- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

Senate Democrats yesterday again blocked the nomination of lawyer Miguel A. Estrada to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
The vote sustained for the second time a Democratic filibuster of the Estrada nomination. His supporters responded with accusations of racism and President Bush declared that "the judicial confirmation process is broken."
"It's a sad day," Rep. Henry Bonilla, Texas Republican, said after the vote. "This is the biggest anti-Hispanic crusade this city has ever seen."
Democrats said they will continue to prevent a vote by the full Senate until internal memos written by Mr. Estrada while working for the Solicitor General's Office are released. No one has suggested publicly that any of Mr. Estrada's memos contain anything damaging, but because Mr. Estrada is not a judge with a portfolio of written opinions, opponents say they want to see his legal writings.
Republicans argue that those memos are "privileged work product" and to release them would set a dangerous precedent.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, scheduled a third vote for Tuesday.
Few senators on either side missed an opportunity to talk about Mr. Estrada's extraordinary accomplishments in America since being born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. After immigrating here, Mr. Estrada served as a federal prosecutor, tried 15 cases before the Supreme Court and is now a lawyer for a D.C. law firm with a unanimous "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association.
Republicans have seized on Mr. Estrada's stalled nomination to drive a wedge between the Democratic Party and Hispanic voters, whose ranks are growing faster than any other minority group in America.
"I see this, really, as a slap at Hispanics," Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said Wednesday.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, tried to remove that wedge yesterday during a hearing on another blocked nomination, that of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a statement calling Justice Owen "an activist judge," Mr. Leahy listed two Hispanics that President Clinton had nominated to the same court, but who were stonewalled by Senate Republicans.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and Judiciary Committee member, said those two nominees never got hearings because at least one of their home-state senators disapproved of their nomination traditionally a killer for any nomination.
Since Democratic opponents sustained their filibuster of his nomination last week, Mr. Estrada's supporters have continued lobbying to get a vote on him by the full Senate.
"There are a lot of side conversations taking place about Democrats who would like to vote for Estrada and move on," Mr. Kyl said. "But the formula for getting there has yet to be devised."
Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, said there had been some movement. "It's glacial," he said Wednesday. "Very slow, but it's moving."
Yesterday's vote largely mirrored last week's vote on the same measure. Except for a handful of defectors, Democrats lined up against Mr. Estrada with Republicans unanimously supporting him. Senate procedures require 60 votes to end a filibuster.
If anything, Republicans lost ground since last week.
Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, didn't vote last week because he was recuperating from heart surgery. Some Republicans had hoped that with his home state's huge Hispanic population, he might vote to dislodge the Estrada nomination. Even as late as Wednesday, Mr. Graham said he had not decided how he would vote.
Yesterday, he sided with most Democrats to maintain the filibuster.

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