Harriet Miers will not join the Supreme Court.
It may seem a little early to say that; Miers’s Judiciary Committee hearings, after all, don’t even start for two weeks. But given the news this week, I think it’s a pretty sturdy limb I’m out on.
John Fund reported on Monday that Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht and Dallas-based federal Judge Ed Kinkeade, both friends of Miers’s, apparently assured social conservative leaders on a conference call that Miers would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Hecht and Kinkeade deny it, but two of Robert Novak’s sources, who were on the call, confirm Fund’s story. And in a document issued to the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, it was revealed that Miers pledged, in a questionnaire she filled out for the Texans United for Life Political Action Committee (TUL-PAC) during her 1989 campaign for Dallas City Council, to support various pro-life policies, including a Human Life Amendment. That may do a little to reassure some conservatives on Miers, but it won’t be enough to earn her monolithic support from the Right. After all, if Miers is defeated or withdrawn, her replacement will almost certainly be at least as reliably conservative as Miers, who, as I noted last week, appears to believe that public universities can constitutionally employ race-based admission policies.
Democrats might have concluded that it would be better to back Miers than risk facing a stronger conservative. But after the latest revelations about her pro-life views, Miers can expect almost no support from the party of Roe v. Wade.
Consider just the Judiciary Committee. Unless she explicitly declares fealty to upholding Roe, the five Democrats who voted against John Roberts won’t vote for her. The three who did vote for Roberts — Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont — did so on the grounds that the overwhelming qualifications of the nominee trumped their ideological concerns. With Miers, the qualifications are significantly less and the ideological concerns are now arguably greater. Miers will probably not get even a single vote from the Committee’s eight Democrats.
She can’t count on Committee Republicans, either. Another conservative Committee member, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, commented after the TUL-PAC questionnaire came out that Miers still needs to “show she has the capacity to be a Supreme Court justice.” The New York Times reported two weeks ago that after meeting with Miers, conservative Committee member Sam Brownback of Kansas “said he would consider voting against the nomination, even if President Bush made a personal plea for his support.” And squishy Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, along with ranking Democrat Leahy, it was reported yesterday, was very displeased with Miers’s “incomplete” answers to a Judiciary Committee questionnaire.
Under a bipartisan agreement, Supreme Court nominations can’t be killed in committee. But if all the Committee Democrats and even one Republican vote against her, the vote will be 9-9 and Miers will go to the Senate floor without a recommendation that she be approved. This will make it much harder to get Miers confirmed on the Senate floor. It will be harder still — probably impossible — if ten or more Senators vote against her in committee.
“This is going to be an unusual hearing,” says Specter, “where I think all 18 senators are going to have probing questions.” There’s not much reason to think that Miers can skillfully navigate that buzzsaw.
Her nomination is doomed.