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Senate Democrats said Tuesday they will filibuster Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the federal appeals bench until he reveals more of his judicial thinking. President Bush called the move “shameful politics.” Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle accused Estrada of stonewalling Democrats last year when they questioned him about his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. “Every nominee who comes before the Senate has the obligation to be forthcoming with information about his position, with information about his record,” said Daschle, D-S.D. “Until he does, we don’t believe that it is in the Senate’s best interest to allow this confirmation to go forward.” Bush immediately condemned the Democrats for blocking Estrada’s confirmation by using Senate parliamentary rules that allow the minority to effectively reject a measure or nominee with just 41 votes. The Senate has 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Independent. “Miguel Estrada is highly qualified, extremely intelligent,” the president said. “He has the votes necessary to be confirmed. Yet a handful of Democrats in the Senate are playing politics with his nomination, and it’s shameful politics.” Republicans promised to keep senators in Washington, if necessary, into a 10-day vacation scheduled to begin Saturday. “If they want to stay through the weekend, we’ll stay through the weekend,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. A filibuster would be the climax of a two-year battle between Republicans and Democrats over the future of the nation’s courts, and the first real test of Republicans’ power in Washington now that they control the House, the Senate and the White House. The only thing blocking the beginning of a filibuster was an ongoing defense of Estrada brought to the Senate floor Tuesday by a series of Republicans. Since Estrada’s nomination in May 2001, Republicans have accused Democrats of treating him unfairly because he is a conservative Hispanic, who, if confirmed, would be the first Latino picked by a president in either party to get a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Estrada is a member of the law firm that represented Bush in his successful Supreme Court fight for the presidency. He came to the United States from Honduras as a teen-ager and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986. He has practiced constitutional law and argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court. During Estrada’s five-hour confirmation hearing last year, Democrats repeatedly contended that he lacked judicial experience. Along with Estrada’s refusal to answer questions about specific cases, including those on abortion rights, that provided little to review, Democrats complained. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Jan. 30 called Estrada “a far-right stealth nominee, a sphinxlike candidate who will drive the nation’s second most-important court out of the mainstream.” Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Estrada answered every question the Democrats had. “The truth is he didn’t answer questions in a way that could be used against him,” he said. The Justice Department’s solicitor general’s office, where Estrada used to work, refused to release copies of memos and opinions he produced when he worked there. All the living solicitors general for presidents in both parties agreed with that position in a letter last June. Daschle said Democrats will not allow a vote on the nomination until the White House makes Estrada answer their questions and releases the memos. “Until that information is provided, we will not be in the position to allow this vote to come to the floor,” said Daschle. The minority leader said Democrats are afraid that every Bush nominee will stonewall their questions if they let Estrada through. “We can expect every single nominee to come forward with the same stonewalling attitude, with the same approach that they don’t have to provide us information,” Daschle said. “Well, we’re not going to do that.” “We will filibuster, we will continue to debate this issue and we will make a decision as to what’s next after we get this information,” he added. “We have enough votes to sustain our position.” Not every Democrat is on board. “I don’t think that Estrada threatens the democracy of the United States,” said Sen. John Breaux, D-La. “I think the best position is to vote against him if you don’t agree with him. It’s awfully hard, I think, to justify a filibuster.” Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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