Specter Tells Miers to Expect Questions on War, Bush

10-26-05 - The senator who will preside at Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' confirmation hearings told her Wednesday to expect to be questioned about White House's policies on the war on terror and whether she can be independent of President Bush if confirmed.

Senate Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., told Miers to expect questions on the area of executive authority "especially in light of your close relationship with the president and the key positions you have held in the White House."

For example, Specter said in a letter of preview questions for Miers, "What assurances can you give the Senate and the American people that you will be independent, if confirmed, and not give President Bush any special deference on any matter involving him which might come before the court?"

Miers is the White House counsel, and was also White House staff secretary and deputy chief of staff for policy before being nominated to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Most of the questions sent to Miers dealt with legal issues pertaining to the war on terror.

Specter asked whether there were "any limitations" as to how long Guantanamo Bay detainees could be held. He also told Miers to expect to be asked the long-running question about Congress' ability to declare war versus the president's ability to sent troops into a military action.

"Was the Vietnam conflict a war which should have, as a matter of constitutional law, required a declaration of war by Congress?" Specter said.

Specter's questions came as a conservative senator said the White House should provide written evidence that Miers has a conservative judicial philosophy instead of asking senators to rely her statements or the word of her friends.

"What I am suggesting is that I'd love to see more written material that predates the nomination," said conservative Sen. David Vitter, R-La., after an early morning meeting with Miers.

When asked how important getting that material was to his vote, he said "It's extremely important. I don't know how to put it in a numbers term, but it's extremely important."

Meanwhile, Miers was expected on Wednesday to give the Senate her answers to a second questionnaire from the committee. Specter and the committee's top Democrat, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, criticized Miers' responses to the committee's first questionnaire as vague and incomplete.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hopes Miers' answers will be "both illuminating and complete. But the $64,000 question remains: Who is Harriet Miers? In some ways, the more we hear, the less we know."

Senators are negotiating with the White House over what documents the administration will release from Miers' work for President Bush.

Bush has said he won't turn over documents detailing the private advice Miers gave him while serving in the White House, but Judiciary Committee senators say the administration has documents that can be shared without interfering with the president's ability to get advice.

Vitter said he also asked Miers about some speeches she gave as Texas Bar Association president.

Miers, in one speech talked about the legal battles over abortion, what can be taught in schools and religion in schools. "The more I think about these issues, the more self-determination makes the most sense," Miers said in a 1993 speech to the Executive Women of Dallas.

A White House spokesman noted that Miers did not say the concept of self-determination gives a judge license to strike down a law, and that Justice Clarence Thomas also has talked about the principle of self-determination, which is different from the idea of personal autonomy.

Vitter refused to say what Miers told him about the speeches.


Senate Judiciary Committee: http://judiciary.senate.gov