With his demands for documents that the White House wouldn't give up, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback may have played a key role in forcing Harriet Miers to withdraw her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"She had no record," Brownback told National Public Radio Thursday morning, in an interview moments after the withdrawal had been announced. He added: "The Senate was not willing to give its advice and consent blindly."
Some court observers said the documents issue was a pretext for conservatives who were concerned about Miers' opinions on abortion. But Brownback, a Kansas Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was at the forefront of those issues, as well, expressing concerns about the nomination the same day it was announced.
"I think Sam's early expression of concern was probably influential," said Steve McAllister, the former dean at Kansas University's School of Law who spent three years as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Clarence Thomas.
His office released a statement on the Miers' withdrawal to the Kansas media, but Brownback's prominence in the judicial selection process was clear Thursday in his national media appearances; he gave a lengthy live interview to CNN after the discussion on NPR's "Morning Edition."
Conservative groups began raising questions about Miers' conservatism and competency as soon as she was nominated in early October. Brownback, who had earlier said he would be looking for a candidate who indisputably opposed abortion, shared those concerns, telling The Associated Press he was worried Miers might turn out to be another David Souter: a liberal justice nominated by a conservative, the first President Bush.
"The circumstances seem to be very similar," Brownback said at the time. "Not much track record, people vouching for her, yet indications of a different thought pattern earlier in life."
Brownback never announced formal opposition to Miers' candidacy, but The Washington Post reported that Brownback, a contender for the 2008 GOP nomination, faced pressure from White House allies in New Hampshire and Iowa.
Then, last week, Brownback joined fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in asking the White House to turn over documents related to Miers' service there.
Senators needed "some framework of her policy views," Brownback told CNN on Thursday.
Democrats had made similar requests for the John Roberts nomination, but got nowhere. The same demand from Republicans, who control the Senate, created an apparent crisis for Miers' nomination.
"The reality is that if just one of the Republicans on that (Judiciary) Committee decided to oppose the nomination, that nomination would not go forward," said Bill Rich, the associate dean at Washburn Law School in Topeka.
Now that Miers has withdrawn, Brownback told NPR he expects Bush to nominate someone clearly conservative to the court - no "stealth candidates" this time.
"Why is there a litmus test if you're pro-life," he asked, "and not if you're on the other side?"