White House Counsel Harriet Miers, the Supreme Court nominee who withdrew after a conservative revolt last fall, has allegedly vetoed several recommendations offered by conservatives to fill vacancies on federal courts.
The White House would not directly respond to the charge, which was made this morning during a conference call with more than 40 conservative leaders. Two people on the call—whose identities I promised to keep confidential—said they had inside knowledge of the recommended nominees whom Miers nixed.
White House spokeswoman Erin Healy told HUMAN EVENTS, “I’m not going to get into discussing private meetings and conversations, but I think we all share a common goal of getting nominees who share the President’s judicial philosophy confirmed to the bench as quickly as possible.”
The accusation about Miers came hours before the White House scrambled to put together a meeting among conservative activists to take place at 2:30 p.m. with Miers. The meeting, which was billed as a “new beginning” on judicial nominees, was said to include upwards are 40 to 50 people.
The large size of the gathering—it will be held at the ornate Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building—has irritated conservatives. Manuel Miranda, chairman of the Third Branch Conference, told activists on the conference call that they should boycott the meeting to show their disapproval with the White House.
One conservative leader on the call said the only way for the White House to offer a real “new beginning” on judicial nominees was to bring in a new counsel in place of Miers. She was rumored to be on the way out after new Chief of Staff Josh Bolten took charge last month, but nothing has materialized since then.
Part of the problem with Miers, conservatives said, was her failure to fill several vacancies. There are 50 openings on federal courts, and of those, 21 nominees—less than half—are pending approval from the Senate.
Among the 17 high-stakes appellate court vacancies, the White House has yet to pick nominees for nine of the seats, including two for the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. One leader on this morning’s call said the White House cannot afford to wait to make its selections given the limited time for the Senate to act before the end of the year.
When I asked Healy if the White House planned an announcement about new nominees at today’s meeting, she said, “We don’t speculate on the timing of personnel-related announcements.”
A second call held this morning, which included conservative power players Ed Meese, Leonard Leo, Sean Rushton and Kay Daly, dealt with the frustration among conservatives about the blame game being played by Senate leaders and the White House.
A conservative activist with knowledge of that conversation said participants were fed up with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter and White House staff for passing the buck and blaming someone else for the disorganization.
My source told me that this afternoon’s meeting was likely to bomb because, given its size, participants would leak details to the media and, as a result, be unwilling to share their true feelings about Miers.