- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2005

Harriet Miers faced defeat on Capitol Hill if her nomination had proceeded, senators on both sides of the aisle said yesterday.

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican “who’s got pretty good antennae, was getting nervous about the drift of things,” said Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican. “It was not a good choice.”

“The trouble was the more we learned about Harriet Miers — Democrats, Republicans and everybody else — the more it was clear that, you know, this was not the right job for her,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said he spoke with President Bush and White House officials several times Wednesday “to let them know where I thought things were.”

The private meetings between senators and Miss Miers over the past three weeks did little to satisfy many Republicans, aides said.

“They had nothing to wrap their arms around,” one Republican leadership aide said. “They weren’t speaking publicly, but their silence was deafening.”

As a result, Senate Republican leaders who met over dinner Wednesday night advised the White House that more Republicans would be joining Democrats in asking for documents from Miss Miers’ time in the White House. Mr. Bush had made it clear earlier this week that he would not give up any documents that included the advice given by people who worked for him.

Former Sen. Dan Coats, the Indiana Republican ushering Miss Miers through the process, called her confirmation an “impossible task.”

“I think it was an accumulation of factors that caused her to make the decision to withdraw,” he said. “And I think the most important and determining factor was the unique position she found herself in as special counsel to the president, being essentially put in a position where she had to release private documentation in order to prove to skeptics that she was qualified and they knew what her judicial philosophy was.”

Conservative Republicans were visibly relieved that the nasty family feud had ended.

Mr. Lott, who raised early questions about the nomination, broke into song and a jig in the marble hallway outside the Senate chamber.

“Happy days are here again,” he sang in baritone when asked whether Republicans were glad the episode was over.

Shortly after the announcement, two of the most ideologically opposed senators — Virginia Republican George Allen and Mr. Schumer — bumped into each other in a Capitol corridor and jovially shook hands.

“For different reasons,” Mr. Allen said with a laugh.

Within moments of the announcement, both sides began working to characterize the withdrawal in a way that would lay the best groundwork for the next confirmation battle.

Mr. Bush blamed the defeat on the Senate’s request for documents he said were privileged. Democrats blamed the defeat on the “far right wing” of the Republican Party who worried that Miss Miers’ conservative jurisprudence wasn’t documented well enough.

“This has been a remarkable and troubling process,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said on the Senate floor. “The only voices heard in this process were the voices of the extreme factions of the president’s own political party.”

Although the matter of privileged White House documents might have been the tipping point in the withdrawal of Miss Miers’ nomination, there was no dispute that Mr. Bush had heard the deep discontent from his biggest supporters.

“None of us knew she was coming,” said Mr. Lott, who recalled the conference call 24 days earlier during which the nomination was announced to a group of Republicans.

“We said, ‘What? Who is this? You mean the lady over there at the White House counsel? The one I talked to two months ago who didn’t do a thing about what I talked to her about?’ ”

Mr. Allen said Mr. Bush “should now nominate a person with a demonstrable, clear, consistent and appropriate judicial philosophy.”


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