- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Democrats said yesterday that Miguel Estrada's nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is all but dead, and a key supporter of President Bush's nominee said it's "on life support."
Republican leaders, however, vowed to continue the fight and hinted ominously that there are ways to "dramatically highlight" what they call the Democrats' "hijacking" of the constitution.
In a procedural vote yesterday to end debate and vote on Mr. Estrada's nomination, the opponents held onto all 45 senators who have blocked voting on the nomination enough to prevent a vote by the full Senate, which would almost surely confirm Mr. Estrada.
"It's on life support," said Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, who has lobbied fellow Democrats to join him in breaking ranks to support Mr. Estrada's nomination. "It could be resuscitated but there are a lot of problems."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and Judiciary Committee member, said the nomination is dead.
"I don't see anybody on our side giving in," she said.
At issue are Mr. Estrada's legal writings while working for the solicitor general's office. Democrats say they want these released, though they acknowledge there's nothing in particular they are looking for. Republicans say the documents are "privileged work product" and releasing them would set a dangerous precedent.
Assistant Attorney General Jamie E. Brown sent Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, a letter yesterday scolding his party for "significant and recurring misstatements."
The letter quotes four Democratic senators suggesting on the floor that the White House has seen Mr. Estrada's writings from that time.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Mr. Brown wrote in his letter, which he also sent to each of the quoted senators. "At no time has this Department of Justice or the White House ever reviewed the memoranda that Miguel Estrada wrote during his tenure in the solicitor general's office."
Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, criticized his party's leadership for not forcing a vote on Mr. Estrada earlier this year when he said it likely would have sailed through.
"Talking for a month was a mistake," said Mr. Lott, who was quick to add that he thought the nomination could still make it.
He said he had thought of a strategy that could put Mr. Estrada up for a confirmation vote needing only 51 votes as opposed to the 60 now required to invoke cloture. He declined to elaborate, warning that his idea is "nuclear."
Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican and party conference chairman, said for now Republicans are content holding occasional cloture votes to portray Democrats as obstructionists. No date is set for the next cloture vote.
After Easter, he said, party leaders would roll out a new strategy that would place greater pressure on Democrats, but declined to say what the new strategy would entail.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, South Carolina Republican and member of the Judiciary Committee, also said Republicans have been discussing ways to force a simple majority vote on Mr. Estrada.
Judge Robert H. Bork, whose nomination to the Supreme Court was killed by committee Democrats in 1987, happened to be in the Capitol yesterday on unrelated business.
"They have changed the constitution to a 60-vote requirement," said Mr. Bork. "I think it's a disgrace."

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