- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

In the first test of Bill Frist's ability to manage not only his party but the agenda of the chamber, the Senate majority leader yesterday vowed that Republicans will take head-on the Democrats' threat to filibuster Miguel Estrada. "If they want to stay through the weekend, we'll stay through the weekend," Mr. Frist said.
Minority Leader Tom Daschle may soldier on with his efforts to scuttle the confirmation of President Bush's nominee to the influential D.C. federal court of appeals, but it doesn't appear he will be successful. As National Review's Byron York has pointed out, with the exception of their leadership, Senate Democrats thus far have been unable to muster more than one or two members who do not sit on the Judiciary Committee to take to the floor in opposition to Mr. Estrada. Republicans, on the other hand, are fielding a number of non-committee senators in his defense. This lack of broad-based broadsides against the nominee suggests that only the most hard-core liberals seem willing to have their names recorded in open opposition to Mr. Estrada. And despite the evidence so far, not even Sens. Patrick Leahy or Charles Schumer have large enough lungs to stop things indefinitely.
Filibusters are hard enough to sustain on a parliamentary level; they are even harder when the grounds for staging them are flimsy. And in the Estrada case, the grounds are indeed flimsy. Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats maintain that Mr. Estrada has not adequately answered all of their questions, and that as such they fear he is a stealth appointee who will impose a conservative slant on the bench.
To understand just how silly this is, consider the comments of Sen. John Edwards yesterday. The North Carolina Democrat and presidential aspirant took to the floor to bemoan the fact that Mr. Estrada has pointedly refused to identify any Supreme Court ruling with which he disagreed. Now, Mr. Estrada may or may not be a conservative he received outstanding marks while in service to both Republican and Democratic administrations but there's no indication that he intends to preside dishonestly. Indeed, a lower court judge's responsibility is to faithfully apply the Supreme Court's rulings. That Mr. Estrada was reticent to criticize the Supreme Court only further demonstrates his fitness for the bench.
Our suspicion is that Mr. Estrada will soon take his seat on the D.C. federal appeals court, but that shouldn't be the only outcome of his confirmation. For starters, a number of Democrats will be on the record and in a high-profile manner opposing the prominent appointment of an Hispanic American. Then, too, the days in which merely the threat of a filibuster was enough to scuttle an important issue will have passed. But against this positive development must be weighed another: A precedent for filibustering lower-court judges has now been set. If and when the roles are reversed, the Democratic caucus may regret that their party was hijacked by the futile effort of a few partisans.

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