The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings on the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court on November 7. The top Senators on the panel are seeking more information from the nominee before the hearings get underway.
The Republican chairman of the committee, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and the top Democrat on the panel, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, sent a letter to White House lawyer Harriet Miers, asking her to more fully answer a questionnaire she returned to the panel earlier this week.
The questionnaire asked her questions about her background, legal career and whether there are issues that may come before the high court that could pose a conflict of interest for her, and how she would handle them.
The Senators described many of her answers as either incomplete or insufficient.
"A number of the questions really were not answered at all," said Senator Leahy. "You have a one-word answer, and you have a two-part question, that is not an answer."
President Bush nominated Ms. Miers to succeed the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who often cast the deciding vote on the sharply divided nine-member court.
The nomination of Ms. Miers, a corporate lawyer before she joined the administration, disappointed many in Mr. Bush's Republican party, who were hoping the president would choose a prominent conservative with an extensive record of written opinions on abortion and other issues.
Many conservatives would like to see the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case known as Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion overturned.
An article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week said that on October 3, the day Mr. Bush nominated Ms. Miers, two Texas judges who know her conducted a conference call with conservative leaders and assured them she would vote to reverse Roe v. Wade.
Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, met with Ms. Miers after the article was published and pressed her about her views on the case. He briefed reporters on the meeting.
"She said, 'Nobody knows my views on Roe v. Wade. She said 'nobody can speak for me on Roe v. Wade,'" he said.
But some of the documents Ms. Miers submitted to the Judiciary Committee this week contain promises made in 1989 when she was campaigning for a city council seat in Dallas, Texas, to oppose abortion. She supported a U.S. constitutional amendment banning the procedure in most cases and promised to take part in anti-abortion rallies.
Conservative Republicans are still not convinced. They say the documents do not suggest how Ms. Miers views abortion issues today.
Because Ms. Miers does not have an extensive record of written legal opinions - as a corporate lawyer she was not required to prepare such writings, Senator Specter says lawmakers will have many questions at the hearings.
"We do not have much paperwork. We do not have much of a record," he said. "There are going to be requests to have very extensive lines of questioning, and we will accommodate that as they arise.
Although Senator Specter could not predict how many days his committee would conduct hearings into Ms. Miers nomination, Senate leaders would like to schedule a confirmation vote before the November 24 Thanksgiving Day holiday.