Reid may filibuster judicial nominees

The Senate’s top Democrat on Tuesday said he is considering a filibuster of two of President Bush’s judicial nominees, saying one may have been involved in the administration’s policy on torture and the other ruled in a case in which he had a clear conflict of interest.

“The answer is yes, a possible filibuster, of course,” Reid told reporters in answer to a question about the nomination of White House aide Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The other nominee is federal judge Terrence Boyle, who Bush wants to send to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Kavanaugh’s negatives, Reid added, “pale in comparison to Boyle.” Reid said he had read in an online article that Boyle had bought stock in General Electric midway through presiding over a pension lawsuit against the company. Then Boyle ruled against the plaintiff’s claims of long-term and pension disability benefits.

“He not only shouldn’t be a trial court judge as he is, but to think that he should be elevated to a circuit court of appeals is outrageous,” Reid said.

The White House said Kavanaugh was not involved in crafting detainee policy and that Boyle did not use his office for personal gain.

“There were a handful of cases over the years in which it appears that recusal was warranted,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “But Judge Boyle has never intentionally participated in any matter in which he should have recused himself, nor has there been any suggestion that he overlooked any conflict or used his office for private gain.”

Reid’s remarks threw fuel on a smoldering partisan fight over Bush’s judicial nominations in a midterm election year in which both parties hoped to use the issue to score points _ and money _ with their bases.

Majority Leader Bill Frist, a possible presidential contender in 2008, served notice last week that he wants the Senate to confirm both men this year.

“If the Minority Leader is looking to pick a fight on judges, we’re ready,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

First nomination up is Kavanaugh’s, which could be reported out of the Judiciary Committee by a party line vote as early as Thursday. Democrats, however, are pressing for another hearing and more documents in an effort to find out whether Kavanaugh was involved in White House policies on torture, the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program and Bush’s relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

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.”

For his part, Kavanaugh told Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Thursday that he did not play an active role in Bush’s secret domestic wiretapping program or in any dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Schumer said he did not ask Kavanaugh about his role in the torture policy. But White House spokeswoman Perino said, “Mr. Kavanaugh was not involved in any detainee policy development.”

“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.

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 Boyle. A former aide to retired Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., he 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.

This time, Reid and other Democrats are pointing to a report by and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The report said that since Boyle’s May 2001 nomination to the appeals court, he has issued orders in at least nine cases that involved five different corporations in which he reported stock holdings.

The report said those rulings _ whether favorable to the company or not _ represented a breach of judicial ethics.

© 2006 The Associated Press