May 11, 2006

Bush court pick closer to confirmation

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Judiciary Committee
approved White House aide Brett Kavanaugh for an appeals-court
seat on Thursday, clearing the way for a likely confirmation
vote by the full Senate.

Kavanaugh won approval from the committee on a 10-8
party-line vote as Democrats said he was too partisan and
inexperienced for the job. Kavanaugh, 41, has been a White
House aide since 2001.

Democratic senators had asked for an unusual second hearing
on his nomination to question his involvement in White House
policies on like eavesdropping on U.S. citizens' telephone
calls without obtaining warrants and torture of detainees.

USA Today reported on Thursday that the National Security
Agency has been secretly collecting records of the telephone
calls of tens of millions of Americans.

Kavanaugh must be approved by the full Senate, where
Republicans hold 55 of 100 seats, before joining the
influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Democrats are unlikely to muster the 60 votes necessary to
block his nomination. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he
intends to schedule a vote before the late-May Memorial Day

In his second appearance before the Judiciary Committee,
Kavanaugh told the committee he knew nothing of warrantless
domestic surveillance or torture of military detainees, and
never met Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist at the center of a
corruption scandal.

He failed to win over committee Democrats. "This nomination
is a triumph of cronyism over credentials," Massachusetts
Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy said.

Republicans said it was only natural Bush would nominate
candidates who agreed with his conservative philosophy.

Kavanaugh has won the tentative support of at least one
Democrat, Nebraska's Ben Nelson, one of a bipartisan group of
14 senators who have the power to block a vote on any judicial

Prospects for another Bush appeals-court pick, District
Judge Terrence Boyle, are more uncertain.

Several Democrats called on Boyle to withdraw after
published reports he held stock in companies that appeared
before him, which would violate federal ethics law.

Nelson and six other moderate Democrats have asked for a
second hearing to explore the allegations, but Judiciary
Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican,
told reporters he would not hold another hearing on Boyle.

Specter declined to say whether he thought Boyle should
withdraw his nomination.

The White House will continue to press for a vote on
Boyle's nomination, a spokeswoman said.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland)