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   NATIONAL NEWS
Leading Senate Democrats Likely to Give a Pass to Supreme Court Nominee
By: George E. Curry
Originally posted 10/5/2005


WASHINGTON – President Bush’s decision to nominate Harriet Miers, his longtime private lawyer and White House counsel who has no experience as a judge to replace retiring Supreme Court swing voter Sandra Day O’Connor will apparently be supported by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and some other key Democrats, it has been reported.

Bush announced Monday morning that Miers is his choice to replace O’Connor. In making the announcement, he said: “I believe the senators of both parties will find that Harriet Miers’ talent, experience and judicial philosophy make her a superb choice to safeguard the constitutional liberties and equality of all Americans.

Harriet Miers will strictly interpret our Constitution and laws. She will not legislate from the bench.”

The decision to nominate Miers was immediately questioned by progressives, who want a more middle-of-the-road Republican to fill the seat, and conservatives who feel that Bush backed away from his pledge to nominate a staunch conservative.

“President Bush has nominated his personal lawyer and long-time friend to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way. “His choice raises serious questions about whether he has found a nominee who has the requisite qualifications and independence for the nation’s highest court.”

On the right, Manuel Miranda, a Republican strategist and former aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, said in a statement: “The reaction of many conservatives today will be that the president has made possibly the most unqualified choice since Abe Fortas, who had been the president’ lawyer.

The nomination of a nominee with no judicial record is a significant failure for the advisers that the White House gathered around it.”

Bush’s Right-wing base had wanted him to nominate a proven conservative.

However, Bush's low poll rating, the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq, rising gasoline prices and his mishandling of Hurricane Katrina has left the lame duck president politically vulnerable.

Progressives must walk a tightrope in criticizing Miers’ lack of experience as a judge.

Some of the best known and most liberal Supreme Court justices – Lewis Powell, Arthur Goldberg, Earl Warren, Tom Clark, Hugo Black, Louis Brandeis, William Douglas, Felix Frankfurter – were not judges prior to being appointed to the Supreme Court.

Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of approximately 180 organizations, said the burden is on Miers to prove that she is no extremist.

“Miers has the responsibility and burden to prove that she is well-qualified to sit on our nation’s highest court,” Henderson said. “Since she is largely a blank slate, it is up to the White House to provide senators with an understanding of what Miers would bring to the court.”

The most progressive wing of the
Democratic Party was disappointed earlier when some mainline Democrats agreed to rule out a filibuster and allowed Bush to push through some of his most controversial judicial nominees. When about half of the Senate Democrats voted for John Roberts to become Chief Justice,

Congressional observers speculated that they wanted to show that they were even-handed in preparation for an all-out fight on Bush’s second pick for the court.

Roberts had initially been selected to replace O’Connor. But once Chief Justice William Rehnquist died,

Bush selected Roberts to fill the top spot. With one conservative essentially replacing another conservative, Senate Democrats retreated.
Now, however, it appears that they retreated again – without a fight.

According to the Associated Press, Reid assured Bush that Miers was an acceptable choice and her selection avoids the floor fight that would have followed his nomination of more doctrinaire candidate.

Henderson the LCCR said, “Harriet Miers’ record on fundamental issues of civil and individual rights is at best unknown. Unlike Johnson Roberts, Miers has no judicial record.

She has spent the bulk of her career in private practice and has worked as the president’s private attorney. She chaired the Texas Lottery Commission, but an appointment to the Supreme Court shouldn’t be a gamble.”


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