- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Republicans want to use this week's congressional recess to let the fight over Miguel Estrada, President Bush's federal appeals court nominee, percolate and hope Democrats are pressured by their constituents to allow a vote on the judgeship candidate.
Democrats have objected each time Republicans try to set a vote on Mr. Estrada, who is up for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The effect is the same as a filibuster because Republicans have vowed not to move on until Mr. Estrada receives a regular vote of the full Senate.
"We are hoping that the obstruction and partisanship and negativity of the Democratic side on this filibuster of Estrada will be understood by the American people for what it is," said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.
"We will be talking about that as we're back in our home states, and I think probably people will be talking to us about it and complaining about it."
All 51 Republicans support Mr. Estrada, as do three Democrats enough to win a majority vote but shy of the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster.
"That is my goal, to have an up-or-down vote. And I'll persist, I'll persist, I'll persist until I have an up-or-down vote on this well-qualified judge," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican.
Backers said Mr. Estrada, who would be the first Hispanic judge on what is considered the second-highest court in the land, is qualified. In addition, they say his story he came to the United States from Honduras as a teenager, speaking little English, but graduated with honors from Columbia University and Harvard Law School is an easy sell.
"We're not lying down on this," said one Republican leadership aide. "The newspapers we're seeing, the editorials back in the states are all supportive of Estrada, telling the Democrats to stop."
The aide said Republicans expect more coverage and events in New York, Louisiana, California and other places where there are large Hispanic populations in Democrats' home states.
An example of that is former Rep. Herman Badillo, New York Republican, who has been quoted widely in Spanish-language newspapers and in New York newspapers defending Mr. Estrada.
But Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said Democrats are comfortable with their position.
They feel Mr. Estrada wasn't forthcoming in a committee hearing last year. They also say that in order to assess Mr. Estrada, who is now a lawyer in Washington, the administration should release internal memos he wrote when he was an assistant solicitor general in the prior Bush and Clinton administrations.
"We think it's a very simple request. This isn't necessarily about Estrada, it's about living up to the expectations of the Constitution. We're very comfortable," Mr. Daschle said.
"If anything, I think our numbers got stronger this week," he said. "There were still some who were a little unclear about what they would do, but as a result of listening to this debate this week are stronger in our corner now then they were at the beginning of the week."
There are 43 or 44 Democrats considered solidly behind a filibuster now, leaving the party with a solid margin to work with.
The White House has scheduled meetings between Mr. Estrada and 10 Democratic senators, and has requested addition meetings.
Spokeswoman Ashley Snee said they plan to continue their outreach as well.
"Over the next week, we will be stepping up the efforts to get out the facts about Miguel Estrada," she said. "This will include grass-roots efforts, disseminating information and meeting with outside groups."
Senate Republicans are united behind Mr. Estrada and, in turn, conservative grass-roots organizations are solidly behind Republicans, said Kay Daly, spokeswoman for the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, one of the organizations working to make the case for the president's nominees.
Mrs. Daly said she and other supporters have been baking and sending cookies to Senate Republicans this week as a symbol of their support.
"It's just cookie gridlock," she said.
But liberal interest groups are just as united behind their leaders.
"There seems to be a lot of support for Senator Daschle and what he is trying to do," said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way.
Mr. Neas said his group and a host of others have organized their supporters to call and send faxes and e-mails to bolster Democratic senators.
To date, that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of contacts, Mr. Neas said. Their recess strategy is to do more of the same.

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