- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2005

Senators disagreed yesterday over the Supreme Court prospects for Harriet Miers, with a key Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee saying the nominee would lose a confirmation vote, a prediction dismissed by two of the panel’s Republicans, including its chairman.

“If you held the vote today, she would not get a majority either in the Judiciary Committee or on the floor,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and one of the committee’s most vocal liberals. Mr. Schumer noted that only a handful of Republican senators have endorsed the nominee.

But Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, called such statements premature, saying, “There are no votes one way or another.”

“I don’t think the nomination is in trouble,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” yesterday. “I believe that the critical part’s going to be when she testifies before the committee. We have a Constitution. People ought to follow it, instead of having all of this prejudgment.”

Nominated just three weeks ago, Miss Miers has raised concerns among conservatives that she does not have a reliable record as a jurist. In response, the White House has striven to highlight her evangelical background and opposition to abortion — which has raised alarm among liberals.

Few senators on either side have been mollified by private meetings with Miss Miers in their offices on Capitol Hill. There have been conflicting reports and accusations that Miss Miers declined, or was unable, to answer basic questions about constitutional law.

The Washington Times reported last week that the White House had informed Republican Senate lawyers that they would schedule no new meetings between Miss Miers and senators. The Times also reported that her only meetings left were two on Friday. They already had been bumped — along with a handful of other previously scheduled meetings — to this week, according to the White House and Senate lawyers. The White House refuses, however, to release Miss Miers’ official schedule.

Senate aides say Miss Miers will focus most of her attention these next two weeks on studying and practicing for the hearings, slated to begin Nov. 7.

“The hearings will be ‘make or break’ for Harriet Miers in a way they haven’t been for any other nominee,” Mr. Schumer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “She’ll have to do very well there. She has a tough road to hoe.”

Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee, has known Miss Miers for 15 years and is her most avid supporter. He said yesterday that Mr. Schumer was wrong to prejudge the outcome of confirmation.

“Before the gavel has even fallen on the first day of hearings, my colleague has already determined the outcome,” Mr. Cornyn said. “Fairness alone should dictate that senators withhold judgment.”

Mr. Cornyn also predicted that “the more senators have an opportunity to know her, the more support will grow for this nomination.”

Republicans also dismissed speculation that the White House is drafting contingency plans for withdrawing the nomination if things don’t start improving.

The Washington Times reported Saturday that White House political director Sara Taylor made phone calls to select conservative leaders. In those calls, according to one recipient and another conservative familiar with other, similar calls, Miss Taylor asked advice on how to go about withdrawing the nomination if they were to decide to do so.

The White House denies that such calls have been made.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and committee member, has been adamant that he wants a nominee with a clear conservative record. He remains unconvinced on the Miers nomination, but said yesterday he’s unaware of any rumblings of a withdrawal.

“I haven’t seen anything coming from the White House that say that they’re going to pull this nomination,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “They’re doing everything they can to prepare Harriet Miers for the hearings right now.”

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