With Miers Out, Focus Shifts to Next Nominee

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 27, 2005; 4:36 PM

With the withdrawal of Harriet Miers as a nominee to the Supreme Court, attention is now turning to President Bush's other possible choices, and the field is wide open, legal experts say.

Although some senators want Bush to nominate another woman as a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring, Miers's pullout could renew consideration of male candidates. At the same time, the withdrawal could also lower the chances for some court prospects, given the criticism of Miers's lack of judicial experience and the White House's reluctance to produce documents involving top aides covered by executive privilege.

In a news briefing this morning, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush is "deeply disappointed in the process" of confirming a Supreme Court nominee. "He will move forward in a timely manner to name a new nominee," the spokesman said.

Among those considered candidates are several federal appeals court judges -- notably Samuel A. Alito Jr., Emilio Garza, J. Michael Luttig, Edith Hollan Jones, Edith Brown Clement, Priscilla Owen, Michael W. McConnell, Janice Rogers Brown and J. Harvie Wilkinson III. Also widely mentioned as possibilities are Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, former deputy attorney general Larry D. Thompson, prominent constitutional lawyer Maureen Mahoney and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan.

McClellan dismissed the role of conservative opposition in prompting Miers's withdrawal, insisting that the key issue was senators' requests for documents from her service in the White House and her refusal to provide or discuss them.

"We've always been focused on the Senate, not on the outside commentary or outside groups," he said.

Miers, who will retain her current job as White House counsel, "recognized that the process was headed toward an unresolvable impasse," McClellan said. He added that "the culture of today's confirmation process makes it very difficult for somebody with a different background from those who have served on the bench or who have worked on constitutional issues" to go through Senate confirmation.

McClellan gave no indication of which candidates might now be under consideration. Bush is "going to select someone who he feels is the best person for the position, and I don't want to speculate before that," McClellan said. "But as I indicated, we fully recognize the culture of today's confirmation process. And we have gone through this experience and that is taken into account, I think."

Asked if it was "safe to say the next nominee is not going to be a White House employee," McClellan said only that Bush "will let you know who the next nominee is in due course."

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters that even if Bush were to nominate someone tomorrow, the Senate would be unlikely able to take up the nomination before January.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Bush to "take his time and appoint a nominee for all of the people." She said on CNN that Miers "may not be the best thing since sliced bread in terms of judicial qualifications," but that she did not deserve the treatment she received.

"Many of us want to see another woman" nominated to the Supreme Court, Feinstein said.

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