WASHINGTON – President Bush hosted a Rose Garden swearing-in ceremony Thursday for long-stalled judicial nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a White House lawyer who once worked for independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigations of President Clinton.
Kavanaugh won Senate confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit late last month on a 57-36 vote after a three-year wait. It was a victory for Bush's drive to place a more conservative stamp on the nation's courts.
Presidents usually are not present when new judges take their oaths. But Kavanaugh, whose nomination was opposed by Democrats, has worked at the White House for the past five years — in the White House counsel's office and as staff secretary.
"I call upon the United States Senate to meet its responsibility to give every nominee a fair hearing and a timely up or down vote," Bush told the 120 guests, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Bush highlighted Kavanaugh's background, saying he had clerked for judges Walter Stapleton and Alex Kozinski on the appeals court and for Justice Anthony Kennedy at the Supreme Court, who gave him the oath.
"Thirty-one years ago today, a young Anthony Kennedy took the oath to be a court of appeals judge," Kavanaugh said. "Since then he has taught all of his law clerks that the Constitution of the United States is a compact between generations that must be preserved and revered and cherished and passed on. I feel that lesson very powerfully today."
In addition to clerking for judges, Kavanaugh was a partner in a national law firm, worked in the solicitor general's office and was an associate independent counsel under Starr. Kavanaugh worked on both the long-running Whitewater case and the 1998 Clinton impeachment case.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called Kavanaugh a political operative who is the least experienced and most partisan appointee to the court in decades.
Democrats also highlighted the American Bar Association's recent downgrading of its rating of Kavanaugh from "highly qualified" to "qualified." Bush countered, saying that in three separate evaluations, all 42 ABA reviewers rated Kavanaugh as "well-qualified" or "qualified" to serve on the federal bench.