WASHINGTON—Senate Republicans and Democrats said Wednesday that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' written answers to Senate questions were incomplete and inadequate and demanded that she and the White House provide more details, particularly about her work as White House counsel.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and the committee's top Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, took the unusual step of asking Miers by letter to amplify her responses. Specter described Miers' nomination process as "chaotic."
"We do not have much paperwork. We do not have much of a record," Specter said.
"I don't know of anybody who would tell you in that committee that they were satisfied with the responses," Leahy said.
Specter and Leahy agreed to open Miers' confirmation hearings on Nov. 7. But Specter did not guarantee to finish by Thanksgiving, as the White House has requested.
"There is a keen interest in many quarters on concluding before Thanksgiving, and that's a fine target if it can be accomplished," Specter said. "But we're going to do it right. We're not going to do it fast."
Specter had refused to join a similar request from Democrats for more information from John G. Roberts in advance of Roberts' confirmation hearings for chief justice.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Miers intended to respond soon.
"From the first day when she was nominated, Ms. Miers told Sen. Specter that she had years of files to go through and that she would work to complete the questionnaire as quickly as possible, but that it was likely she would have to send follow-ups to provide additional information," Perino said.
But White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked if President Bush would agree to release documents detailing Miers' work as White House counsel, noted that Bush has said he would not give the Senate any materials that dealt with executive deliberations.
"This is developing into an institutional struggle," said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University who spent last year working with the Judiciary Committee.
"What Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are going to agree on is `we need more information.' I don't believe she is confirmable without information about her work while she was counsel to the president."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has helped lead efforts to rein in administration policy on the treatment of foreign detainees, said on PBS' "NewsHour" Tuesday evening that he was especially interested if Miers worked on military prison issues.
"Any writings that are not clearly attorney-client privilege should come before the committee," he said. "I want to know what she thinks about detention and interrogation policy at Guantanamo Bay."
In their three-page letter, Specter and Leahy asked Miers to expand her answers on nine specific questions posed to her by the Judiciary Committee. The two senators noted that, when it came to her role as White House counsel, Miers "gave us no specifics about the issues themselves, or the work that you personally did."
Specter, whose handling of Roberts' confirmation was praised by both Democrats and Republicans, voiced bewilderment at how Miers' nomination has unfolded, and he alluded to his 100-minute encounter with Miers on Monday, where she ended up disputing his account of their meeting to the press.
Specter initially said Miers had expressed the view that the Constitution contains a right to privacy, a key element in the Roe v. Wade case that established a woman's right to an abortion. Miers, however, said Specter misunderstood her, and Specter said he accepted her statement.
But on Wednesday, he said: "I've never walked out of a room and had a disagreement as to what was said."
(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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