- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 11 (UPI) — Vice President Dick Cheney appeared in the Senate on Tuesday as chair in an effort to pressure Democrats to end a judicial filibuster.

The Senate has been virtually frozen for more than five weeks over the nomination of Miguel Estrada for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, due to a Democratic filibuster. Although they are the presidents of the Senate, vice presidents rarely assume that role except to break tie votes.

The inability of Senate Republicans to muster the necessary 60 votes to end the filibuster and Democrats' unwillingness to yield led President George W. Bush to dispatch the vice president along with a letter chiding the Senate.

Read on the floor by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the letter asks for a vote on the Estrada nomination and calls on the body to ensure floor votes for all judicial nominees in the future, regardless of which party controls the Senate or the White House.

The letter asked the Senate "to ensure timely up or down votes on judicial nominations both now and in the future, no matter who is president or which party controls the Senate. This is the only way to ensure our judiciary works and that good people remain willing to be nominated to the federal bench."

Democrats continue to refuse an up-or-down vote on the nomination because they claim Estrada — who has never served as a judge — has refused to supply enough information on his views for them to properly consider his qualifications. Estrada has served as assistant solicitor general for both Republican and Democratic administrations and has argued 14 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said that Bush is asking for behavior from the Senate that Republicans were unwilling to provide during the Clinton administration, when many Democratic nominees found Senate approval wanting.

"Because that precedent stands in the way of their political ends, Republicans now seek to deny their own words and their own actions," Daschle said. "They're here today to claim that the Constitution is threatened by the very same procedures that they themselves have employed.

"They're here today to claim the Constitution is going to be threatened by the very same powers that it grants."

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