WASHINGTON (BP)–Senate Republicans failed March 18 for the third time to end a filibuster against federal appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada.
The Senate voted 55-45 to invoke cloture but fell five votes short, as it had the two previous times an attempt was made to cut off the Democrats’ delaying strategy. With 60 votes for cloture, the GOP could have brought Estrada’s name to the floor for a confirmation vote. All 51 Republicans, as well as the same four Democrats, again voted in the majority.
The Democratic senators who have voted for cloture are John Breaux of Louisiana, Zell Miller of Georgia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bill Nelson of Florida.
Fearing Estrada will vote for opinions favored by conservatives, Democrats have called for him to be more forthcoming on his views on specific issues, including the right to abortion granted by the Supreme Court in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. They also have asked for the release of confidential memos Estrada wrote while an assistant solicitor general in the Department of Justice. Former solicitors general in both Democratic and Republican administrations have expressed their opposition to the release of such information.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee has said he would continue to schedule cloture votes in order to gain a floor decision on Estrada’s confirmation. The Republican leadership has threatened to undercut the stalling tactics on Estrada by bringing additional nominees to the floor, thereby challenging Democrats to filibuster other conservative jurists as well.
President Bush nominated Estrada in May 2001 to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.
The confirmation of pro-life judicial nominees is a priority in this session for many pro-life/pro-family organizations, including the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.