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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

G.O.P. Aides Add Voices to Resistance Over Nominee - New York Times

G.O.P. Aides Add Voices to Resistance Over Nominee - New York TimesOctober 12, 2005
G.O.P. Aides Add Voices to Resistance Over Nominee
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

As the White House seeks to rally senators behind the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers, lawyers for the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee are expressing dissatisfaction with the choice and pushing back against her, aides to 6 of the 10 Republican committee members said yesterday.

"Everybody is hoping that something will happen on Miers, either that the president would withdraw her or she would realize she is not up to it and pull out while she has some dignity intact," a lawyer to a Republican committee member said.

All the Republican staff members insisted on anonymity for fear of retaliation from their supervisors and from the Senate leaders.

At two stormy meetings on Friday - the first a planning meeting of the chief counsels to Republican committee members and the second a Republican staff meeting with Ed Gillespie, the former Republican Party chairman who is helping to lobby for the nomination - committee lawyers were unanimous in their dismay over Ms. Miers's qualifications and conservative credentials, several attendees said.

Many lawyers were critical or hostile, these people said, although Michael E. O'Neill, chief counsel to the committee chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, tried to remain relatively neutral. Mr. O'Neill could not be reached for comment.

"You could say there is pretty much uniform disappointment with the nomination at the staff level," another Republican on the committee staff said. "It is clear there is quite a bit of skepticism, and even some flashes of hostility."

Another Republican aide close to the committee said, "I don't know a staffer who approves of this nomination, anywhere. Most of it is outright hostility throughout the Judiciary Committee staff."

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Specter emphasized that the senators would make their own decisions.

"I think those staffers, like anybody else, have a right to their opinions and to express them," he said. "Senators will make independent judgments. You have some pretty strong staffers on the committee, but you have got some stronger senators."

Of the 10 Republicans on the panel, Senators Sam Brownback of Kansas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma have expressed the most skepticism about Ms. Miers. Most decline to commit themselves.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for supporter on the committee, Senator John. Cornyn of Texas, said: "I think that the staff are all very well versed in the process and in this particular nominee, but so are the senators. I think you will see, and already have seen, quite a lot of support out of the senators."

The resistance among the panel lawyers reflects the challenge facing Mr. Bush in unifying his party and the conservative movement behind Ms. Miers.

On Tuesday, James C. Dobson, founder of the conservative evangelical group Focus on the Family, explained previous comments about confidential information that had influenced him to support Ms. Miers, a mystery that led some senators to threaten to call him to testify before the Judiciary Committee.

According to a transcript of his radio broadcast today, Mr. Dobson said he was referring to a confidential telephone conversation with Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, about Ms. Miers that occurred two days before Mr. Bush announced her selection. Mr. Rove gave Mr. Dobson permission to discuss the call, and much of the information has now become public, Mr. Dobson said.

In addition to telling Mr. Dobson about her membership in a conservative evangelical church and her past support for an anti-abortion group in Texas, Mr. Rove assured him that Ms. Miers was the kind of conservative jurist that the president had promised to appoint, and that "the president knew her well enough to say so with complete confidence," Mr. Dobson recounted.

Republican staff members on the Judiciary Committee usually research and prepare arguments to defend the president's nominees. But Republican staff members on the panel said committee lawyers were doing research to rebut the "talking points" the White House has provided for senators to support Ms. Miers's nomination.

For example, committee lawyers said, the White House has told senators and conservative activists that Ms. Miers, as White House counsel, deserves credit for helping Mr. Bush select many strongly conservative federal judges. But lawyers for the committee say Ms. Miers, who became White House counsel last year, had no role in the most significant nominations.

People at the meeting on Friday of the judiciary panel lawyers said Mr. O'Neill, Mr. Specter's chief counsel , argued that Ms. Miers deserved a chance to speak for herself, especially because staff members were unacquainted with her legal work.

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