- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

Senate Republicans failed yesterday to muster 60 votes to stop a Democratic filibuster of federal appeals court nominee Miguel A. Estrada and bring his nomination to a final vote, but his supporters vowed to keep fighting.
"I will stand by Miguel Estrada's side until he is sworn in as a judge," said President Bush, who called it "a disgrace" that 44 Democrats voted yesterday against a Republican motion, which would have shut down debate on the nomination and allowed a final vote on the Senate floor.
The "cloture" motion failed 55-44, five votes shy of the 60 needed to pass. Four Democrats voted with Republicans. They are John B. Breaux of Louisiana, Bill Nelson of Florida, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Zell Miller of Georgia.
Republicans intend to continue holding cloture votes on Mr. Estrada the next one is likely to occur next week but they will move on to other legislation as well. The Senate debated an arms-control treaty with Russia yesterday and is expected next week to consider a bill to ban partial-birth abortions.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said they will continue to fight for Mr. Estrada, a 41-year-old native of Honduras, who was first nominated May 9, 2001, to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
"We will not be satisfied until we get … a simple up-or-down vote," Mr. Frist said.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle predicted that Democrats will be able to sustain the filibuster of Mr. Estrada's nomination. "I am quite confident that the vote will remain exactly the same," he said.
Democrats say Mr. Estrada failed to answer their questions about his legal views and could be a "conservative" activist judge. Democratic leaders demanded that the administration release legal memos Mr. Estrada wrote while he worked in the Solicitor General's Office, a request that has been denied by the administration. But the White House made Mr. Estrada available for personal meetings with senators.
Republicans have targeted several other Democrats to break from their party and oppose the filibuster, but all of them stuck with their Democratic leaders yesterday in denying Mr. Estrada a final vote. They include Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana; Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico; Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka, both of Hawaii; Thomas R. Carper of Delaware; Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina; Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, both of Arkansas; Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia; and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana. Several of them, including Mr. Pryor and Mrs. Landrieu, campaigned in close races as conservatives last November and suggested that they would support Bush nominees.
Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, is another target. He remains undecided on the issue, but was in his home state yesterday and did not vote. He will return next week.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said the targeted Democrats who did not join Republicans this time may change their minds in future cloture votes.
"There are people on their side who are very upset about having to vote that way," he said. "There are a lot of Democrats who are literally jittery with what has gone on."
Mrs. Landrieu, Mr. Akaka, Mr. Carper and other targeted Democrats said they would continue to support the filibuster until Mr. Estrada is more forthcoming.
"The principle is worth fighting for," Mrs. Landrieu said. "That principle is that this Senate has a constitutional responsibility to advise and consent."
Republicans disagreed. "This is about pure and simple raw politics and a political agenda," said Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican.
"When we're talking about the Constitution, it's as simple as this: The senators are to advise and consent, not advise and obstruct," said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican.
Mr. Santorum said Democrats are setting a dangerous precedent that judges must have 60 votes to be confirmed and called the Democrats' actions an "unprecedented … ideological filibustering of judges."
But Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said, "Any vote on Mr. Estrada would be premature until the White House and Republicans stop stonewalling us on the information necessary to evaluate Mr. Estrada's record."
Republicans say some Democrats, such as Mr. Byrd, may eventually oppose the filibuster. The West Virginian is set to meet with Mr. Estrada today. But Mr. Daschle said he is "not worried at all" that Mr. Byrd will change his vote.
Mrs. Lincoln said she voted against cloture because Mr. Estrada should come back to the Judiciary Committee and answer the questions posed to him during his hearing. "This is a lifetime appointment," she said.
Even as both sides appeared to be dug in on the issue, Mr. Breaux said "people are talking" about compromise and ways to satisfy Democrats' request for more information.
Some of the targeted Democrats, such as Mr. Bingaman, have suggested another hearing for Mr. Estrada.
Mr. Frist did not rule that out, but said, "I don't think that's necessary." Mr. Hatch also said he is "not ruling anything out," though he said a hearing "is not in my thinking right now."
A Senate Republican leadership aide said Republicans will keep the pressure on the targeted Democrats by holding more press events, continuing the grass-roots effort with more calls and e-mail, and more pro-Estrada ads by conservative groups. Mr. Estrada has argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court and was unanimously rated well-qualified to be a federal judge by the American Bar Association.
If confirmed, Mr. Estrada would be the first Hispanic on a court whose influence is second only to the Supreme Court, and from which three present justices were elevated.

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