WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush named White House counsel Harriet Miers to a Supreme Court in transition yesterday, turning to a longtime loyalist without experience as a judge or publicly known views on abortion to succeed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Miers “will strictly interpret our Constitution and laws. She will not legislate from the bench,” the president said as the 60-year-old former private attorney and keeper of campaign secrets stood nearby in the Oval Office.

Miers’ was Bush’s second selection in three months for vacancies on a high court long divided on key issues. The announcement came shortly before the president attended a ceremony marking John Roberts’s new tenure as the nation’s 17th chief justice.

“The wisdom of those who drafted our Constitution and conceived our nation as functioning with three strong and independent branches has proven truly remarkable,” Miers said at the White House before departing for the Capitol and a confirmation campaign already taking shape in the Senate.

Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said through his spokesman he wanted a confirmation vote by Thanksgiving, a compressed, seven-week timetable by recent historical standards. Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, pledged thoroughness.

“There needs to be, obviously, a very thorough inquiry into her background as a lawyer and her activities, people who will know her on the issues of character and integrity, which we will find out,” he said.

In conference calls and interviews, the White House worked aggressively during the day to tamp down concern among conservatives determined – as Bush has pledged – to turn the court in a new direction.

Despite criticism, initial reaction suggested Bush had managed to satisfy many of the conservatives who helped confirm Roberts – without inflaming Democrats who repeatedly warned against the selection of an extreme conservative to succeed O’Connor, who has voted to uphold abortion rights and preserve affirmative action.

Several officials familiar with Bush’s consultations with Congress said that Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, had recommended that he consider Miers for the vacancy. In a written statement, Reid praised the Dallas native as a “trailblazer for women as managing partner of a major Dallas law firm” and said he would be glad to have a former practicing attorney on the court.

Frist greeted Miers by telling her, “We’re so proud of you.” Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, issued a statement saying he looked “forward to Ms. Miers’s confirmation.”

Republicans hold a 55-44 majority in the Senate, with one independent. Barring a filibuster, they can confirm Miers on the strength of their votes alone.

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