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The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin its confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers on Nov. 7. But the real date to keep an eye on is Nov. 30, when the Court will hear oral arguments in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of New England, the first substantive abortion case it has heard in five years. Miers supporters, who believe she opposes abortion rights, want her on the bench by then to keep retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor from casting what could be a decisive vote. “There’s no question that is one reason why they are in such a hurry,” says Elliot Mincberg, vice president of People For the American Way. But that’s not why his boss, Ralph Neas, called for a slower pace for hearings, Mincberg insists. “This is a lifetime appointment, Justice O’Connor has agreed to stay on, and there is no crisis that requires speed.” Even if the hearings begin on time, several scenarios could keep Miers off the bench on Nov. 30. With the Veterans Day holiday Nov. 11, hearings could continue into the following week, and a senator could delay a committee vote for a week after that. Then comes Thanksgiving. Any unforeseen developments could push things into December. And then there remains the possibility of a filibuster. “It seems exceedingly unlikely that she will be on the bench to hear Ayotte,” says Court watcher David Garrow, a professor at the University of Cambridge who thinks Miers’ nomination could be yanked. “She is suffering death by a thousand cuts, and it just keeps growing day by day.” Meanwhile, the depth of Miers’ opposition to abortion remains in dispute.The American Bar Association released transcripts of the 1992 House of Delegates debate in which Miers urged the ABA not to take a stand on abortion. In her comments, Miers said she understood that “the choice issue is inextricably entwined with the debate of total freedom for women, for empowerment.”
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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