Editor's Note: Amid all the hue and cry regarding war in Iraq, Senate Democrats have been quietly but sternly wrestling Bush's judicial agenda to the mat with the ongoing filibuster of conservative judicial nominee Miguel Estrada. Republicans, frustrated by their inability to break the filibuster, have gone so far as to accuse the Democrats of anti-Hispanic bias on the matter. This ignores Estrada's ultra-conservative views, and further ignores the fact that the Senate was given no data with which to judge Estrada's nomination. Estrada refused to give up his papers, and has answered few questions before the Judiciary Committee. Thus, the filibuster.
Now, Mr. Bush and Senate Republicans have decided to try and overthrow a tried and true constitutional rule: the filibuster itself. Apparently, says Majority Leader Frist, the Democrats are failing the Founders by using the Constitution as it was meant to be used. Mr. Frist was apparently off practicing medicine when Republican Senators made rich use of the filibuster against Clinton's judicial nominees. And so it goes. - wrp
Bush Calls For Ban on Judicial Filibusters
CNN.com | Associated Press
Tuesday 11 March 2003
President Bush, his appeals court nomination of Miguel Estrada mired in party politics, called Tuesday for a ban on judicial filibusters and a mandatory vote on all court nominations he and future presidents send to the Senate.
In a letter read on the Senate floor by Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, Bush called for a permanent rule "to ensure timely up or down votes on judicial nominations both now and in the future, no matter who is president or which party controls the Senate. This is the only way to ensure our judiciary works and that good people remain willing to be nominated to the federal bench."
Senators in the past have called for similar changes but to no effect.
Republicans have so far failed in their efforts to end the Democratic filibuster of Estrada's nomination for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Frist, with Vice President Dick Cheney presiding in the chamber, said Tuesday the Estrada filibuster goes against what the founding fathers wanted from the Senate on judicial nominations. Democrats have "brought us to the point to failing that charge," Frist said.
Democrats cite 'precedent'
But Democrats said GOP senators have blocked Democratic judicial nominees from getting confirmation votes in the Senate as well.
"Because that precedent stands in the way of their political ends, Republicans now seek to deny their own words and their own actions," said Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. "They're here today to claim that the Constitution is threatened by the very same procedures that they themselves have employed. They're here today to claim the Constitution is going to be threatened by the very same powers that it grants."
But Bush called on the Senate to get beyond the past. "I ask senators of both parties to come together and end the escalating cycle of blame and bitterness and to restore fairness, predictability and dignity to the process," Bush said in the letter.
Republicans are moving aside Estrada's blocked appeals court nomination temporarily as they turn their attention to other Bush nominees, including Texas Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen, who was rejected last year when Democrats controlled the Senate.
Frist said Estrada's filibustered nomination won't be left behind. The delay is to move other controversial U.S. Appeals Court nominees such as Owen, Ohio appellate lawyer Jeff Sutton and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Deborah Cook.
Not giving up
"I'm not going to give up on the Estrada nomination," Frist said Monday. "We're going to pursue this nomination until we get an up or down vote."
Owen, a Texas Supreme Court Justice who wants a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, was one of two White House judicial nominees voted down by Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee last year. Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has planned a Thursday hearing, hoping to rehabilitate her nomination and move her on to the full Senate for confirmation with his GOP committee majority.
Democrats complained that Owen has been an anti-abortion and pro-business judicial activist whose opinions and rulings are overly influenced by her personal beliefs.
"The charge that she is a judicial activist was nothing more than a cynical trick of words from Washington special interest lobbyists," Hatch said Monday.
The other nominee who failed to clear the committee last year was U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi, who also wanted a seat on the 5th Circuit. Hatch has said Pickering also will get another hearing.
Democrats have said Owen and Pickering would face serious opposition from them, including possible filibusters.
The Republicans lost a filibuster vote on Estrada on Thursday, with only four Democrats voting with the GOP majority to give him an immediate confirmation vote. Frist said he would soon try vote on ending the filibuster, and Hatch said he expects such a vote perhaps as early as next week.
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