October 3, 2005

Bush picks insider for Supreme Court

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Monday
nominated a member of his inner circle, White House counsel
Harriet Miers, for a Supreme Court vacancy, choosing a woman
with plenty of legal experience but who is not a judge to
replace the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor.

Miers, 60, a longtime ally of Bush's going back to his days
as Texas governor, would be the third woman ever to serve on
the Supreme Court. The others are O'Connor and a current
justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

O'Connor was a key swing vote on the closely divided
Supreme Court and Democrats signaled Miers would undergo
intense scrutiny at the U.S. Senate, which must confirm Bush's

In an Oval Office ceremony with Miers at his side, Bush
credited her with breaking down barriers to women in the Texas
legal profession, becoming the first woman to head her Dallas
law firm, the first woman president of the Dallas Bar
Association and the first woman elected president of the state
bar of Texas.

"I believe that 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 quality of all Americans," Bush said.

He called on the Senate to conduct her confirmation
hearings with "the same respect and civility" granted his
nominee for U.S. chief justice, John Roberts, who was confirmed
last week in time for the opening of the Supreme Court's new
term on Monday.

New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer made clear he
would pressure Miers to answer questions about her judicial

Democrats were stung when Roberts, during his confirmation
hearings, refused to say how he would rule on cases that came
before the high court.


"We know even less about Harriet Miers than we did about
John Roberts and because this is the critical swing seat on the
court, Americans will need to know a lot more about Miers's
judicial philosophy and legal background before any vote for
confirmation," he said.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a
pro-abortion group, expressed concern and demanded to know
Miers' position on abortion.

"We expect Miers to make clear her views on reproductive
rights during the hearing process, and the Senate should not
confirm a nominee who is not willing to do so, said Karen
Pearl, the group's interim president.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of a conservative group, the
American Center for Law and Justice, said Bush showed
exceptional judgment with the choice.

"At a time when the high court is facing some of the most
critical issues of the day -- including a number of cases
dealing directly with abortion and life issues -- the person
who replaces Justice O'Connor is critical," he said.

Bush said Miers would not legislate from the bench and
would strictly interpret the Constitution, his code language
for a conservative philosophy.

"I ask the Senate to review her qualifications thoroughly
and fairly and to vote on her nomination promptly," he said.

Miers said she looked forward to the confirmation process.

"If confirmed I recognize that I will have a tremendous
responsibility to keep our judicial system strong and to help
ensure that the courts meet their obligations to strictly apply
the laws in the Constitution," she said.

A senior administration official said the name of Miers
came up in consultations with both Republican and Democratic
senators as someone who could win bipartisan support.

The official also said some senators from both parties
thought it was important for Bush to pick someone who was not a
judge and could offer a different perspective on the job.

Bush offered her the job on Sunday night over dinner at the
White House residence, the official said.