WASHINGTON – The Senate cleared the way Thursday for the confirmation of White House aide Brett Kavanaugh to a federal appeals court judgeship, over Democratic complaints that he is unseasoned and partisan.
By 67-30, senators approved a confirmation vote, set for Friday.
Democrats, however, complained that Kavanaugh has a long record of loyalty to President Bush and too short a record in the courtroom. They highlighted the American Bar Association's recent downgrading of its rating of Kavanaugh from "highly qualified" to qualified.
"It's clear that he is a political pick being pushed for political reasons," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. "This is not a court that needs another rubber stamp for this president's exertion of executive power."
The White House and Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter say Kavanaugh's Ivy League education, Supreme Court clerkship and other work had prepared him well for a federal judgeship. Specter's panel 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," said Specter, R-Pa. "Brett M. Kavanaugh must be confirmed."
Democrats initially threatened to filibuster Kavanaugh, but the bluster softened after Specter granted their request for a new hearing at which the nominee appeared.
There, Kavanaugh told Democrats he played no role in the White House formulation of policies on detainees, domestic wiretapping or any relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.