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Senators to Renew Debate on Court Nominee

Brett M. Kavanaugh was first nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit nearly three years ago. Democrats will argue that he is too conservative, a tack they also tried against Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
Brett M. Kavanaugh was first nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit nearly three years ago. Democrats will argue that he is too conservative, a tack they also tried against Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

But Judiciary Committee member Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday that the ABA statement "raises real questions about Kavanaugh's suitability as a judge" and that "the White House is trying to push through an ideologue."

Kavanaugh grew up as an only child in Bethesda. His mother, Martha, was a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge. His father, Edward, also a lawyer, headed the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association for two decades.

Brett Kavanaugh was a star student and athlete at Mater Dei School and Georgetown Preparatory School. He received his bachelor's and law degrees at Yale and then began a fast ascent in the world of conservative law and politics. After clerking for two federal appellate judges, he received a fellowship in the solicitor general's office, which was headed by Starr. His colleagues included Roberts.

Kavanaugh clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in 1993 and 1994 and then returned to work for Starr, who had been named independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation. Some Democrats saw the wide-ranging probe as a political vendetta against Clinton, but Kavanaugh -- and Starr -- pushed into new territories after the Lewinsky scandal broke.

Much of the Democrats' mistrust of Kavanaugh stems from those days, although some colleagues say he was less aggressive than Starr. According to several accounts, Kavanaugh unsuccessfully urged Starr to withhold the scandal's more tawdry details from Congress and the public. Nonetheless, Schumer has opined that the nominee "would probably win first prize as the hard right's political lawyer."

Kavanaugh's ties to Bush were strengthened when he played a major role in the legal battle over Florida's fiercely contested 2000 presidential vote. He later joined the White House counsel's office and then became staff secretary, where he oversees all paper that goes into the Oval Office. Two years ago, he married Bush's personal secretary, Ashley Estes.

Senators will ask Kavanaugh what he knows about administration policy on domestic surveillance, interrogation of detainees and other issues that have arisen since his first hearing, in April 2004. At that time, he proved fairly adept at fending off Democrats' questions and attacks. "My background hasn't been in party politics," he told them. "My clients are not Republican or Democratic clients, just clients."

Democrats will try again today, hoping the ABA statement will bring a new punch.


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