Filibuster Sustained! Democrats Hold the Line

Senators Affirm Constitutional Advice and Consent Duty, Hold Firm Against Stealth Nominee Estrada in Face of Republican Intimidation Tactics

Refusing to cave in to intense pressure from the White House and Republican leaders, Democratic senators rejected an effort to force a vote on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Estrada has refused to answer many questions about his approach to the Constitution and the White House has refused to release documents that would allow senators to more fully evaluate his fitness for a federal judgeship. People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas called the vote a victory for the Constitution and the American people, and a rebuff to the Bush administration’s efforts to pack the federal appeals courts with right-wing ideologues and frustrate the Senate’s advise and consent role. Neas said there would be many more tests of senators’ resolve in the coming weeks and months, as long as the Bush administration refuses to engage in bipartisan consultation and compromise on judicial nominations.

Neas’ statement follows:

This vote was tremendously important for the future of the federal judiciary and for the rights and freedoms Americans count on the courts to protect. It is a major loss for the Bush administration and its political allies, who have tried to bully senators into submission with outrageous threats and accusations.

We salute the courageous leadership of Senators Tom Daschle, Harry Reid, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Pat Leahy, his committee colleagues Charles Schumer, Ted Kennedy, and Richard Durbin, and all the other senators who stood up to the intimidation tactics employed by the Bush White House and Senate Republican leaders. Especially disturbing were the repugnant efforts of a number of Republicans to characterize opponents of Mr. Estrada’s confirmation as anti-Hispanic.

We also applaud the several hundred thousand Americans, including 40,000 supporters of People For the American Way, who contacted senators and recorded their opposition to Mr. Estrada’s confirmation.

People For the American Way hopes that selected filibusters, public pressure, and other measures will lead to true bipartisan consultation, negotiation, and compromise on judicial nominations. Only a bipartisan solution fully supported by President Bush can solve a problem created by the unprecedented ideological blockade against Clinton administration Circuit Court nominees by the Senate Republican leadership from 1995 to 2000 (35 percent of those nominees were blocked) and by President Bush’s efforts to fill those judicial vacancies with judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The effort by Republican leaders to invoke “cloture” failed to receive the 60 votes required to cut off debate and force a final vote on the nomination. It came in the midst of an intense lobbying and public relations campaign by the White House, Senate Republicans, and their political allies, a campaign marked by accusations that opposition to Estrada’s confirmation was grounded in anti-Hispanic bigotry.

Neas noted that a significant majority of Hispanic legal, civil rights, and worker rights organizations, as well as a huge and diverse coalition of civil rights, women’s rights, labor, environmental protection and other groups, are opposed to Estrada’s confirmation because they are concerned that as a federal judge he would work to restrict protection of individuals’ rights.

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