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Miers withdraws nomination

By The Associated Press
10.27.05

WASHINGTON — Under withering attack from conservatives, President Bush today ended his push to put loyalist Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court. Democrats accused him of bowing to the "radical right wing of the Republican Party."

The White House said Miers had withdrawn her name because of a bipartisan effort in Congress to gain access to internal documents related to her role as counsel to the president. But politics played a larger role: Bush's conservative backers had doubts about her ideological purity, and Democrats had little incentive to help the nominee or the president.

The withdrawal stunned Washington on a day when the capital was awaiting potential bad news for the administration on another front — the possible indictments of senior White House aides in the CIA leak case. Earlier in the week, the U.S. military death toll in Iraq hit 2,000.

President Bush said he reluctantly accepted Miers' decision to withdraw, after weeks of insisting that he did not want her to step down.

"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House — disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," Bush said. "Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers — and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her."

There were few regrets on Capitol Hill, from either party.

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., told Fox News that the nomination had been a bad idea. "Let's move on," he said. "In a month, who will remember the name Harriet Miers?"

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Miers capable but added, "This clearly was the wrong position for her."

"The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who had recommended Miers to the president.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist spoke with White House chief of staff Andy Card last night and offered a "frank assessment of the situation in the committee and in the full Senate," Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said.

Miers' withdrawal means the justice she was chosen to replace, Sandra Day O'Connor, will be delay her retirement further. O'Connor has been a swing voter on numerous emotional social issues, and more are set to come before the Supreme Court.

On Nov. 30, the Court is to hear arguments on New Hampshire's parental-notification law for abortion, which a lower court said is unconstitutional because it lacks an exception allowing a minor to have an abortion to protect her health. O'Connor has been expected to vote to strike down the law. That case also could determine the legal standard for challenges to other states' abortion laws.

Also in late November the Court may decide whether it will hear the Bush administration's appeal of a 2003 federal law that bans the type of late-term operation known as partial-birth abortion. Lower courts have said the law is unconstitutional, because it lacks a health exception.

"In all likelihood, a new justice will not assume his or her seat on the Court before all four First Amendment-related cases currently set for oral argument are argued and assigned," said Ronald K.L. Collins, First Amendment Center scholar. "O’Connor will likely participate in and vote on cases involving the Solomon Amendment, whistle-blowing, anti-abortion demonstrations and a church's use of hallucinogenic tea. There is also the question of whether the next nominee will be confirmed in time to participate in the five campaign-finance cases the Court recently agreed to hear, which have not yet been set for oral arguments."

Before Bush chose Miers on Oct. 3, speculation focused on her and two other Bush loyalists: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Bush's longtime friend who would be the first Hispanic on the Court, and corporate lawyer Larry Thompson, who was the government's highest ranking black law enforcement official as deputy attorney general during Bush's first term.

Other candidates mentioned frequently included conservative federal appeals court judges J. Michael Luttig, Priscilla Owen, Karen Williams, Alice Batchelder and Samuel Alito; Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan and Maureen Mahoney, a frequent litigator before the high court.

Polls show Bush is at the weakest point of his presidency with growing numbers of voters disapproving of his job performance and his policies on Iraq.

Miers and her supporters knew she faced growing odds against her confirmation.

In her letter dated yesterday, Miers said she was concerned that the confirmation process "would create a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country."

She noted that members of the Senate had indicated their intention to seek documents about her service in the White House in order to judge whether to support her confirmation.

"While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain executive branch materials and information will continue," she wrote.

Since her nomination, there have been widespread complaints about Miers' lack of legal credentials, doubts about her ability and assertions of cronyism because of her longtime association with Bush.

In a letter yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, sought assurances that Miers would show no favoritism toward Bush if confirmed as a justice.

Bush said Miers would remain as White House counsel.

"My responsibility to fill this vacancy remains," Bush said in a statement. "I will do so in a timely manner."


Update
O'Connor faces major cases as she awaits successor
Harriet Miers' withdrawal puts retiring justice at center of upcoming Supreme Court debates on several controversial issues. 10.28.05

Previous
Bush won't release all Miers documents
President says Supreme Court nominee's private advice to him on sensitive matters is off-limits to confirmation process. 10.25.05

Related

O’Connor a maverick on First Amendment cases

By Tony Mauro Retiring justice cast unpredictable but crucial votes, especially on religion cases. 07.05.05

High court nominee well-acquainted with First Amendment
Exclusive analysis by David L. Hudson Jr. As an attorney, John G. Roberts has handled many First Amendment cases in private, public sectors. 07.20.05

6 First Amendment cases on fall docket
By Tony Mauro Topics involve campus military recruiting, hallucinogenic tea, public-employee speech, abortion protests. 09.26.05

Searching Miers' writings for First Amendment clues
By Tony Mauro Column, other material hint that she values dialogue, communication, protection of unpopular views. 10.12.05

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