Three Years and One Hearing Later, Kavanaugh's Back for More Grilling

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - Judicial nominee Brett Kavanaugh, nominated to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia three years ago, faces an unusual second hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Critics, including People for the American Way, describe Kavanaugh as an "ultraconservative political operative."

Conservatives say he's a pawn in the ongoing campaign to discredit President Bush and derail his administration.

On Tuesday, Democrats are expected to ask Kavanaugh if he was involved in shaping the NSA wiretapping program and whether he helped form policies regarding the interrogation of enemy combatants.

"Kavanaugh will need to demonstrate tomorrow that he is within the mainstream of jurisprudence and can overcome his lack of experience and record of partisanship," People for the American Way said in a press release.

"If senators take their 'advise and consent' responsibility seriously, Kavanaugh will have his work cut out for him," PFAW added.

But Kavanaugh's defenders, including Project 21, a network of conservative African-Americans, called his second confirmation hearing a political move.

"A second hearing is, as everyone knows, a charade to make it possible for them (Democrats) to deride honorable and exceptionally well-qualified jurists, who they promise to filibuster anyway," said Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie.

Kavanaugh's first committee hearing was in 2004. The Judiciary Committee was supposed to vote on his nomination last week, but at the insistence of liberal committee members, chairman Arlen Specter agreed to hold a second hearing today. The committee now is expected to vote on Thursday.

Kavanaugh currently serves as the staff secretary for President Bush, overseeing the flow of documents into the White House, as Project 21 described the job.

The American Bar Association announced on Monday that it had downgraded its rating of Kavanaugh.

Stephen Tober, who chairs the 15-member ABA committee that rates judicial nominees, said a majority of members found Mr. Kavanaugh "qualified" for the post, while only a minority found him to be "well qualified."

On two previous occasions, a majority of committee members labeled Kavanaugh "well qualified," while a minority rated him as "qualified.

Tober said committee members reversed their rating, based on additional interviews with judges and other lawyers. Some of his critics say the 41-year-old Kavanaugh lacks the judicial experience to sit on a federal appeals court.

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