- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

Louisiana Sen. John B. Breaux yesterday told fellow Democrats he supports the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and opposes any attempt to filibuster President Bush's nominee, as Democrats yesterday debated how to proceed.
"He's qualified, I'm going to vote for him and I'm opposed to a filibuster," said Mr. Breaux, after he told his colleagues that during a Democratic caucus meeting.
Mr. Breaux said there were some Democrats with him, and that others were uncertain of the need for a filibuster.
Sen. Ben Nelson a Nebraska Democrat who was set to meet with Mr. Estrada late yesterday was undecided both on whether to vote for Mr. Estrada and whether to support a filibuster.
"I'm typically not for filibuster," Mr. Nelson said, noting that, "sooner or later you'll be on the other side of it." He said other Democrats have "serious questions" about a filibuster as well.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle yesterday said he does not know whether he has the 41 votes necessary to sustain a filibuster, but said there is "overwhelming opposition" to the Estrada nomination within the caucus.
He also said they may not need to filibuster if some Republicans join them in opposing Mr. Estrada.
"We can't really make that decision until we have a little bit more of a debate and … get an assessment of where the votes are," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
Debate on the nomination began yesterday and is expected to continue into next week. Republicans have not yet called for a vote, but would need 60 votes to overcome Democratic delay tactics, including a filibuster. The full Senate does not convene today or tomorrow.
The president nominated Mr. Estrada in May 2001, but the nomination never received a vote in the Senate, then controlled by Democrats. The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved Mr. Estrada on a 10-9 party-line vote.
Republicans said Mr. Estrada is highly qualified and Democrats are playing politics.
"I hope we will take Estrada out of politics and confirm him," said Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican.
Democrats say Mr. Estrada has not answered their questions about his political views and legal philosophy, and could be a conservative activist judge. And they complain that the Justice Department will not release legal memorandums Mr. Estrada wrote while serving as a lawyer in the Solicitor General's Office.
Mr. Estrada, 41, is a partner in the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and has argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court. The American Bar Association unanimously rated him well-qualified to be a federal judge.
A native of Honduras, Mr. Estrada came to the United States when he was 17 and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School, clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and serve in the Clinton administration as an assistant to the solicitor general.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin G. Hatch said Mr. Estrada has the "finest credentials" and opponents have no case against him.
"Tell me one thing that they can show against him, other than they think he's a conservative Republican who might be pro-life," said Mr. Hatch, Utah Republican, who thinks the issue of abortion is underlying the fight over the president's judicial nominees.
Several Hispanic groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, joined Mr. Daschle yesterday at a press conference to call for the defeat of the Estrada nomination.
But a Feb. 3 letter from White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, notes that "the overwhelming majority of national Hispanic organizations have supported Mr. Estrada," including the League of United Latin American Citizens, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Coalition.

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