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There's more homework in store for Harriet Miers. The president's pick for the Supreme Court answered a lengthy background questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee, but she got her answers back yesterday with many of her responses marked `incomplete.' NPR's David Welna reports.
DAVID WELNA reporting:
By all accounts, Harriet Miers' 57-page long response to the Judiciary Committee's questionnaire raised far more questions than it answered. The panel's Republican chair, Arlen Specter, noted his dissatisfaction with what she sent back as he and ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy announced Miers' confirmation hearings will get under way November 7th.
Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania): It has not been easy coming to a date, because it was only yesterday that we received a response to the questionnaire, and Senator Leahy and I took a look at it and agreed that it was insufficient and are sending back a detailed letter asking for amplification on many, many of the items.
WELNA: The senators wrote to Miers, who has a reputation for being meticulous, asking that she clarify her answers to nine questions with, as they put it, `as much detail, particularity and precision as possible.' They wanted to know more about her disclosure that she'd been suspended from the Washington, DC, Bar for not paying her dues. They asked for all documents she'd had a hand in drafting for entities ranging from bar associations to the White House even though the White House has indicated it does not intend to provide such papers. They also demanded to know more about constitutional issues Miers said she'd been involved in at the White House. They wanted a better explanation of how she'd deal with potential conflicts of interest from her five years at the White House. And the senators noted that their committee has identified litigation Miers was involved in that she failed to list in the questionnaire. Democrat Leahy said the comments he'd heard from his colleagues about Miers' response ranged from inadequate to insulting, and he lashed out at the Bush administration's off-camera efforts to win support for Miers' nomination.
Senator PATRICK LEAHY (Democrat, Vermont): We're working hard to carry out our responsibility and not have this thing taken by winks and nods and quiet promises over conference calls. We'd actually like to know what the heck is going on.
WELNA: Chairman Specter, for his part, called events surrounding Miers' nomination `chaotic,' adding that the Bush administration shoulders at least some of the blame.
Sen. SPECTER: The insufficient response to the questionnaire is the White House and frankly also the nominee.
WELNA: Specter is also at odds with Miers over their differing versions of a private conversation they had on Monday on abortion-related rulings. Specter said Miers recognized these rulings as valid precedents. She contradicted that the same day, an experience Specter said he'd never had with other court nominees.
Sen. SPECTER: And I've never walked out of a room and had a disagreement as to what was said, and as I've said publicly, I accept her version.
WELNA: But Leahy vouched for Specter's version.
Sen. LEAHY: I've never known him to be anything but less than precise on discussing cases, and I've never known him to make a mistake on what he heard.
WELNA: Leahy also said that despite pressures from the White House to finish Miers' confirmation process by Thanksgiving, there is no agreement on how long her confirmation hearings will go on.
Sen. LEAHY: We do not have an end time, and whether we get out on Thanksgiving or not is not my concern. My concern is that it's done right. And if the questions are not answered or if they are answered as incomplete as they have been, then it's going to be a long hearing indeed.
WELNA: Specter, too, said the Senate may still be dealing with Miers after Thanksgiving. He predicted that her confirmation hearings will be unusual in at least one regard: All 18 members of the committee, he said, will have probing questions for her.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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