WASHINGTON – White House aide Brett Kavanaugh told a Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat on Tuesday he did not play an active role in President Bush's secret domestic wiretapping program or in any dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Nonetheless, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he wants more of Kavanaugh's papers and another committee hearing on his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals before the panel votes on it.
"He tried to assure me that he was not what you'd call an ideologue, that he would follow judicial opinion and that's why he wanted to be a judge," Schumer said after the 20-minute meeting.
Schumer and other committee Democrats are urging Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to call Kavanaugh before the panel for more questions under oath.
Specter has said he would consider another hearing if it would elicit more information than came from Kavanaugh's previous one in 2004. Asked Tuesday if might instead press ahead with a committee vote Thursday on Kavanaugh, Specter replied: "Still thinking about it. I am working on it."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said last week he intended to bring Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote by the end of the month. Several Republicans said the Senate could vote as soon as the week of May 15.
Kavanaugh, a former aide to special prosecutor Kenneth Starr and now White House staff secretary, was nominated to the post in 2003 but his nomination has languished amid Democratic concerns.
After Kavanaugh, Frist said he intended to next bring up the nomination of federal judge Terrence Boyle to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. Boyle, a former aide to retired Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., was nominated in Bush's first term, but a vote on him was blocked by former Sen. John Edwards, the Democrats' vice presidential candidate in 2004.
Partisan tensions over Bush's judicial nominees have ebbed since his nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts last year. Earlier, Frist had threatened to ban filibusters of judicial nominees that Democrats had used to block several of Bush's choices.
A group of 14 senators broke the standoff by pledging to not support filibusters on nominees except under "extraordinary circumstances," clearing a path for several of Bush's nominees.
With Frist vying for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and both parties seeking to energize their ideological bases for this year's election, Kavanaugh's nomination threatens to reignite a fight that almost brought the Senate to a standstill.