- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006


White House aide Brett M. Kavanaugh won Senate confirmation as an appeals court judge yesterday after a wait of nearly three years, another victory in President Bush’s drive to place a more conservative stamp on the nation’s courts.

Mr. Kavanaugh was confirmed on a vote of 57-36, warmly praised by Republicans but widely opposed by Democrats who said he is ill-suited to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Mr. Bush said Mr. Kavanaugh will be “a brilliant, thoughtful and fair-minded judge.”

The confirmation represented a victory for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, whose efforts to fill more federal court seats with Bush nominees have been bedeviled by Democratic objections. Five weeks ago he informed the Senate that he expected Mr. Kavanaugh to be confirmed by Memorial Day.

“I am committed to confirming additional judicial nominees to the bench who will practice judicial restraint and interpret the law strictly and impartially,” Mr. Frist said yesterday.

The vote marked the latest in a string of confirmations for conservative appellate court nominees in the year since a centrist group of senators agreed on terms designed to prevent a meltdown over Mr. Bush’s conservative picks.

Mr. Kavanaugh was not mentioned by name in an agreement announced by the so-called Gang of 14, but his nomination was pending at the time and he figured in the discussions. More recently, the seven Democrats who were members of the group had intervened in his case, calling for a second Judiciary Committee hearing into his appointment. Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, chairman of the panel, agreed, defusing any threat of a filibuster designed to block a vote.

Still, Democrats highlighted the American Bar Association’s recent downgrading of its rating of Mr. Kavanaugh from “highly qualified” to “qualified.”

“It’s clear that he is a political pick being pushed for political reasons,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the committee. “This is not a court that needs another rubber stamp for this president’s exertion of executive power.”

The White House and Mr. Specter said Mr. Kavanaugh’s Ivy League education, a Supreme Court clerkship and other work have prepared him well to become a federal judge. Mr. Specter’s committee approved the nomination along party lines.

“It is hardly a surprise that Brett Kavanaugh would be close to the president because the president selects people in whom he has confidence,” Mr. Specter said. “Brett M. Kavanaugh must be confirmed.”

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