- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved the appeals court nomination of Jeffrey S. Sutton, but Democrats delayed panel action on several other judicial nominees, even as they continued to prevent a floor vote on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
"This is vicious stuff and it's getting worse," complained committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, who has been on the floor since last week defending Mr. Estrada.
Democrats object whenever Republicans try to get unanimous consent to allow a final vote on Mr. Estrada, who they say has dodged their questions and could be a conservative-activist judge. Republicans have been undecided about whether to try to end the Democratic filibuster by invoking cloture a move that requires 60 votes and forces a final vote.
Mr. Hatch said he thinks Republicans may file cloture sometime after next week's recess, but he shed some light on why Republicans have not yet tried for cloture.
The longer that Democrats hold things up on the floor, the more the American public will take notice and become angry, Mr. Hatch said, and the more Democrats with "cooler heads" will fall away from the filibuster effort.
"I believe there are a lot of good Democrats who will eventually break that down," he said. Democrats announced earlier this week that they have 41 votes to defeat a cloture attempt and keep the filibuster going.
Mr. Hatch said Republicans will use next week's recess to rally the public around the issue, because "they've got to realize that their federal judiciary … is being shredded." He said the public is "already starting to catch on," and thousands of calls have come into the Senate switchboard over the past few days. "It's just starting to mount," he said.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist predicted they would "proceed with the planned recess and take up Estrada when we return," but would not say anything definitive about filing cloture.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hatch's panel approved Mr. Sutton's nomination to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, by a vote of 11-8, with Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California joining Republicans in supporting him.
Democrats prolonged debate on Mr. Sutton, and Mr. Hatch said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, invoked a Senate rule that limited the committee's meeting time essentially preventing the consideration of several other judicial nominees on the agenda.

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