- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

A second Democratic senator has said he will vote in favor of the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and oppose any attempt by fellow Democrats to filibuster the nominee.
After spending 45 minutes with Mr. Estrada last week, Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, was convinced that "he wouldn't bring a personal agenda to the bench" and that he "understood the difference" between being a judge and making the law, Mr. Nelson said yesterday.
Mr. Nelson joins Democratic Sen. John B. Breaux of Louisiana, who stood up in the Democratic caucus last week and spoke in favor of Mr. Estrada and against a filibuster.
Democrats said last week they did not know if they had the 41 votes to sustain a filibuster against Mr. Estrada and would decide this week.
The Senate continued debating Mr. Estrada's nomination yesterday. So far, Democrats have not voluntarily agreed to limit floor debate and set a time for a vote preferring instead to have more debate.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said it is not a filibuster yet, but "will be a filibuster Wednesday night when the Republicans are done talking and the Democrats want to keep it going."
A Senate Republican leadership aide agreed it is not yet a filibuster, but said Democrats should make a decision by their caucus meeting today. The aide said Democrats are split about whether to filibuster and Republicans are willing to keep debating in the meantime because Democrats "look like obstructionists."
Republicans would need 60 votes to invoke cloture, which forces a vote. They have not made that move so far, but Republican Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio said they would have the 60 votes.
Democrats say Mr. Estrada did not answer their questions about his political views and legal philosophy during his hearing last year, and could be a conservative activist judge. They also complain the Justice Department will not release the legal memorandums Mr. Estrada wrote while serving as a lawyer in the Solicitor General's Office.
Meanwhile, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez blasted Senate Republicans yesterday for saying that some Democratic Hispanics oppose Mr. Estrada's nomination because he is a Hispanic who may not agree with them.
"Republicans can't have it both ways," Mr. Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement. "They can't blatantly call for the end of affirmative action by characterizing it as a quota system, while at the same time, demanding that we support all Hispanic nominees simply because they are Hispanic."
The Hispanic community disagrees over Mr. Estrada, who would be the first Hispanic to serve on the D.C. Circuit, if confirmed.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other opponents have said Hispanic nominees must represent the community with more than just their surname.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said they are "subjecting one of their own … to a Latino litmus" test and "subjecting him to the very type of discrimination they have fought so hard to eradicate."
"Senator Hatch should apologize for his comments, in which he dares to suggest that we Hispanics are trying to hold back members of our own community simply because of their ideological persuasion," said Mr. Menendez, adding that they oppose Mr. Estrada, in part, because he has no judicial experience and a limited written record.

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