WASHINGTON – The Senate may find it tough to meet President Bush's timetable to confirm Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers (search), with lawmakers complaining anew Thursday about incomplete answers to their questions and demanding more information about her work for the president.
The White House wants her confirmed by Thanksgiving, and senators plan to begin her Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings on Nov. 7.
But problems like Miers' failing to mention on her Senate questionnaire that her Texas law license had been temporarily suspended — and her being criticized by the committee's two top senators for incomplete answers on a questionnaire — keep popping up, making it unlikely the Senate will rush her nomination through.
"I would say that to this point Ms. Miers' efforts to win support have not been successful," said Sen. Dick Durbin (search), D-Ill., a member of the Judiciary Committee. "I think that those of us who have met with her personally, as she left, were shaking our heads saying she said nothing and we have nowhere to turn."
Right now, the White House's preferred schedule would have the Senate confirming Miers faster than it did John Roberts (search), who was almost universally acknowledged as a constitutional expert and an almost flawless nominee.
"She has the great misfortune of following Elvis, if you will, in John Roberts," said Sen. Sam Brownback (search), R-Kan., one of the conservatives who has been lukewarm on Miers' nomination. "We may not have another person come forward like him for some time: just a brilliant legal scholar, a fabulous constitutional lawyer."
Miers, meanwhile, is facing criticism from both sides of the political divide — most notably from the president's conservative allies — though none of the Senate's majority Republicans has come out against her. Bush's claim that she is the most qualified candidate has been roundly criticized by conservatives, who wanted him to look to conservative federal judges like Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown.
"I thought it made a lot of sense to bring a fresh outlook of somebody who's actually been a very successful attorney, and not only a successful attorney, but had been a pioneer for women lawyers in Texas," Bush said Thursday. "And so it's a little different process than the norm. I understand that."
"Harriet will answer all the questions asked," the president said. "But out of this will come a clear picture of competent, strong, capable woman who shares the same judicial philosophy that I share."
Specter on Tuesday set Miers' confirmation hearing for the first Monday in November but refused to guarantee when the Senate would finish her confirmation process — given that he and top Judiciary Democrat Patrick Leahy called Miers' answers on a committee questionnaire "incomplete" and "insufficient."
"It needs to be completed and gone into in greater detail," added Sen. Herb Kohl (search), D-Wis., who along with Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., held private meetings with Miers on Thursday. "We need some better answers and that's particularly true about her since she has such a thin resume in the context of the job we're talking about."
Specter and Leahy noted they were able to get Roberts confirmed by the Senate 17 days after his confirmation hearings began, partly because Democratic and Republican senators gave up their right to delay his nomination in committee. No such agreement exists for Miers, they said.
Miers' hearing is scheduled to begin a little over a month after her nomination — giving senators almost three weeks less than they used for Roberts.