this has happened, and I think the reason it happened, frankly, is because this president in arrogance, didn't follow the constitution which says the senate has a role in the selection of these nominees," she said.

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