WASHINGTON -- President Bush predicted yesterday that Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers would be confirmed, but a Senate Republican said she must overcome ''the Souter factor," underscoring conservatives' worries that she will vote the wrong way on the bench.
Asked whether he would rule out ever seeing Miers's name withdrawn, Bush did not answer directly. ''She is going to be on the bench," he said. ''She'll be confirmed."
Miers and her supporters are contacting conservatives who argue that Bush has reneged on his promise to name justices with proven records as strong conservatives.
''It's the Souter factor," said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, referring to Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Souter, who was a little-known judge when President George H.W. Bush nominated him, later turned out to be a liberal justice.
''I think conservatives do not have confidence [Miers] has a well-formed judicial philosophy, and they are afraid she might drift and be a part of the activist group like Justice Souter has," Sessions said yesterday. ''She will need to articulate a vision of the Constitution and the role of a judge that is sound, or she could be in trouble with the Republican senators."
Miers met yesterday with Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, who said she ''has a great sense of humor and a great understanding of the importance of the legal arena in our nation."
Because Miers, now 60, spent her career in private practice and as a member of Bush's White House staff, conservatives outside the capital have little to hang their hopes on except the president's word that she would be a justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas.
''She's got to convince the conservative world that she understands the word 'strict constructionist,' " said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, one of three Judiciary Committee conservatives who met Thursday with Miers.