Senate Panel Presses Miers on Background
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Harriet Miers has some more work to do. The leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked the Supreme Court nominee for better answers to the questionnaire that she filled out for them. They called her initial responses `incomplete and insufficient.' Miers' confirmation hearings have been set for November 7th. We have more from NPR's David Welna at the Capitol.
DAVID WELNA reporting:
The Judiciary Committee's Republican chair, Arlen Specter, and its top Democrat, Patrick Leahy, wrote to Miers today, saying they want her to send them a supplement to the responses she supplied yesterday to a lengthy background questionnaire. The senators want more details about Miers, who has a reputation for being meticulous. They wanted to know more about her disclosure that she'd been suspended from the District of Columbia bar for delinquent dues. They want dates and explanations of her membership in organizations. They want documents produced while she held public office in Dallas. They want more explanations about how she would avoid potential conflicts of interest after having served five years in the Bush White House. They want details on Bush administration communications to anyone about how Miers would rule if confirmed to the high court. And they want, among other things, a complete listing of all matters she's litigated.
Chairman Specter noted the committee has found such cases that she failed to list in her response to the questionnaire.
Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania; Judiciary Committee Chairman): Well, she gave us a skimpy little group. No reason we should know more about her cases than she does.
WELNA: Democrat Leahy said he knows of not one member of the committee, Republican or Democrat, who's satisfied with the answers Miers provided.
Senator PATRICK LEAHY (Democrat, Vermont): The comments I've heard range from incomplete to insulting. Certainly it was inadequate and did not give us enough to prepare for a hearing.
WELNA: Both senators portrayed the events following Miers' nomination as unprecedented, pointing to conference calls by Republican officials and reports of secret assurances being made to win support for Miers. Here's Specter's assessment.
Sen. SPECTER: I think it's been a chaotic process, very candidly.
WELNA: Still, Specter said he decided to push ahead with starting confirmation hearings for Miers on November 7th, even though many of the background materials needed for those hearings have not been received or completed.
Sen. SPECTER: My final thought was if we don't start, we're not going to finish, and we may not finish before Thanksgiving. We're going to have to take whatever time we need.
WELNA: Specter said he intended to ask Miers on the record at those hearings about key cases they discussed in private Monday. After that meeting, Miers disputed Specter's recollection that she recognized two Supreme Court rulings that laid the groundwork for the Roe vs. Wade decision upholding a woman's right to abortion. Specter predicted the hearing will be, as he put it, `unusual,' in that he anticipated all 18 members of the committee would have probing questions for Miers. Leahy agreed.
Sen. LEAHY: If the questions are not answered or if they're answered as incomplete as they have been, then it's going to be a long hearing indeed.
WELNA: The White House wants a final Senate vote on Miers' nomination before Thanksgiving, but Specter and Leahy said there's been no agreement on how long the confirmation hearings will go on and much less on when the Senate might vote on Miers' nomination. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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