WASHINGTON -- Liberals and conservatives vowed yesterday to conduct a thorough review of Harriet Miers's judicial philosophy, as critics from the left and the right expressed concern over how little is known about President Bush's new choice for the Supreme Court.
Democrats said they would insist on receiving documents from Miers's service to Bush at the White House and in the Texas governor's office, although Republicans have said such documents should be shielded because of attorney-client privilege.
Leading Senate conservatives, meanwhile, including Republicans Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and George Allen of Virginia, said they were reserving judgment on Miers for now. That put them in the unlikely company of John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, as well as other Democratic senators.
''I intend to carefully review the nominee's credentials and assess her qualifications and commitment to the rule of law," said Santorum, the Senate's third-ranking Republican.
In a reversal from their initial reaction to the nomination of John G. Roberts Jr., conservative groups expressed disappointment at, or even opposition to, the nomination. The antiabortion group Operation Rescue urged the Senate to reject Miers; the conservative group Public Advocate accused Bush of reneging on his commitment to nominate judges in the mold of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
On the other hand, the first signal from the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, was favorable to the nomination. Reid, a frequent Bush critic who voted against Roberts, had asked the president to consider Miers. Reid appeared alongside Miers at the Capitol to tout her qualifications. ''I have to say without any qualification that I'm very happy that we have someone like her," said Reid, Democrat of Nevada.
He mentioned her gender, her experience as a trial lawyer, and her education outside the Ivy League as some of her strengths. Reid has degrees from Utah State University and George Washington University Law School.
The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, said he hopes to have Miers on the Supreme Court by Thanksgiving, though the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and some Democrats said that may be difficult.
''The president has chosen another outstanding nominee to sit on our nation's highest court," Frist said.
Specter was a shade more measured than Frist, but he noted that Miers has impressed many senators in consultations for the two recent court vacancies.
''Everything I know about her is good, but there needs to be, obviously, a very thorough inquiry into her background," Specter said. Given her limited public record, Democrats focused on questions surrounding Miers. The Senate should know the views Miers formulated over her years of service to Bush in Washington and in Austin, Texas, Kennedy said.
''The record we have so far is simply insufficient to assess the qualifications of this nominee," Kennedy said.
The Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, said Miers must especially answer questions about her judicial philosophy, because she has been tapped to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a frequent swing vote.
''We will expect her to answer the questions that tell us what kind of a justice she would be in this especially crucial seat on our nation's highest court," Leahy said.
The White House and some Senate Republicans sought to tamp down conservative criticism. Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Rush Limbaugh's radio program to assure conservatives that Miers shares their view.
''I'm confident that she has a conservative judicial philosophy that you'd be comfortable with, Rush," Cheney said.
Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who said he has known Miers for 15 years, said he could not assure conservatives that Miers would be like Scalia and Thomas, but called that fact a virtue for a nominee.