Specter Grants Judicial Nominee Second Hearing

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 4, 2006; 5:27 PM

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter today averted -- for now -- a possible Democratic filibuster over D.C. federal appeals court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh by granting a hearing into the White House aide's possible role in controversial Bush administration policies.

Specter (R-Pa.) said Kavanaugh would appear before the committee Tuesday to respond to questions about whether he had a role in the administration's torture and domestic surveillance policies and whether he had dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"We will have Mr. Kavanaugh here long enough for senators to ask whatever questions they want so that it will be on the record," Specter said during the judiciary committee's executive business meeting today. "What I do not want to have happen is to have a filibuster on the Kavanaugh nomination."

The commitee will vote on Kavanaugh's nomination on May 11, Specter said.

President Bush first nominated Kavanaugh to a judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2003. Some Democratic senators say Kavanaugh gave evasive answers at his 2004 confirmation hearing. Since then, Democrats say they have additional questions about his role in administration policies.

Democratic leaders have said they would surely filibuster another judicial nominee, Terrence W. Boyle, and might filibuster Kavanaugh -- currently White House staff secretary -- if Republicans refused to call him back for a second hearing. The judiciary committee had planned to vote on the nomination today.

Republican senators said they hope Tuesday's hearing will avert another partisan showdown over Bush's judicial nominees.

Democrats filibustered several appellate court nominees in Bush's first term. But 14 senators -- seven Republicans and seven Democrats -- reached a truce last year, agreeing filibusters will be used in Senate votes over judicial nominees only in "extraordinary circumstances."

"The judiciary committee should proceed expeditiously to complete the second hearing and report out Brett Kavanaugh," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said in a statement today. "After three years of waiting, Brett Kavanaugh deserves a fair up-or-down vote without further delay."

Frist called for a vote by the full Senate before Memorial Day.

Kavanaugh met Tuesday with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), assuring him he played no role in Abramoff's activities or the surveillance program. "And he tried to assure me that he would not be an ideologue" as an appellate judge, Schumer said at the time.

Schumer said he did not ask Kavanaugh whether he played any role in the administration's policies on treatment of foreign detainees. A White House spokesperson told the Associated Press that Kavanaugh was "not involved in any detainee policy development."

Today, Schumer praised Specter's decision to schedule another hearing.

"It's the least that can be done for the nominee to the second highest court in the land and a controversial nominee," Schumer said, the AP reported. "There are a lot of things that have happened, since the last hearing, in the administration of which he is a part."

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